Alabama has played three teams with winning records and all of them are 4-3 (Duke, Southern Miss, Texas A&M). The favorable schedule continues with Arkansas before getting a bye week and facing LSU. As expected, the Crimson Tide were heavy -31.5 point home favorites with an over/under of 55.5.
The big news for this game is that Tua Tagovailoa isn’t going to play after injuring his ankle last week. But even with Tagovailoa last year, Arkansas managed to cover in a 65-31 loss despite getting out gained by 230 yards. That’s because Alabama’s defense let Arkansas hang around and now without Tagovailoa leading the way, the opportunity for an Arkansas cover could be more prevalent.
The problem for the Crimson Tide is that Tagovailoa is the offense with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions. Backup Mac Jones wasn’t asked to do much against Tennessee and while he’s attempted 32 passes this season, he’s averaging almost four yards less per attempt.
That being the case, the Tide will likely rely on their ground game in this one with Najee Harris at 5.9 yards per carry and Brian Robinson possibly getting a few more touches. The Tide are still talented, but after scoring a season low against the Vols last week, there are worries about how potent the offense can be. At the least, a full week of practice as the starter should help Jones.
The Hogs have yet to win a conference game, but like last year, the offense could have enough to cover the large spread, even on the road. Neither Nick Starkel nor Ben Hicks has shown much at quarterback, which is why they are listed as co-starters. Starkel has a better rating and overall numbers, yet has tossed seven interceptions on 150 attempts.
Hicks has thrown one interception, but he has fewer touchdowns and has been sacked seven more times despite fewer dropbacks. No matter, they’ll lean on running back Rakeem Boyd as much as possible to move the chains and he’s averaging a solid 5.5 yards per carry. Boyd had 102 yards in last year’s game and will be the focal point of the offense. Of course, Alabama knows this and will likely stack the box and that could be it.
Alabama doesn’t have a winning ATS record because its defense is allowing a decent amount of points. It’s also possible that the defense steps up in the absence of Tagovailoa and the Tide win 35-0. That’s a definite worry for underdog backers, but if Alabama’s defense continues the way it has played, it’s a good spot for another underdog cover.
The Razorbacks have failed to cover their last four road games and the under is 7-1 in their last eight trips. Most of Alabama’s numbers point to the over, but that was with Tagovailoa at quarterback. Arkansas has covered four of the last five meetings between these schools.
Predicted Score – Alabama 46 Arkansas 10