The defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide are off to a 2-0 start and are back at their customary spot on top of the rankings. The Arkansas Razorbacks had a shocking setback last week though, getting upset by UL Monroe 34-31 in overtime as 30-point favorites!
An even bigger blow to the Razorbacks is that quarterback Tyler Wilson has been downgraded to doubtful after taking a blow to the head last week, with the team awaiting results to see if he did indeed suffer a concussion. The oddsmakers have made Alabama a -20½ road favorite here, so they probably do not anticipate Wilson playing. The total is set at 54.
1. Why Alabama will cover the spread: Alabama will cover this spread if they can run the ball better than they did last week in a 35-0 whitewashing of Western Kentucky. Sure, the Crimson Tide took it easy offensively, almost treating the game like a bye, but they should do better than 103 rushing yards and 3.3 yards per rush by accident, especially with their supposed number one back Eddie Lacy running for only 36 yards on nine carries. Lacy has been disappointing so far, as it was T.J. Yeldon that ran for 111 yards vs. Michigan in the opener with Lacy having only 35 yards in that contest. Whichever emerges as the lead back, he needs a big game as the Tide do not want to put this game in the hands of quarterback A.J. McCarron, who executes very well within the Alabama system but is not the type of quarterback that can carry an offense.
2. Why Arkansas will cover the spread: The key to Arkansas covering this spread is the running game on both sides of the ball, to wit, running the ball effectively on offense and containing the run on defense. The Razorbacks would love nothing better than to put McCarron in obvious passing situations, even if they did allow Monroe’s Kolton Browning to pass for 412 yards last week. It is also important to run well on offense to take pressure off of young quarterback Brandon Allen, who was an atrocious 6-of-20 for 85 yards with one interception and one touchdown after relieving Wilson shortly after halftime last week.
3. Total Talk: Unfortunately for Arkansas, of the keys we mentioned, we are afraid that only Alabama will be successful. Nobody runs on Alabama, and truthfully nobody passes on the Tide either, so we simply do not see the Razorbacks posing a serious threat with Allen at quarterback. What we do expect from Allen is a deer in headlights committing a lot of turnovers when his running game gives him no help, and for the Crimson Tide to convert short fields into points. As for the Alabama running game, Lacy showed enough last year to suggest he could have a breakout game, especially if the Arkansas defense is disheartened after falling behind. With all that said, 54 is a big number as our projected score below is virtually right there, so we would pass on the total.
4. Betting Trends for the game: Alabama is 7-1 ATS the last eight times it has been a double-digit road favorite, but Arkansas is on a 6-0 ATS run as a home dog.
Alabama 41 – Arkansas 14