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Previewing Arkansas in its match-up with Alabama

Nelson Chenault- USA TODAY Sports

Festivities are entertaining, but nothing satisfies like a win on homecoming. Alabama made a huge statement last week in its 38-10 victory over Georgia, moving up five spots from 13th to No.8 in the Coaches’ Poll. Its offense looks to continue gaining rhythm, while on defense, the Crimson Tide will remain sticking to the details of pass rush, gap assignments and turnovers.

Arkansas was considered a dark horse to win the SEC West upon entering the season.

It finished 7-6 in 2014, with wins over Louisiana State University and Mississippi. Heart-breaking losses to Toledo, Texas Tech and Texas A&M has the Razorbacks at 2-3 heading into this weekend. Injuries have plagued Arkansas, as it lost running back Jonathan Williams (season) along wide receivers Keon Hatcher (six weeks) and Cody Hollister all to foot injuries.

Razorbacks’ head coach Bret Bielema has talent on both sides on the ball; however, it will come down to mental more so than physical toughness against Alabama.

Yours truly of TDAM now breaks down Arkansas line up for its contest Saturday with Alabama.

Arkansas Razorbacks: 2-3, (1-1 SEC)

Everything with Arkansas starts on its offensive line and rushing attack, but senior quarterback Brandon Allen happens to be one of the more efficient signal callers in the conference.

He made tremendous strides as an all-around quarterback from 2013 to last season, completing 56 percent of his throws for 2,285 yards with 20 touchdowns to five interceptions. Allen’s completion mark has increased to 66 percent this year, totaling 1,360 passing yards with eight touchdowns to three interceptions.

He is averaging 272 passing yards per game thus far.

Arkansas’ offensive line has blocked for 5.10 yards per carry and eight rushing touchdowns. Junior tailback Alex Collins has taken over in the absence of Jonathan Williams.

He recorded 1,100 yards rushing last season with 12 touchdowns on 5.39 yards per carry. Collins has posted 131.20 yards per contest through four games, accounting for 656 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

True freshman Rawleigh Williams III is a complement to Collins. He has rushed for 226 yards and a touchdown on 47 carries. Williams will see meaningful action against a tough defense.

Wide receiver Drew Morgan has emerged as Allen’s primary target. The junior is averaging 82.6 receiving yards a game. Morgan’s caught 23 passes for 413 yards and three touchdowns.

Tight end Hunter Henry still remains a valuable weapon as a blocker and pass catcher for the Razorbacks. He is second on the team in receptions (20) and receiving yards (268). Henry’s averaged 13.4 yards per catch and 53.6 yards per game with one touchdown reception.

Receivers Dominique Reed and Jojo Robinson both bring the dynamics of speed and acceleration. Reed’s caught three passes for 42 yards and a touchdown, while Robinson, a freshman, has 38 receiving yards on five catches through four games.

Defensively, Arkansas is guided by junior linebacker Brooks Ellis and defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter.  Ellis leads the group with 34 total tackles, including two for loss. Ledbetter has 27 total tackles, with four for loss. Ellis averages 6.80 tackles per game.

Defensive backs Rohan Gaines, DJ Dean and Santos Ramirez are all exceptional talents in the secondary. Gaines, a senior, leads the bunch with 26 total tackles.

He’s averaged 5.20 tackles per game.

The Razorbacks are plus one in the turnover battle, yet it has not forced a lot of negative plays. Arkansas’ defense has four sacks, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.

Offensively, Arkansas will stick to its guns with a heavy run game and mix in some play action. The Razorbacks must create opportunities on defense, to give its offense a short field. A win against Alabama should help right the ship, especially after a hard fought win over Tennessee.

Game Prediction: Alabama 42, Arkansas 10

Stephen M. Smith is a senior analyst and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.

You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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