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Alabama vs. Arkansas

Betting Line: Alabama -7.5 o/u 55

9/25/10

Fans of the Arkansas Razorbacks have been waiting since the days of Darren McFadden to return to national prominence. Granted, it hasn't been TOO long, but in the SEC every year seems like 10 when you're not in contention. They will host BCS Champs Alabama in Fayetteville after starting the year a perfect 3-0. QB Ryan Mallett passed for 380 yards and 3 TDs in his first road victory over Georgia and looks poised for big things. Alabama is still rolling after winning the SEC and BCS last year, but can they repel the upset bid of a hungry Hogs team?

Alabama was 3-1 as a road favorite last year and 6-1 in the last two years combined. Arkansas has won 18 consecutive SEC openers dating back to 1992. The Razorbacks were 1-0 as a home underdog in 2009 and 6-1 at home overall. The home team has won 5 of the last 6 meeting between these teams. Last year Alabama won 35-7, but Arkansas was only down 14-7 in the third quarter.

The Alabama Crimson Tide are a different team this year. Perhaps they are better than last year. They defeated Duke 62-13 last week in Mark Ingram's 2010 debut. The Heisman winner rushed for 151 yards and 2 TDs on 9 carries. He busted loose on a 50 yard run. Backup Trent Richardson excelled too with 61 yards and a TD. Freshman Eddie Lacey also crushed the Duke defense. He had 52 yards and a TD. QB Greg McElroy is continuing to get better. His improvement has been huge for Alabama's success. He passed for 258 yards, 3 TDs, and 1 INT. Arkansas's secondary had a couple of INTs against Georgia so he will have to be wary of the ball hawks in Fayetteville.

The Alabama defense will get their first real challenge of the 2010 season in this game. They have contained Duke and Penn State so far, but neither of those teams have the explosion that Arkansas possesses. SS Mark Barron was 3rd Team AP All American last year after getting 7 INTs, breaking up 11 passes, and recording 3 tackles for a loss. DE Marcell Dareus had 6.5 sacks last year as a backup. HC Nick Saban still has a very potent defense and it will be hard to get points against them regardless of how good an opposing offense is. The most points they allowed in a single game last year was 24.

The Arkansas offense has a Heisman candidate in QB Ryan Mallett. He has one of the strongest arms in the NCAA and stands 6-7 and weighs 238 pounds. Last week against Georgia he passed for a whopping 380 yards and 3 TDs. He led his team on a game winning drive late in the fourth quarter after the Bulldogs tied it up. That win was his first on the road. His WRs are touted as the best in the country. He has a great weapon in Joe Adams. The junior wide out had 7 TD catches last year. WR Greg Childs caught the game winning pass against the Bulldogs last week. The offensive line has 90 combined starts. The sky is the limit for this offense. 

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The Razorbacks defense has greatly improved since the last time these teams met. They have allowed just 34 combined points in the first three games this year. Junior S Tremain Thomas had an INT and a sack against the Bulldogs. The defense for Arkansas is young and will get better and better as the season goes on. In order to help their team win they must plug the holes and prevent Richardson and Ingram from getting huge yardage. The secondary has to break up passes and pressure needs to kept on McElroy.

Betting against defending National Champs, like betting against Super Bowl Champs, can be a profitable proposition. You look for signs of weakness. You look for indications that a team just isn't as good as they were a year ago. The public doesn't care, they are just going to back the Champs until given a reason not to, which simply creates that extra value in the line that makes this situation such a long term, profitable proposition.

The problem with that approach here though, is that we just don't see any weakness in Alabama. We don't see any letdown from a year ago. Sure, the season is young and they have played no one but Penn State, but thus far, it looks like Alabama will be contending for a National Title once again.

Arkansas had about 50 or 60 yards rushing last week against Georgia. That won't cut it against Alabama. There's no way Mallett picks apart the Alabama secondary so their success relies on the ability to run the football and we just don't see that happening.

One cardinal rule of sports betting is not to get too caught up in what a team did the week before. Especially when they did it against weak opposition. In this spot, we would always look for good reasons to back the home dog. A HUGE game against a conference rival, National title implications etc. It just doesn't get any bigger than this. It's what makes college football great and it's the reason most play the game. We just don't trust the Arkansas side here enough to stick our necks out.

Instead, we're going to play this game under the total of 55. The game opened 49 and has been bet up 5 points, which we feel creates some nice added value for us. Alabama has given up just 18 points all year and while this figures to be the best offense they have faced, we don't see the Razorbacks lighting up the scoreboard. With Arkansas attempting to establish a running game and with Mark Ingram pounding the ball for Bama, the clock should continue to roll, shortening this game. Alabama/Arkansas Under 55

 

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