A heavyweight battle in the SEC West headlines on Saturday as No. 2 Alabama hits the road to take on No. 20 Arkansas on the SEC on CBS Game of the Week. The Crimson Tide roll in to Fayetteville, Arkansas, with a record of 4-0 and are coming off of two easy victories; the Tide took down Vanderbilt 55-3 last week after beating ULM 63-7 the week before. Those results looked a lot different than the one from Week 2 when Alabama narrowly avoided an upset in a road game against Texas.
Arkansas wasn't as lucky last week. The Razorbacks have spent all week trying to shake the image of Cam Little's 42-yard field goal attempt bouncing off the top of the upright instead of going through with 90 seconds left in the game. Those lost three points loomed large in a 23-21 loss to rival Texas A&M. Now, the Razorbacks have to find a way to bounce back against one of the best teams in the country.
That loss makes this a must-win for Arkansas. A loss would drop it to 1-2 in conference play, and it's hard to imagine any team with two losses -- one of which coming to Alabama -- winning the SEC West.
How to watch Alabama vs. Arkansas live
Alabama vs. Arkansas: Need to know
Alabama has dominated this series: Arkansas is not an original member of the SEC, which is why it's only played Alabama 30 times in its history. As you'd expect in anything involving Alabama, the Tide have dominated, winning 22 of those 30 meetings. That includes each of the last 14. To put that into context, the last time Arkansas beat Alabama was in 2006 (24-23). Houston Nutt was coaching Arkansas, Mike Shula was coaching Alabama and George W. Bush was in the Oval Office. We've had three different presidents since that game. Heck, Arkansas has had five different coaches! What I'm saying is it's been a while.
Alabama has struggled on the road: Leaving the friendly confines of home hasn't worked out well for the Tide lately. Alabama has been favored by an average of 18.5 points in its last six road games, but it has not played to expectations. Alabama was a 21.5-point favorite in its game against Texas this season and scratched and clawed for a one-point win. Going back to last season, Alabama has gone 4-1 in true road games, but only one of those wins was comfortable (49-9 at Mississippi State). It lost to Texas A&M 41-38, and none of its wins over Florida, Auburn or Texas came by more than a field goal.
This is a revenge game for Arkansas LB Drew Sanders: OK, so maybe he's not out for revenge, but Sanders was a five-star recruit out of high school who originally committed to Alabama. After not seeing much action in two seasons with the Tide -- he appeared in 24 games on special teams and as a reserve -- he transferred to Arkansas this season and has been a major part of the Hogs' defense. Sanders has been everywhere, picking up 31 tackles through four games. That includes 6.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two passes defended. The Razorbacks will need Sanders to maintain that level of performance and help slow down the Alabama offense.
Alabama vs. Arkansas prediction, picks
Part of the reason Alabama has not been good on the road is that its offensive line has not been up to the typical standard. This year's Alabama offense has not been nearly as explosive in the passing game as we've seen in recent years. There is no true alpha receiver -- at least, not one that has taken the reins from the outstanding receivers Alabama has had in recent years. All of that combined with Arkansas dropping into coverage and forcing teams to put together long drives to beat it suggests this will be a lower-scoring, closer affair than anticipated. I don't have a high level of confidence in it, but if I'm betting anything here, I'd rather be on the Razorbacks. Prediction: Arkansas +17
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