Hogs Vs. Alabama Head-To-Head

ON THE GROUND
ADVANTAGE: EVEN

Arkansas tailbacks DeCori Birmingham and De'Arrius Howard provided a solid one-two punch against Louisiana-Monroe, rushing for 127 and 109 yards, respectively. It was the first time a Hogs tailback went over 100 yards in a game this season.

Birmingham leads the Hogs in rushing (195 yards) and quarterback Matt Jones is close behind (185). Howard is third with 157 and Arkansas has gotten valuable contributions from backups Dedrick Poole (71) and fullback Peyton Hillis (4 touchdowns).

Alabama has taken Arkansas' familiar spot, leading the Southeastern Conference in rushing by averaging 241 yards behind its trio of Ray Hudson, Kenneth Darby and fullback Tim Castille. The Crimson Tide will lean on its ground game to ease pressure from first-time starting quarterback Marc Guillon.

Hudson sustained what he called a mild concussion last week, but leads the Tide with 295 yards and 2 TDs. Darby has run for 260 yards and 3 scores, while Castille has rushed for 86 yards and 2 TDs. True freshman Aaron Johns impressed coach Mike Shula last week, leading Alabama with 86 yards on 11 carries.

THROUGH THE AIR
ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS

Arkansas leads the SEC in passing (297.3 yards per game), while Jones is 10th in the country in total offense (300.3) and is 12th in efficiency (161.5). He threw a career-high 4 TD passes last Saturday and needs one more score to pass Clint Stoerner for the school mark in career touchdown responsibility (62).

Steven Harris had a big outing against ULM, catching 6 passes for 133 yards and 2 TDs. Marcus Monk (6 catches, 126 yards, 3 TDs), Carlos Ousley (9-102), Chris Baker (5-148, 1 TD) and Cedric Washington (4-82, 1 TD) also are valuable weapons.

The Tide will miss Brodie Croyle after the junior's season-ending knee injury against Western Carolina. But Guillon handled most of the snaps during spring practice and completed 5 of 7 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown last week.

True freshman Keith Brown missed last week's game with a knee injury, but the big-play threat (7-126, 1 TD) is probable today. He leads a young group that includes sophomore Tyrone Prothro and freshmen DJ Hall and Matt Caddell. Castille leads Alabama in catches (8-72) and tight end Clint Johnston has two touchdowns.

IN THE TRENCHES
ADVANTAGE: EVEN

Alabama has a history of churning out big-time linemen on both sides of the ball and this season is no exception. The Tide's offensive line is anchored by returning starters in left tackle Wesley Britt, left guard Evan Mathis and center JB Closner. Mathis leads Alabama with 38 straight starts. Britt is a Lombardi Award candidate.

The Tide's defensive line is led by defensive ends Todd Bates and Mark Anderson, who have combined for 13 tackles. Freshman Wallace Gilberry leads Alabama with two sacks and reserve Chris Turner shares the team lead with 2 tackles for losses.

Arkansas' offensive line has exceeded expectations after three games, paving the way for a high-powered offense that leads the SEC in points (44) and yards (525.7) per game. The left side of tackle Tony Ugoh, guard Stephen Parker and center Kyle Roper has opened plenty of holes for Arkansas' tailbacks.

Senior Arrion Dixon was suspended for the first half of last week's game for twisting the ankle of Texas quarterback Vince Young, but will return to the starting lineup today. Nose guard Jeremy Harrell also returns after missing the ULM game with an ankle injury. Senior defensive end Jeb Huckeba leads the Hogs with 2 sacks.

SPECIAL TEAMS
ADVANTAGE: ALABAMA

Arkansas punter Jacob Skinner is off to a rough start, averaging just 35.1 yards on his first 12 punts. The sophomore shanked a 14-yarder in last week's third quarter, but rebounded to boot a 44-yarder on his final attempt.

The Razorbacks are last in the SEC and 87th in the nation in punting, 86th in punt returns and 65th in kickoff returns. Hillis and Washington averaged 26.5 yards on their four kickoff returns against the Indians.

Place-kicker Chris Balseiro, who earned the starting job against Alabama last season, leads the SEC in extra points (18 of 18) and is 2 of 3 on field goals. Tide kicker Brian Bostick missed a key attempt in overtime last year, but is perfect after three games (17 of 17 FGs, 3 of 3 PATs). Alabama punter Bo Freeland, a Ray Guy Award candidate, is third in the SEC in punting (42 yards per attempt).

True freshman Marcel Stamps blocked a punt and returned it 29 yards for a touchdown against Western Carolina. Alabama leads the SEC in kickoff returns (35.8 yards) and junior Brandon Brooks ran one back for 87 yards against the Catamounts.

INTANGIBLES
ADVANTAGE: ARKANSAS

Alabama has done an outstanding job of taking the ball away -forcing eight turnovers -and is tied with South Carolina for the conference lead in turnover-margin (plus-5). Arkansas forced four turnovers against Louisiana-Monroe, but is plus-1 after three games because of four miscues against the Longhorns in a Week 2 loss.

Alabama breaks in a new quarterback (Guillon) in its SEC road opener for the third consecutive year. The Tide rallied together in 2002, when Croyle started his first career game and led Alabama to a convincing a 30-12 win in Fayetteville.

But Alabama brings a much younger team into Reynolds Razorback Stadium today for its first road game after hosting Utah State, Ole Miss and Western Carolina. Eleven true freshmen have played and 34 have made their Alabama debuts in the first three weeks.

That youth will be tested in Fayetteville, where a school-record 75,671 fans packed the stands for the Arkansas-Texas game. Today's attendance should rival that. The Hogs also are young, but have more big-game experience than many of the Tide's players after battling toe-to-toe with the then-No. 7 Longhorns in a 22-20 loss.

OVERALL
ARKANSAS 31, ALABAMA 28

The Arkansas-Alabama series is knotted at 6-all since the Hogs joined the SEC in 1992, but one of Arkansas' wins came by forfeit (1993). In all, the home team has dropped the last two games and four of the past eight, including Arkansas' 34-31 two-overtime victory last season.

There's an intriguing matchup this time as Arkansas leads the conference in scoring (44 points), total offense (525.7 yards), passing (297.3) and is second in rushing (228.3). The Hogs also lead the conference in first downs (70), passing efficiency (178.4) and are the only SEC team that hasn't surrendered a sack.

Alabama leads the SEC in total defense (216.3 yards per game), rushing defense (73) and pass efficiency defense (85.9 rating). It also is second in the SEC in scoring defense (8 points), passing defense (143.3) and sacks (8).

The Hogs haven't played well in big games in Razorback Stadium since 2000, but stare at an important one against the Tide. Arkansas is 5-7 in SEC games in Fayetteville since 2000, but should squeeze out a win with enormous challenges at Florida, at Auburn and against Georgia looming next month.

THE KEY MATCHUP
QB Matt Jones (6-foot-6, 237 pounds • senior) vs. FS Roman Harper (6-foot-1, 197 pounds • junior)

Jones has been sharp through the air and dangerous on the move in three games this season, averaging 300.3 yards. Arkansas is off to an electric start because of the senior who tied a school record with 4 TD passes last week.

Harper is the heart of Alabama's defense, leading the Crimson Tide with 15 tackles in three games. The junior also has recorded I sack, 1 interception and 1 forced fumble. Behind Harper, Alabama is intent on limiting Jones' production today.


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