Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks, Saturday Oct. 8, 7 p.m. ET
The first thing we need to address here is that you can still buy retail priced tickets to this game as I write this. Arkansas is relevant for the first time in a while, and they are hosting the top team in the country, yet they can't even sell out their barn? Shameful. For that reason alone the Tide should win this one.
I kind of get it, though. I mean, if you are an Arkansas fan you have to know that your team is up against it here. Florida State has been a disaster. Oklahoma hasn't been much better. Clemson is lucky to still be standing. Yet Alabama, ranked aside those three squads entering the season, has just done what they do and are in good shape. Nick Saban seems less happy with things than he has been in the past, and the team has developed the odd habit of hiring every former USC coach on the market, but right now the defending champs are in the driver's seat to win the title again.
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Alabama at Arkansas Betting Storylines
The storyline here is that this is some sort of a showdown for SEC supremacy. At least that is what Arkansas fans would have you believe. They were upset that GameDay chose not to head to this game - they think it is that big. It's an important game, and it would indeed be monumental if Arkansas pulled off the upset. It is not, though, a contest against equals. Alabama is still Alabama, despite starting a young QB and replacing so many players yet again. Arkansas, meanwhile, has already lost to Texas A&M by three touchdowns, and needed overtime to beat TCU. They also only beat Louisiana Tech by a single point They have two lopsided wins, but those were against Texas State and Alcorn State, so they hardly count. Is Arkansas a good team? Sure. They are just the type of team that will flirt with a top 25 ranking all year and will play in a decent bowl game. They are the furthest thing from a true contender, though. If you think this is anything other than a mismatch then you are falling for the network broadcast hype.
I don't want to suggest that Arkansas doesn't do anything worthwhile or that they don't have nice players. QB Austin Allen is putting together a nice season in his first year as a starter. He hasn't thrown an interception since having two in the opener and is completing more than two-thirds of his passes. He's capable and growing in confidence. To put a damper on this as well, though, he also hasn't played a top defense. A&M comes closest. Allen had a solid first half in that game but was totally shut down later on when the game was getting out of hand. The Aggies are ranked 19th in total defensive efficiency. Alabama comes into this game as number one. This is a whole new level of defensive effectiveness for Allen to face, and he hasn't given us a whole lot of reasons to believe that he will be up to the challenge. Alabama, meanwhile, faces a much softer defense and is finding their stride nicely on offense.
Alabama at Arkansas Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Alabama favored by 13 points on the road. A small majority of early bets have been placed on Arkansas, but that hasn't stopped this line from moving - Alabama was quickly favored by the key number of 14. That's a sign that sharp money hit Alabama out of the gate.
The Tide are 6-2 ATS in their last eight road games and 8-2 ATS in their last 10 against teams with winning records. They are 5-0 ATS in their last five games following an ATS loss. Alabama has gone "under" the total in five of their last seven conference games. Arkansas is 6-2 ATS in their last eight conference games. They are 16-7 ATS in their last 23 against teams with winning records. Arkansas has gone under in nine of their last 13 conference games. The home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between these squads.
Alabama at Arkansas Predictions and Picks
I've tried to make this game sound more interesting than it is - to paint the possibility of an upset. I just can't do it. Alabama is a good team more than up for this test. Arkansas has been mostly flattered by their schedule - and they were beaten up by an A&M team that Alabama would crush. I don't see this game being very close. I don't like giving up two touchdowns in any situation, but here it is the thing to do. Alabama is the pick.
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