1. The loss of JWill has been a blow to the Arkansas offense, no doubt. But, with Collins and younger guys in the stable, do you still think that justifies the diversification in the Hogs offense we've seen the first half of the season? Brandon Allen is throwing a ton. Or, is this a product of Dan Enos playcalling?
It was a product of the offensive line not winning at the line of scrimmage to dominate in the run game. After the Toledo game, and especially after the Texas Tech game, we started seeing the offensive line get back into the groove of winning the cliche "battle of the trenches." I think Enos has a good feel of what is working in the game and the pass has been there. Allen just hasn't been able to get it in the red zone, which can also be blames on the line's inability to help in the run game.
2. Last season, Trey Flowers and Darius Philon manned a thin but excellent Arkansas defense. Despite their departure, Bret Bielema was still very high on the guys he had coming in this season. Who should Alabama watch for on Saturday?
Jeremiah Ledbetter has had a really good last couple of games on the d-line for the Hogs. What is really interesting is that this line is built more for "traditional offenses." So I look for bigger guys like Bijhon Jackson to get more snaps and have a bigger impact. At 330 lbs, those guys can't get many snaps against HUNH teams, because you can risk them getting stuck in the game.
3. There aren't any secrets to this game: Arkansas and Alabama are both going to be physical and try to pound the middle with the ground game, mixing in enough passing to keep opposing secondaries honest. Where and how will Arkansas find success running the ball when no one else has?
I honestly don't think they do. The teams that give Alabama trouble are the spread teams with mobile QBs. Those are the teams that have beaten Saban at Alabama. The Crimson Tide are third in the country in forcing three and outs at just over six a game. I expect Arkansas to have several on Saturday.
4. Arkansas was seemingly primed for a run at the SEC West this season. Aside from losing JWill, what has gone wrong? And, how is the mood among the more rational Arkansas fan base with respect to the job Bielema has done overall and this season in particular?
A lot of people are blaming it on Bielema for not going through two-a-days, You could tell the teams didn't play very tough those first few games and they seem to have that back now. There is also the transition of a new offensive coordinator. There is a huge difference between Chaney and Enos, in the types of plays they run, not necessarily run/pass ratio. Enos has brought back screen passes, something we haven't seen since the Petrino days. The guys getting use to that, and maybe Bielema getting use to it as well, took some time.
The mood around the "rational" fans base is that they see the progress, but it isn't as drastic as they thought it would be going into year three. I think rational people understand he will get five years because of his buyout, so they know they are stuck with him. What he is losing though is the benefit of the doubt from that first 0-8 SEC season. It went from "he had no players, not his fault" to "man this guy really stinks at winning close games and maybe someone else could have gone 2-6 that first year." But, you know what they say about hindsight and all.
5. What's our final score, and how do we get there?
I want to pick something weird like 19-17 Bama with the win. And really, the only reason I don't think Bama covers is because there aren't going to be a lot of points scored. I think the Hogs' defense keeps it close, and maybe there is a special teams/defensive touchdown to keep it close. However, I don't see the Razorback offense scoring much because Alabama's defense is built to destroy "traditional" offenses like Arkansas.