No. 2 Alabama has its sights set on clinching another SEC West championship and a trip to the SEC Championship Game with a win in one of its games over the final two weeks of the regular season, and accomplishing that mission sooner than later against No. 21 Arkansas on Saturday would take a ton of pressure off of first-year starting quarterback Bryce Young prior to the Iron Bowl vs. Auburn. Can the Crimson Tide do that, though? We'll find out when they square off with the Razorbacks in the SEC on CBS Game of the Week.
The Razorbacks have been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2021 season. Coach Sam Pittman has developed a hard-nosed, old-school program that, even if they don't beat their opponent, will simply beat them up with their physicality. Arkansas will look to use that physicality to keep Alabama's SEC West celebration on ice for at least another week.
What should you expect Saturday afternoon in Tuscaloosa? Let's break down the matchup and make picks straight up and against the spread.
LIVE updates: Follow along with the SEC on CBS action between the Tide and Razorbacks on Saturday at this link here.
How to watch Alabama vs. Arkansas live
Alabama vs. Arkansas: Need to know
Get the ground game going: The Crimson Tide ran for 6 total yards against LSU two weeks ago in its most recent SEC game. That has been a trend this season. They rank 10th in the SEC in rushing yards per attempt at 4.33 and 12th in tackles for loss allowed with 66. That seems crazy considering the physicality of the Crimson Tide has been their calling card under coach Nick Saban. Simply put, time is running out. Alabama has to figure out a way to consistently move the football on the ground if it wants to put up a fight against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game in two weeks.
A unique challenge: There aren't many ways to simulate what Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson brings to the table. Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles uses the 6-foot-3, 240-pound monster as a power rusher between the tackles and complement to star running back Trelon Smith. As soon as teams figure out how to shut that element of the Razorbacks defense down, Jefferson pops one over the top to stud wide receiver Treylon Burks. The Crimson Tide linebackers better maintain eye discipline, especially when Briles cranks up the tempo. They haven't seen anything like this all year, which makes this a scary game for coach Saban and Co.
Heisman spotlight: Alabama QB Young is the Heisman Trophy favorite at +180, according to Caesars Sportsbook, and the spotlight that the SEC on CBS Game of the Week provides will allow voters to get another close look at the stud sophomore signal-caller. There aren't many true contenders for the Heisman, which is generally given to one of the top offensive skill players on one of the best teams. Outside of Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud and Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker III, who else fits the bill? Not many players. Saban doesn't really care about individual awards other than the benefit they provide on the recruiting trail, but Young will likely have to put up a Heisman-caliber performance if the Crimson Tide cover the spread.
Alabama vs. Arkansas prediction, picks
Arkansas' offense will have enough success against Alabama to at least keep this one in doubt heading into the fourth quarter. Will Jefferson and the rest of the offense get the job done? No. A late mistake or two will cost the Hogs in this one, but they'll keep it within three touchdowns. Prediction: Arkansas (+20.5)
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