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#21 Arkansas prepares for tough road trip against #2 Alabama

by Michael Hanich | November 20, 2021 at 12:42 a.m.

The 2021 College Football season keeps getting more special for the #21 Arkansas Razorbacks (7-3; 3-3 in SEC play). The Razorbacks are coming off a three-game win streak, with their last two being a 31-28 win over #17 Mississippi State and a 16-13 overtime win at LSU. Last week's win over LSU was their first win over their rivals since 2015, taking home the Golden Boot Trophy.

The Razorbacks are moving on with their fantastic season by taking on a juggernaut team in the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide (9-1; 5-1 in SEC play). Taking down the Tide will not be easy as they have shown flaws, but are they still considered elite this season. Alabama is led by a potential Heisman Trophy winner in sophomore quarterback Bryce Young, who has thrown for 232-of-327 completions for 3,025 yards, 33 touchdowns, only three interceptions, and a quarterback rating of 180.1. Alabama's offense ranks third in the nation in points per game (44.6) and 12th in passing yards per game (306). They possess two dynamic and elite wide receivers in Jameson Williams and John Metchie III.

The offense of the Razorbacks are not going to be able to outscore or outgain the high-power offense of the Crimson Tide easily. They will need to be smart and efficient with the football while utilizing some fast-paced tempo. In the 52-51 loss at the #17 Ole Miss Rebels earlier in the season, the offense for Arkansas was able to accumulate 676 total yards, 326 passing offenses, 350 rushing offenses, and 39 first downs. They were 7-for-13 on third-down conversions as well as 2-of-2 in fourth-down conversions.

Arkansas will need to have several playmakers contribute to a highly efficient and fast-paced performance if they want to throw Alabama's defense unbalanced. The offensive line for Arkansas will need to create some push at the line of scrimmage to spark a great run game that will wear down the defense throughout the game. They were able to do this in the second half of the Ole Miss loss as they scored 37 points. RPO quarterbacks have been a big problem to Alabama's defense in the past couple of seasons. Arkansas quarterback K.J. Jefferson could have a big game for Arkansas through efficient passes and the run game through design RPOs. The offensive line for Arkansas will need to keep the pocket clean for Jefferson to break down his receivers' routes and the opposing secondaries' coverages as Alabama sophomore outside linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leads the nation in sacks accounted for (12).

The defense for Arkansas will need to be as chaotic at the line of scrimmage as possible to slow down Young and the Tide offense. The struggling offensive line for Alabama has allowed Young to be sacked 22 times this season. Young is highly elusive and has avoided so many sacks this season to add to this total. Arkansas' defense knows how to get into the backfield as they have accounted for 64 tackles for loss and 19 sacks this season. Alabama's offensive line is not efficient in picking up blitzes. Arkansas may include more blitzes if they want to force incompletions from Young.

The secondary for Arkansas has shown to be highly efficient throughout the 2021 season. Arkansas ranks 31st in the nation in passing yards allowed per game (186) as the man coverages have been highly efficient. They will face their most formidable challenge yet this season in Young and the talented receiver corp. They will need to play their best game and stay tight in their man coverages to make Young keep searching for an open receiver. Arkansas will have to watch out for a unique blend of special receivers and their best attributes, including the speed of Williams, the route-running of Metchie, and the size of tight Jahleel Billingsley.

With a win over Arkansas, Alabama would win the SEC West and clinch a spot in the SEC Conference Championship to face the #1 Georgia Bulldogs (10-0; 8-0 in SEC play). Since their 24-23 home win in Fayetteville in the 2006 College Football season, Arkansas has not defeated Alabama.

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