After what can only be described as a catastrophic trip to ‘The Rock’ last Saturday, the Hogs turn their attention to the #1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (2-0). The 2:30 kickoff will be televised by CBS.
Arkansas is injured and reeling. Quarterback Tyler Wilson watched practice Tuesday from the sideline and is listed as doubtful. The Tide, on the other hand, have taken care of their business. They have made their ascent to the top of the polls after a resounding 41-14 thumping of then #10 Michigan, and a 35-0 shutout of Western Kentucky.
Some thought it might take ‘Bama and head coach Nick Saban (57-12, sixth year) a few games to get on track, given what they lost to the NFL last year. The complete destruction of Michigan dispelled that.
“This team had a challenge of trying to create an identity for itself,” Saban said after the Michigan game. “I think they took a step in that direction. That happens over time and happens with consistency in performance. It’s a big win over a very good team.”
Say what you want, but without suspended running back Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan was more one dimensional than ever. Stopping “Shoelace” was all that remained. With the Hogs playing backup quarterbacks this week, and the offensive line seemingly in shambles, expect pressure from the Alabama ‘D’ — lots of it.
While the Tide defense has been stellar so far, the ignition is without question new freshman running back T.J. Yeldon (6-2, 210). We had Yeldon #4 in our RBN preseason running back rankings, and he has not disappointed.
Yeldon’s vision and ability to accelerate into the hole are impressive. And like homerun hitters Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram before him, you get the feeling that he could take it to the house on every play.
Linebackers C.J. Mosley (6-2, 232) and senior Nico Johnson (6-3, 245) lead a group that returns five starters from last year. The Tide will mainly line up in a 3-4 look, but occasionally outside linebacker Xzavier Dickson (6-3, 262) will put his hand on the ground in a four-man front.
Only All-American senior strong safety Robert Lester returns in the secondary from last year.
If you remember, the Tide had no reason to respect the Hogs running game or offensive line a year ago in Tuscaloosa. Instead, Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart played 2-deep, man under virtually the whole game and forced the Hogs to throw underneath.
We expect to see a similar strategy to start with this year, with Bama forcing inexperienced quarterbacks to make plays. If Knile and the offensive line can’t get it going early, it will get ugly quick.
Alabama has only given up 20+ points three times in their last 19 games. Without Wilson, Alabama is favored by 22.