Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema’s first taste of Alabama was a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
Bielema took his first team into Tuscaloosa and the Razorbacks got hammered 52-0 for a second straight year by the Crimson Tide, but lost just 14-13 in Fayetteville last season.
“I have a lot of respect for this program and I am excited to go over there and see how much growth we have had,” Bielema said.
“My first year we got beat 52-0 and it was probably one of the most embarrassing losses for me personally as a head coach. I am excited to see our growth.”
Arkansas (2-3, 1-1) will be trying to break an eight-game losing streak to No. 8 Alabama (4-1, 1-1) when the two meet Saturday night at 6 p.m. on ESPN.
The Razorbacks will also bring in the momentum of a 24-20 win at Tennessee last week that did not go unnoticed by Alabama head coach Nick Saban.
“It is certainly going to be a challenging game for us, We have to try and build on and improve on the things we are not doing as well as we need to do. Arkansas has got a really, really good team and is playing and I think they are playing better and better.
“They had a great win last week at Tennessee and are a very physical team that runs the ball well. Their quarterback plays well. Their defense plays really well. It's going to be a real challenge.”
Saban and Bielema both brushed off Alabama’s lengthy win streak in the series.
“I'm kind of worried about what's happening today and what's going to happen tomorrow right up Saturday,” Saban said. “I think every game is a new challenge. I don't think anything that happened in the past is going to affect the outcome of this game.
“I think our players are going to have to get ready to play one of their best games of the year to have success against a very good team.”
Bieleme noted that he has only been on hand for two of those losses and only one of his players has likely seen all eight of those games.
“Players are here for a maximum of four or five years so they haven’t been around for all of them,” Bielema said. “BA (Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen) has because his dad has been on staff and he has witnessed them all.
“But I think you try to focus on the now. As a program we have had to break a lot of those streaks unfortunately, but hopefully we are going to start building some of those on our own.
“The reason Alabama has had success year after year is they stay pretty true to who they are. There is not a lot of variation when you watch the film.
“They recruit with consistency. They have a winning streak of eight years, but they have a streak of winning on the recruiting trail for a long time, which obviously factors into wins on game day as well.
“We are trying to put a little speed bump in the process and get a chance to our own little path as well.”
Bielema was asked if last season’s close loss to Alabama would play any factor in this season’s game.
“I get it and I understand it and I know where the question comes from,” Bielema said. “You learn from last year’s mistakes without a doubt.
“I think last year’s setback was not only a setback against Alabama, but the next week we probably played the clunker of the year against Georgia.
“We came back and played a little bit better against Mississippi State and came out and played better down the stretch and I think some of the things we learned in that ballgame helped us to have success a little bit later on once we got them corrected.
“There is going to be some drawing experience from that, especially our offense line versus their defensive line because there are a lot of the same player back and obviously the same defensive coordinator and the same schemes.
“Offensively they have continued to evolve under (Alabama offensive coordinator) Coach (Lane) Kiffin…But last year is a little bit about last year and every team tries to make their own individual story during the season.”
Arkansas will be playing its third straight week away from home and its fourth game in five away from Fayetteville.
“The good news is that we have got a lot of practice in away stadiums, but nothing compares to this venue,” Bielema said. “This is one of the best I have ever been in in college football.
“I know they have a great football team, a great crowd and a great environment, a very good coaching staff and some really good players on the field.
“It is a tremendous task, but a good opportunity to find out where we are at. I think our kids are excited to get over there and see what we can do.
“I think the biggest thing we have is the opportunity to keep getting better and we keep preaching to our kids that the day will come as you deserve it, as you earn it. We are working every day to get there.”