W2W4 – Arkansas
Well, so much for the next installment of the “game of the century” between Alabama and the next team of the minute. As soon as La Monroe quarterback Colton Browning crossed the Arkansas goal line in overtime, you could almost hear the ESPN Gameday trucks spinning around as they fought to remind their Tom-Toms how to find Knoxville. The Associated Press pollsters registered their vote of no confidence in John L (now know what the L stands for) Smith by sending the piggies to a historic free fall out of the top 25. Meanwhile, bookies across the nation raced to their computer systems to bump the 12 point line all the way up to a 21 point line, favoring Alabama of course. With Arkansas’ starting QB Tyler Wilson skipping practices due to having more cobwebs in his head than Elvira, all signs point to a Dreamland of BBQ with the Arkansas team providing us all the Hogs we can eat. Auburn folks all across the country should be muttering “what else is on?” early in the third quarter…and here’s why…..
W2W4 – Alabama on Offense
While most pundits are focusing on the loss of Tyler Wilson as the key to the La Monroe loss, I’m here to tell you that losing him was only part of the problem. La Monroe went for it on 4th and goal from the one yard line at the end of the first half but couldn’t punch it in. Later, they were inside the Arky five and threw a pick in the end zone. Had they just kicked field goals here, the game would not have even gone to overtime. La Monroe rolled up 550 yards of offense – 412 via the pass and 138 on the ground – and that had nothing to do with (insert John L doing his best Tom Hanks impersonation), “WILLLLLLLLL-SON!”
This week’s practice was a come to Jesus (or is it Satan, er, Saban) for the offensive linemen after giving up six sacks. But, as the WKU game review told you, many of the sacks were actually on AJ, himself, so we’ll see if he’s able to make any adjustments in his game. Arkansas actually did generate pressure on the Warhawks’ QB but he was deftly able to maneuver in the pocket and avoid the rush. AJ isn’t nearly as nimble so he may actually be under duress more than you might think. But, I do think Arky will take from the WKU gameplan and they will sell out to stop the run which, naturally, will open up the pass. Assuming AJ can maintain an upright and locked position, Bama should be able to take to the air and connect down the field several times – sending the piggy secondary crying, “weeee weeee weeeee got beat again” all the way back to the bench.
This Is How You Remind Me: I think Saban is particularly upset with our inability to run the football this past Saturday so I think this will be a point of emphasis against the Hogs. This week, I look for a concerted effort to run the ball to remind the world that THIS (the running game) is Alabama football.
Scratch Your I’s Out: I’ll be stunned if we line up in the I formation more than twice as this is no longer an effective look for us without The Beast. (Insert moment of silence here.) I think we’ll show the I formation with Johnson playing the part of the FB but it’s not going to be in the game plan much going forward.
Carry On My Wayward Son: Fowler’s loss doesn’t just effect the I formation as he was arguably Bama’s second best tailback behind Yeldon. With Lacy still looking about 10 lbs overweight and running as though he’s still not 100%, it becomes imperative that either Dee Hart or Kenyan Drake be productive with the extra carries. Don’t you love what you are seeing out of Drake? He’s about to overtake Hart in the pecking order, IMO, so I’ll be closely watching the their carries (and I like Drake).
With Arms Wide Open: The Bama Creed will likely continue to include the slot receivers in the game planning this week as they’ve been virtually wide open for the first two games. I’ll be watching to see if we once again move the TEs from one side to the other, making the defenses shift personnel away from the slot receivers. The piggies are not good in coverage and the slot guys should own a HUGE advantage.
How To Save a Life: Will the real offensive line please stand up? Because, if they don’t, AJ will likely be unable to stand up on his own. I’m looking for fewer than three sacks this week.
If I Ain’t Got You: If the pundits and the bookies are right and Alabama puts this baby to bed quickly, I will be watching to see if Phillip Ely or Blake Sims trots out as the #2 QB. If we find ourselves without AJ, this would be a big deal. I love the fact that Sims was first in last week and Saban says the #2 QB position is “an ongoing evaluation.” My guess is Ely will come in before Sims this week, but I liked what Sims did last week with the zone read. His read and give to Drake was responsible for Drake’s 32 yard TD run. I likey.
Swami Sez: Look for curls and dig routes to be a huge part of the game plan because Arky’s corners consistently play off about 7 yards from the WR. #35 for Arkansas is a big, slow, white defensive back – he looks like a LB and plays like one in coverage. Alabama will beat him at least three times in coverage, once for a TD. Alabama will have more yards rushing against Arkansas than they did against WKU. Arkansas’ ends are athletic and they can turn the corner so look for AJ to get sacked at least once due to a speed rush. BUT, AJ will not get sacked more than four times – this I guarantee.
W2W4 – Alabama on Defense
With a duo of backs like Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, you’d think Arky would lean on the running game after Wilson’s brain left to go for a ride with Batman. Instead, John L Smith decided to let freshman Brandon Allen chuck it 20 times! The results were predictable. Allen completed 6 of 20 passes, was sacked once and served up an interception to the mighty Warhawks. In John L’s infinite wisdom, they asked Allen to throw 17 times (he had a sack and a rush for a loss on two of the 17 plays) and they handed off only 8 times before going to overtime. Once they got to overtime, they simply asked Allen to throw the ball 5 straight times with each one falling incomplete. WHUH? Knile Davis? Dennis Johnson? Helloooooooooooooo?
So, armed with this knowledge, we can surmise that a) the Arky staff isn’t really good at this whole football thing, b) whether it’s Allen or Wilson behind center, they will be required to throw the ball and c) we’ll likely get to know the name of their third string QB before it’s all over. Ouch.
Zombie: What’s in your head, in your head? Evidently Tyler Wilson isn’t quite sure what’s in his head right about now as reports say he’s groggy and unable to practice. Given the heightened scrutiny regarding concussions, I can’t fathom any way that they’ll let Wilson sleepwalk his way to the huddle and, if they do, John L Smith may be removed/escorted from the sidelines before he finishes coaching the Alabama game. My guess is that it would be a PR nightmare to have Wilson line up behind center so I look for Arky to be living in Allen-town. “And he won’t be getting up todaaaaay….”
Runnin’ Runnin’: I hope for Allen’s sake that Arky will look to lean on Davis and Johnson. I sure would and I think they will. They have to, right?
Disturbia: After watching the WKU tight end catch 7 passes, you can expect Arkansas TE Kelly Gragg to be a major part of their game plan. Gragg is way more talented than the WKU TE and I expect him to catch more passes than the Arky WRs – continuing a disturbing trend of giving up yardage to the TE. Gragg does lead the Hogs in receptions and TDs so this isn’t a huge limb pick, but I think Allen will choose the shorter throws to the TE if he’s in at QB.
Double Stuffed: Arkansas, as a team, will not go over 100 yards rushing. They simply don’t seem to care about running the football and, remember, sacks go against the running totals. While they may try, they won’t succeed and will quickly go back to doing what they do best – getting QBs knocked out of the game.
Burnin’ Down the House: Alabama will set a season high sack total during this game and will record their first (and second) sack via a blitz. Arky cannot seem to pick up a blitz (hence Wilson currently vacationing in La-LaLand). Oh, and the Hogs employ two walk on offensive linemen. Might wanna check into that Geico caveman’s eligibility because these two walk-ons are clearly is not enough insurance.
In Too Deep: Look for the Baconator QBs to throw it deep at least 5 times during this game. It’s seemingly all they know to do so here’s hoping the secondary eats their lunch.
Swami Sez: If Wilson starts, he won’t make it thru the entire game. If Allen starts, he won’t take every snap, either (Arky does have former QB Brandon Mitchell taking 45% of the reps so I think he’s in the game plan). Either Lester or Perry will pick off a high throw. Alabama will record another strip sack (a la Dickson against WKU) this week and this one will be returnable. The Razorbacks will throw the ball over 60% of the time even though they should run the ball to protect either Wilson or Allen (or the third stringer after they lose their first two options).
W2W4 – Alabama on Special Teams
As “u-sh”, I really don’t have a whole lot to tell you that I’m looking for on special teams. Cade Foster’s kickoffs have been excellent this year with nearly every one of them going inside the 3 yard line. Jeremy Shelley has only attempted one FG on the season, so that’s kind of interesting. Christion Jones has been extremely reliable as a punt returner and he seems very close to breaking one. Perhaps this will be his week (not a prediction but just kind of thinking aloud here). The Razorbacks have a pretty solid kicking game with Dylan Breeding averaging 42.6 yards per punt and Zack Hocker connecting on his only FG attempt. The Hogs’ Dennis Johnson is a dynamic kick returner and with Bama’s history of giving up a couple of KO returns for TDs, this may be something to keep an eye on. The F&F (Fast & Freshmen) crew had better be pretty solid with their kick coverages.
Five. Hundred. Fifty. Yards. 550! That’s how many yards La Monroe gained against Arkansas last Saturday. Mercy! While the Razorbackers will cry the loss of Tyler Wilson resulted in the loss to the Warhawks, I do not believe he has much of anything to do with the Arkansas defense. 550! So, I’m looking for the Alabama offense to begin clicking in this one. Maybe I’m wrong but between the off coverages of the corners and one slow footed #35, our WRs should be wide open all day long. Additionally, I think the OL will have a mad on and a hunger for some fried pork loins – scattered, smothered, covered, chunked and diced for effect. Poor piggies. I also think the defense will once again assert their wickedness after taking a week off against WKU. Sure, they forced four turnovers but I think even they would tell you it wasn’t their best “Sabanized” effort. I think you’ll see a few exotic blitzes (that term has always made me laugh – I picture Hawaiian belly dancers with leis chasing down a quarterback) and some heavy thunder applied to the Arky QBs. This should be an easy win this week. What else is on TV around 3:30 – you might want to start checking your local listings…
Final Score: Alabama 31 Arkansas 10