Both Arkansas and Alabama have the very best coaches in the SEC in my view. I look for future SEC Championships from both of these guys. Of course, when I say SEC Championships then you know it is a small jump and hop to national championship too.
Harry King makes some good points about last week and looks forward to the Arkansas at Alabama game this week:
Posted on 21 September 2011
By Harry King
LITTLE ROCK — Don’t let the final 22:28 of the Troy game color your opinion of Arkansas.
If you thought the Razorbacks would give the Crimson Tide fits, zero in on 31-7, and dismiss the 38-28 final. If you thought Arkansas would win the Western Division of the Southeastern Conference, continue to believe.
Negative reverberations to Troy’s point total are over the top.
Do not turn on defensive coordinator Willy Robinson after heaping praise on him and his group for holding the first two opponents to a total of 10 points.
One Troy touchdown came after Zach Hocker’s errant kickoff provided the Trojans with a short field, one was courtesy of Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson, and the third came in the final seconds when there was confusion in the secondary.
Bobby Petrino has addressed those points.
The essentials for beating Alabama are unchanged. The Razorbacks must tackle the Crimson Tide running backs and force A.J. McCarron to beat them. On the other side, Arkansas must protect Wilson. All the playmakers in the world are not worth a first down if the quarterback can’t get them the ball.
Despite the 102,000 fans in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas can prevail. The easiest way to win on the road is to be superior. In Arkansas’ case, that does not apply.
The No. 2 choice is to play superb defense. For example:
—Concentrating on quarterback Chris Relf, LSU held Mississippi State to 52 yards rushing and 193 total in a 19-6 victory in Starkville where Dan Mullen has revitalized the fan base.
—Oklahoma limited Florida State to 27 yards rushing in a 10-point victory at Tallahassee in front of almost 85,000.
One given is that Petrino’s play-calling will be flexible. So far this year, he has been adamant about throwing on first down.
In fact, Nick Saban’s minion who broke down film on Arkansas’ play selection probably double-checked his findings before presenting them to his boss.
The Alabama coach will accept the skewed numbers, digest them, and concoct some counter moves. Getting an opponent into third-and-long is the rallying cry of defensive coaches and that often begins with digging in against a first-down run.
A financial analyst based in Nashville, Tenn., called attention to Petrino’s propensity for throwing on first down in the season opener and that trend has continued. Against Missouri State, Arkansas called 17 passes and two runs on first down in the first half.
A week later, a couple of trick running plays led to a quick touchdown and Marquel Wade’s 85-yard kickoff return was worth another six points so the Razorbacks only snapped the ball 13 times in the first period. In the second quarter, Arkansas called 15 passes and four runs on first down.
Arkansas’ first three plays against Troy were passes, two of them good for first downs on the way to a touchdown. On the second possession, the Razorbacks called a pass each of the first five times they had a first down and scored another TD. In the second quarter, Arkansas was seven pass, two run on first down.
Saban once said his philosophy on first and second down is to stop the run and play good zone pass defense. Occasionally, he said, his team will play man to man against the pass and blitz.
Both Petrino and Saban will win a fair share of the guessing game; equally important is ability of the players.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.