Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa may be out for the week against the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-5) but the Alabama Crimson Tide (7-0) are not. This Saturday, the Crimson Tide will host the Razorbacks, who are in last place in the SEC West. They may be doing so without one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in Tagovailoa, who is recovering from a high ankle sprain he suffered last week against the Tennessee Volunteers. Alabama head coach Nick Saban will not use this excuse to get his team ready for anyone. He is going to take every opponent seriously, even this Razorbacks team that can create some surprises.
Alabama To Host Arkansas
Mac Jones’ Time To Shine At Quarterback
The Tide will not focus on the lost opportunity of Tagovailoa at quarterback. Instead, they would be putting their full confidence in sophomore quarterback Mac Jones in the match-up against the Razorbacks. Last week against the Volunteers, Jones threw for 72 yards on six completions out of 11 passing attempts. This was without practicing first-team reps and coming into the game for relief of the injured Tagovailoa. Saban and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Steve Sarkisian are comfortable with Jones for the Tide’s offense against the Razorbacks. Defensively, the Razorbacks are not suited to stop any opposing passing offense. They can get to the quarterback through pass rush but that will be difficult with Alabama’s o-line. There might be a chance that Taulia Tagovailoa could play in relief for Jones, but it might be a tough call to make with one game closer to burning his redshirt eligibility.
Najee Harris Can Be Big Once Again
Last week, Tide running back Najee Harris had a huge game against the Volunteers by rushing for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. He brought much-needed relief to the Tide’s passing offense before and after Tagovailoa was taken out. Once again, the Tide will be playing an SEC defense whose biggest flaw is stopping the run. Defensively, the Razorbacks rank in 100th in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game (193.7). While the Tide have faith in Jones to easily lead the offense, Harris can make scoring and driving the ball down the field much easily. With the help of an efficient offensive line, led by left tackle Alex Leatherwood, Harris can get the extra yards on both outside and inside runs.
Defense Needs To Be More Efficient Against The Run
The loss of inside linebacker Dylan Moses was significant. The Tide’s defense is ranked 41st in rush defense but that cannot be blamed on true freshmen linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris. Missed tackles from across the defense can be a big indication of the continuing drives from opposing offenses. The Tide will be facing an Arkansas offense led by running back Rakeem Boyd, who has rushed for 656 yards and five touchdowns on 119 carries. Stopping Boyd will seriously derail the Razorbacks’ offense to a complete stop. This includes making tackles when penetrating past the line of scrimmage and making the perfect angles to making the plays. Safety Xavier McKinney leads the Crimson Tide in total tackles with 53 total tackles due to his leadership and his ability to quickly read the play.
Build Up Pass Rush From Other Sources
Outside linebackers Terrell Lewis and Anfernee Jennings have certainly made a name for themselves terrorizing quarterbacks. So far this season, Jennings has accounted for four sacks and Lewis has six sacks. Outside of them, the Tide doesn’t have a healthy defensive lineman that has more than one sack. Nose guard D.J. Dale has one sack and three tackles for loss. Freshman defensive end Justin Eboigbe has been starting for the Tide since the injury to Labyran Ray. He only has half a sack and long-time starting defensive end/tackle Raekwon Davis has not accounted for a sack. The Tide’s defensive line continues to overpass the quarterback in the pocket which allows them to scramble for more yards. If Alabama wants to be more successful against more efficient offenses, they will need more efficient and aggressive pass rushers. Alabama can continue their efforts once again host Arkansas on Saturday.
Alabama Host Arkansas Main Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images