Alabama vs Arkansas Preview (Season Prediction 4 of 12)

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September 23, 2006
Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium
Fayetteville, Arkansas

Series Record: 10-6 (.625)

I'll come right out and say it; the Arkansas game is one that typically scares me. The Crimson Tide lead the overall series 10-6, but only lead it 8-6 since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992. So much of our attention as fans is spent on Auburn, LSU and Tennessee that to a certain extent, I think we sometimes forget what a thorn Arkansas has been in our collective side.

Looking back over the last 14 years, our performance against Arkansas has been a fairly accurate barometer of how good Alabama's season will be.

In the eight seasons Alabama has beaten Arkansas, only one time (2001) did the Tide register less than nine wins. In six of those seasons Alabama registered 10 or more wins. On the other end of the spectrum, our fortunes are not so good when losing to Arkansas. In the six seasons Alabama has lost to Razorbacks, only one season (1995) found Alabama winning more than seven games. Three of the six seasons were losing seasons and one was a .500 season.

The following table shows Alabama's overall performance in relationship to their performance against Arkansas. Seasons where Alabama beat Arkansas are in the "Win" column, seasons where Alabama lost to Arkansas are in the "Loss" column. I looked at trends in overall performance relative to each team Alabama plays yearly and Arkansas is the only team where a definite pattern emerges:

Win Record -- Loss Record
1992 13-0 -- 1995 8-3
1993 9-3-1 -- 1997 4-7
1994 12-1 -- 1998 7-5
1996 10-3 -- 2000 3-8
1999 10-3 -- 2003 4-9
2001 7-5 -- 2004 6-6
2002 10-3 -- -- --
2005 10-2 -- -- --

So, what does all of this tell us about our 2006 meeting? Probably not a whole heck of a lot. All of the college football pundits seem to think Arkansas is destined for a revival this year and many preseason magazines have Arkansas finishing third in the SEC West and Alabama finishing fourth. Quite a few predictors also see it the other way `round with Alabama in third and Arkansas in fourth.

At the risk of offending you dear readers, I think the '06 Alabama team will be one that loses a game it shouldn't. I also think Bama wins at least one game they aren't expected to win. Unfortunately, I believe Arkansas will be the loss that shouldn't happen.


Houston Nutt is on the hot seat

Last year's 24-13 victory over Arkansas was much closer than the score indicates. Arkansas completely fell asleep at the wheel and left DJ Hall uncovered on a third and goal from the five. Brodie Croyle noticed the lack of coverage and was able to signal to Hall that the throw was coming. Hall snagged it for the easy touchdown thereby sealing the victory for Alabama. Even if Alabama had only tacked on a field goal, Arkansas wasn't likely to tie it up with only two and half minutes to play, but the possibility existed. That isn't a position you want to put your defense in.


Darren McFadden was only the seventh freshman ever to rush for over 1,000 yards

Arkansas' potentially explosive running game headed by Darren McFadden will likely keep Alabama's offense off of the field (they ran for 237 yards against us last year) leaving John Parker Wilson with little room for error when the Tide has the ball. With the trip to Fayetteville being John Parker Wilson's first time starting on the road, I think the experience may prove to be a bit much for him. I see the Tide losing a painfully close game.

Truthfully, this game is way too difficult to predict because I have no idea what Arkansas' QB situation will be like. Will true freshman sensation Mitch Mustain be under center or will Houston Nutt go with Casey Dick again?

Assuming Arkansas improves as much as everyone thinks they will, I think we drop this game and it will be an insanely frustrating loss. If the Razorbacks haven't progressed much since last year, I think we can win it. Obviously, I'll be able to make a better assessment after viewing a few games of each team and seeing how Arkansas' QB situation plays out.

Predicted record after this game: (3-1)

Earlier previews:
Hawaii
Vanderbilt
Louisiana-Monroe

Fun Fact:

Bill Clinton was a law professor at Arkansas from 1973-1976

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