State of the Hogs: Alabama Week

After a pair of easy victories in nonconference play, Arkansas will find out a lot about itself when Alabama comes calling Saturday at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Can Arkansas play with the big boys? Are the Razorbacks for real? Do they deserve to be in the national rankings? Can they compete in the SEC West?

These are the things that we'll find out Saturday night when Alabama visits in an SEC West game scheduled for ESPN's national TV cablevision audience. Game time has been reset for 6:45 p.m. Saturday.

So far, things have gone according to the preseason plan as far as the Arkansas football team. Houston Nutt pushed his team harder in spring and in the fall in hopes of getting off to a quick start. Pounding Boise State, 45-14, and South Florida, 42-3, was just what he had in mind.

Now it's time to find out where the Hogs really stand. Alabama is much more talented than either of the first two victims. And, the Tide brings a brand of smashmouth football to the Ozarks that should be a tough test for the Razorbacks light defense.

Alabama has a multiple offense that changes sets and formations much like Boise State did in the opener. However, the Tide plays smashmouth out of those sets, and brings true power with its offensive line and strong backs. We'll find out if Arkansas' light ends and linebackers can stand up to that kind of power.

Defensively, Alabama features the best defensive front in the SEC. The Tide is both talented and experienced up front. The Hogs have faced these defensive linemen for several years and have yet to block them on a consistent basis. Alabama's linemen are such a force that most teams rarely get the luxury of sending blockers after the linebackers, so they are free to roam and make plays.

Alabama's secondary was supsect last year, but is much improved this year with a better understanding of the system and the addition of some young, talented players to challenge the veterans.

The good news is that Arkansas is much healthier than Alabama at this point early in the week. While the Hogs have played two games to date, Bama is beat up after playing four games. Quarterback Tyler Watts is questionable with foot strain. Tailback Ahmad Galloway is out with torn knee ligaments suffered in Saturday's victory over Southern Miss.

The Hogs should be full speed against 'Bama. They took two days off the previous weekend, and two more days off this past weekend before resuming workouts Sunday afternoon with a physical two-hour drill. Marvin Jackson, injured in preseason, and Josh Melton, battling knee troubles, are the only regulars not available for Alabama, but the Hogs should be fine in both respects.

Alabama was picked ahead of Arkansas in every media poll during preseason. Hence, the Hogs should expect one of their toughest games, although the personal guess is that it wouldn't be a huge upset if Arkansas held serve on its home field. The Hogs should win if they can avoid turnovers like they've done in the first two weeks. If they do, then they'll start to get some respect in the national rankings.

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