When and where: October 26, 2019, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL, 7:00 PM ET
The Mac Jones era begins for the Alabama Crimson Tide when they host the visiting Arkansas Razorbacks in Saturday’s SEC action. After losing starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to an injury in last week’s game against Tennessee, the Crimson Tide will be forced to go with Jones as the starter. When stepping in for the Heisman hopeful against Tennessee, Jones went 6-for-11 passing for 72 yards. He’ll be facing an Arkansas team coming off four consecutive losses, including a 51-10 blowout at home to Auburn.
Arkansas gets crushed at homeIt’s hard to walk away from the epic beating Auburn put on Arkansas last week without creating some mental hurdles. No one expected them to actually upset the Tigers, but it was surprising to see them handled so easily on their home field. That’s the kind of demoralizing loss that can make a bad team worse.
Slowing down the run should be their first order of business on Saturday with Jones standing in as the starting quarterback for Alabama. You can expect the Crimson Tide’s play-calling to be conservative and run-heavy, while relying on strong defensive play to keep them ahead. That doesn’t exactly play into the Razorback’s favor with their rush defense ranking as the second-worst in the league with an average allowance of 192.86 rushing yards per game.
This game will fall directly on the shoulders of Starkel and the Razorbacks offense, which is one of the worst teams in the league in time of possession (28:01.00). They have to sustain drives and score more than just field goals. Alabama coach Nick Saban may not have his star quarterback, but he’ll still have the biggest defensive brain on the football field. Offensive skilled weapons like running back Rakeem Boyd and tight end Cheyenne O’Grady have to show up and make plays against a Crimson Tide defense that isn’t as great as it’s been in past years.
Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks is slated to return from an injury on Saturday, which could create an interesting co-starring role with Starkel.
Alabama’s biggest nightmare realizedThe piling injuries finally shifted to the offensive side of the ball for the Crimson Tide, and it claimed the one player the team couldn’t afford to lose. Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, one of the top Heisman candidates in the country, underwent surgery after having his ankle rolled underneath a defender in last Saturday’s home game against Tennessee.
There is no clear timetable for his return on what was deemed as a high ankle sprain. That puts backup Mac Jones in the driver’s seat with the hope of a playoff berth potentially riding on his shoulders. He’ll get a nice warmup test on Saturday before possibly going on and facing the No. 2-ranked LSU Tigers. Arkansas’ defense is the second-worst unit in the SEC behind Vanderbilt, and they have shown serious weaknesses against the run.
The backup quarterback with Tua out, is his younger brother Taulia. Head coach Nick Saban was asked on Wednesday at a press conference about whether he would play the younger Tagovaioloa to "expedite his development."
“No. We’re focused on winning the game, aight?” Saban said. “So we’re going to try to win the game. And we’re going to play the best players that we can play to win the game. We’re not assuming it’s going to be an easy game, aight? And we’re not assuming that we’re going to have the opportunity just to play anybody who wants to play to expedite anything except winning the game. We’re going to play anybody who can expedite winning the game. That’s what we’re gonna do. So I don’t think anybody should expect us to do anything else.”
This is the type of situation where Jones needs to rely on running back Najee Harris—95 rushes for 556 yards and three touchdowns—to help carry the load, while avoiding the temptation to play hero ball. Saban is probably already drilling into his head to take what the defense gives him without trying to get everything in one play.
As for Alabama’s defense, they had issues early against Tennessee, but they locked down and held their conference rival to only a field goal in the second half.
They should have no issues doing the same to a Razorbacks offense that can’t even make a decision at quarterback. Punter Ty Perine, who made history for being Alabama’s first black punter, could also see more game action with starter Will Reichard being listed as doubtful with a hip injury.
- Razorbacks are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after accumulating less than 100 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Razorbacks are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 conference games.
- Razorbacks are 1-5 ATS in their last 6 road games against a team with a winning home record.
- Razorbacks are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 road games.
- Razorbacks are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games after accumulating less than 275 total yards in their previous game.
- Razorbacks are 2-6 ATS in their last 8 games following a straight up loss of more than 20 points.