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Alabama Football vs Arkansas: When the Razorbacks have the ball

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Rushing. All the rushing.

Mississippi State v Arkansas Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

At 31 points per game, the Arkansas Razorbacks boast a slightly above average offense nationally. Kendal Briles returns as the OC under Sam Pittman for his second year, and has instilled the same spread-veer rushing attack that Baylor ran so well for many years earlier in the decade. The Razorbacks are one of the top rushing teams in the nation with 235 yards per game at north of 5.2 per carry.

The offense goes through electric sophomore QB KJ Jefferson, who’s a 6’4” 240-pound athlete with a whole lot of speed and size with the ball in his hands. His 107 attempts have gone for 500 yards and 5 touchdowns, and he’s a threat as both a scrambler as well as on read options, designed runs, and even powering up the middle on an inverted veer.

At running back, the Razorbacks sport a three-headed attack with Trelon Smith, Rocket Sanders, and Dominique Johnson. The smaller, speedy Smith leads the team in rushing yards and can get off-tackle and to the edge in a hurry. Lately, though, Johnson has been shouldering a little more of the load with his 230-lb frame, and he has 32 carries in the last two weeks.

Sanders is the main change-of-pace guy. He’s a 225-pound former slot receiver who’s got a blend of speed and power and is always a threat to catch a few balls out of the backfield.

The trio have combined for nearly 1500 yards, 11 touchdowns, and nearly 6 yards per carry.

While the group have the volume stats, their actual rate and efficiency metrics are merely “very good.” The Razorbacks are 36th in rushing success rate and 30th in rushing explosiveness. Meanwhile, they’re actually 96th at getting stuffed for no gain. They’ll gobble up a lot of yards, particularly in the 5-10 yard range but also are prone to some major stalls at times.

Their passing game is a bit less dynamic. Jefferson is completing 65% of his passes for 1990 yards and 17 TDs to only 3 picks at 8.8 yards per attempt. All good, efficient, numbers if not spectacular.

The entire passing offense is pretty much Treylon Burks, and then everyone else fights over the few targets left. Burks has over 40% of their passing production with 52 catches for 815 yards and 8 touchdowns. The big, uber-athletic junior is a do-it-all player who can torch a defense on screens, catch the ball over someone down the sidelines, or make catches across the middle.

While they are 49th in explosiveness in the passing game, they fall all the way to 92nd on success rate passing the ball. And if you get them into a 3rd and long passing situation? That falls all the way to 69th in success rate.

Basically, the Razorbacks are going to run the ball at you, run the ball around you, occasionally throw a screen or play-action deep shot, and just generally hope they break some big plays and don’t get stuck on 3rd down.

According to the DraftKings sportsbook, the Razorbacks are expected to score 18 points. In a lot of ways, I understand why, as Alabama’s front-seven has been nearly perfect at shutting down runs ever since their loss to Texas A&M, and this matchup theoretically plays right into their strengths.

However, I think this one winds up looking more like Alabama’s match against Tennessee, where the Tide defense pretty much shuts down the opponent, but gives up a few big explosive plays in both the run and pass game that allow them to get more like 21-24 total points.

Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.