Earlier this month, Alabama coach
The first hurdle may be the toughest. Waiting in Fayetteville is a team with revenge on its mind and a Heisman contender at quarterback. The Razorbacks were embarrassed by Alabama last year in a 35-7 loss, but feel they have closed the gap considerably in the past 12 months. Arkansas has beaten the No. 1 team in the nation four times, most recently LSU in 2007 (with a near-miss at Florida last year). The Hogs aren't expected to make it five, but Alabama will feel anything but comfortable inside a rowdy Reynolds Razorbacks Stadium on Saturday.
Alabama enters the game as a seven-point favorite. The Crimson Tide have covered in seven of their last eight games outside of Tuscaloosa and are 5-1 against the spread in their last six SEC openers. Arkansas is 3-7 in its last 10 games against the number as a home underdog.
In last season's 35-7 Alabama win, the Tide defense dominated Arkansas' offense. Of the 58 plays with Mallett at quarterback, 32 gained one yard or less (55 percent).
Saban may list defense, defense and defense as his top three priorities, but his offense will be what helps him to his 28th consecutive regular-season win. Alabama is fully capable of winning a shootout with its dominating running game and passing attack (McElroy leads the nation in passing efficiency). Mallett will have his moments, but Alabama will survive.