Nick Saban looks no further than the breakfast table for second-guessing of Alabama’s offensive strategy. There sits his wife, Terry Saban, waiting with a critical eye and a few pointed questions. "Why did you run that play" Why didn’t you run another plays is what she says," Nick Saban said.
With Alabama's four sacks spread among six players (including four each with half a sack), no UA pass rusher ranks among the top 15 sacks leaders in the Southeastern Conference. Linebacker Courtney Upshaw finds the Crimson Tide's dearth of sacks perplexing. "I kind of take that personal myself because I have a goal to get as many sacks, but this team coming in is an opportunity for everybody... to apply pressure and to get to him," Upshaw said. "We all want to get sacks from the front seven."
"Last year, we weren't very adaptable relative to the knowledge and experience that we had," Saban said. "I think we have a little better knowledge and experience, and I hope we'll make better adjustments in this game and not make those kinds of mental mistakes."
How does Hightower plan his mind game? "Not necessarily talking trash," he said. "That's what you're thinking. Just being more physical with him than any other pass rusher. Not being more finesse. More speed to power. Try to put him on his heels and throw him a couple different looks early into the game."
"They're based on showing a lot of looks to get the pressure on the quarterback and be physical," Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson said. "They're a physical defense, so I expect them to do that. They always have. I also expect them to man up on us, and I think that matches up well with some of the guys we've got splitting out at receiver."
Petrino said he didn't think his team felt deep down it could win the game in 2009. "What happens then is you see a lot of people do the same thing against Alabama," he said. "You don't execute and do the same thing that you normally do. "You drop passes. You overthrow a guy wide open. You trip on a line. ... You're out of your comfort zone and you don't play football the way you can. I think last year's game has to help us some in our confidence and certainly the way we came out in that game."
In a league where recruiting is a top-shelf sport and too often basketball games are a place to discuss spring practice, the words Bama, Crimson Tide, Tide, and Roll Tide all leave a bitter taste in the mouths of people from other SEC schools. Why? Because Alabama is a little cocky, and its football team is so successful that the school is everyone's rival.
"Man, it felt great," Hanks said. "I felt like I was a caged animal. It felt to be back out there on the field and play with the guys and everything. I had been practicing with the scout team for two weeks and I was ready to get from over there to be back with my group."
Richardson’s teammates have seen a marked improvement in his ability, and say he possesses skills that many other running backs lack. "He sets his blocks up with his vision, but also with his acceleration and strength," said linebacker Dont’a Hightower, who goes up against Richardson every day in practice. "You don’t really see too many running backs that have the strength, quickness and vision that he has."
Wingo’s breakout game last week couldn’t have come at a better time for Arkansas. He entered the week leading Razorbacks’ running backs with an average of 58 yards per game, hardly filling the void of the 147 yards per game Davis averaged in last season’s final seven games. That changed against Troy after Wingo scored on touchdown runs of 22 and 21 yards in the first half, also catching a 6-yard touchdown pass in the second half. He now has 225 yards rushing on 43 carries (a 5.2 average) for the season. "I thought he had a good game," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. "He hit the holes harder, he broke tackles, he did a good job in open space. I was happy with the way he played. He had three touchdowns, that says enough."
"The freshman they have coming in and playing is doing a really good job right now," Hightower said. "I feel like we’re going to have to use that to our advantage whenever it comes down to pass-rushing situations. Me and Courtney [Upshaw] are probably going to have to go after that guy a little bit more."
While Arkansas was struggling to beat Troy, the Crimson Tide (3-0) made easy work of another Sun Belt Conference opponent in a 41-0 win over North Texas. Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy combined to rush for 328 yards in the win, though Alabama coach Nick Saban wasn't completely pleased with his team's performance. "Some guys played pretty well out there and I don't think some guys played as well as they could," Saban said. "We need to get those things corrected because we're going to play a lot better football teams than what we've played to this point."
The Arkansas Razorbacks have been potent on offense this year en route to a 3-0 start to the season. This year, they’re ranked in the top 10 in both passing yardage (346.7 per game) and points per game (47). Harris said he was excited at the prospect of playing such an explosive offense. "Obviously, we’re really psyched up about it," Harris said. "This is a huge challenge for us – first SEC game – we really want to come out and show everybody what we’re made of. So this is the perfect challenge for us to come out."
Two days after winning one of the college football season's early marquee games, Bob Stoops was rewarded Monday with a new contract extension that could keep him as the coach of top-ranked Oklahoma through 2018 and pay him $34.5 million over the next seven years.