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2-4-7 Primer: Alabama at Arkansas

No. 1 Alabama will travel to face Arkansas on Saturday, Oct. 6, for an 11 a.m. CT kickoff at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Ark. The Crimson Tide’s Week 6 road game will air on ESPN with Dave Pasch, Greg McElroy and Tom Luginbill on the call. Check out this 2-4-7 preview to get you ready for the sixth game on Alabama’s 2018 football schedule.  

TWO STORYLINES TO MONITOR  

1. Status of Jonah Williams

Alabama junior left tackle Jonah Williams left the Louisiana-Lafayette game in the first quarter with a twisted ankle. Nick Saban said the preseason All-American could have returned to the contest if needed, but Williams was limited during Monday and Tuesday practices of Arkansas week. While he participated in Wednesday’s media viewing period, he remains questionable.

“He’s going to practice (Wednesday),” Saban said of Williams. “We’ll see how it goes after that. We think he’ll be able to play in the game, but it’s probably a little bit of a question mark right now.”

If Williams is unable to go, the Crimson Tide could go a couple of different routes in replacing him at left tackle. In the ULL game, Chris Owens stepped in for the injured three-year starter. In practice this week, Matt Womack was seen taking reps at left tackle — the opposite side of the line for him after starting all 14 games at right tackle last year. We’ll continue to monitor this.

2. Fighting complacency

Alabama is 5-0, its offense looks unstoppable and the next three games before its bye week are not exactly Murderers’ Row. Heck, Saban has even asked for bad press in order for him to have something negative to show his players. So, one of the biggest obstacles for the Crimson Tide this week, as well as the rest of the season, will be to avoid complacency after its hot start.

And Saban is looking to UA’s team leaders to combat that. 

Alabama running back Damien Harris (Photo: John David Mercer, USA TODAY Sports)

“I think it’s the most important thing that you can have,” he said. “Something coming from your peers may have a much greater impact and effect than something coming from your coach. I think part of leadership is to reinforce the principles and values of the organization in every way, and certainly, whatever the message is week to week, it’s important for the leadership to buy into it and try to influence and impact the other players that play around them.” 

FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH

1. Tua Tagovailoa

I mean, why not? Tagovailoa’s 156.3 NFL passer rating is the highest among all Football Bowl Subdivision quarterbacks with at least 80 attempts and his 97.9 QBR rating is the highest for a quarterback through five games in a season since Russell Wilson (96.4). The sophomore has thrown for 1,161 yards on 66-of-88 passing (75 percent) and 14 touchdowns and will be facing an Arkansas defense that ranks 11th in the SEC in passing defense (247.0 yards per game). 

2. Damien Harris

The last two times Alabama has played Arkansas, Harris has rushed for 100-plus yards. After a quiet first five games — in large part because of Alabama’s balance on offense and larges leads early in contests — could we see Harris continue his successful streak against the Hogs? He will enter the road game with 2,444 career rushing years, which ranks No. 13 on the Tide’s career rushing chart. Sherman Williams, who played at UA from 1991-94, is 12th with 2,486 yards.

3. Raekwon Davis

After leading the Crimson Tide in sacks a season ago, Davis has yet to take down a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage. But he is coming off a game where he led Alabama’s defensive linemen in tackles (4.0) and was named a Player of the Week by the coaching staff. Plus, like Harris, the last time the Tide and Hogs squared off, Davis had a strong showing. Keep an eye on him to see if he repeat, or better, last year’s performance of five tackles and 1.5 sacks.

4. Jaylen Waddle

Waddle only touchdown the football four times against Louisiana-Lafayette but was able to lead all players with 201 all-purpose yards. Of those four touches, the true freshman turned three of them into touchdowns (2 receiving, 1 returning). So, whether it’s as a slot receiver or returner of punts, don’t blink or you just might miss Waddle and the “magic” he brings with him to the field. 

Jaylen Waddle
Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle outruns the UL-Lafayette defense. (Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

“He’s amazing,” Trevon Diggs said. “He’s a really great talent. I’ve never seen anything like it, honestly. He reminds me of a kind of Tavon Austin punt returner/receiver. He’s really good.” 

SEVEN NOTES TO KEEP IN MIND

1. Alabama and Arkansas will meet for the 29th time on Saturday. The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series, 18-8 (after vacations and forfeits), and won last year’s meeting, 41-9, in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has won the last 11 meetings between the two schools, including a 49-30 win in the Tide’s last visit to Fayetteville in 2016. Alabama head coach Nick Saban is 14-2 (13-2 after vacations) in his career against Arkansas, including an 11-0 mark (10- 0 after vacations) at Alabama.

Arkansas head coach Chad Morris is in his first season with the Razorbacks and will be facing Alabama for the first time on Saturday.

2. Saban owns a 50-15 (.769) mark in SEC road games across his time at LSU and Alabama, including a 38-7 (.844) mark with the Crimson Tide. Saban has notched seven perfect SEC road seasons (2003, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016). Alabama defeated Ole Miss, 62-7, on Sept. 15 in its first conference road game this season.

3. Alabama is beginning an October stretch of SEC games versus Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee that, since taking over the football program, Saban boats a 24-0 record against.

4. Alabama’s 608 yards in total offense against Louisiana last Saturday marked the fifth time the Crimson Tide has topped 500 yards this season and the 17th time in the last 49 games dating to the start of the 2015 campaign. This is Alabama’s first five-game run of 500-yard total offense performances in program history and was also Alabama’s first 600-yard game since rolling up 604 yards against Tennessee in 2017.

And with last Saturday’s win over Louisiana, Alabama has scored 45 or more points in five consecutive games for the first time in school history. The 1945 Crimson Tide, who held the previous record, hit the 45-point mark four times.

5. Alabama’s scoring differential stands at 41.2 points per game (54.2-13.0) in 2018. A big reason for the margin is the Crimson Tide’s performance following a turnover. The Tide has scored 59 points off of 10 opponent giveaways this season, scoring off of nine of the turnovers and intercepting a pass to end the first half against Louisiana-Lafayette on Sept. 29. 

Alabama D-lineman Raekwon Davis makes a tackle against ULL. (Photo: Stuart McNair, 247Sports)

Defensively, Alabama has not allowed a point following any of its four miscues. The Tide defense has directly accounted for 21 points on three interception returns, while the offense has posted 38 points on its six post-turnover possessions.

6. The Crimson Tide defense has held its opposition to 13.0 points per game and 317.6 yards per game through five contests this season. But those numbers look more impressive when compared to what the Tide’s five opponents have averaged in their other matchups.

Louisville, Arkansas State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Louisiana have scored 32.6 points and averaged 446.3 yards per game in their games played before and after their meetings with UA, a difference of 19.6 points and 128.7 total yards per contest.

7. The Alabama defense has proven to be just as dominant as the Crimson Tide offense in the first two quarters of play this season. The Tide defenders have limited the opposition to just 20 points (two touchdowns, two field goals) and 745 yards of offense (149.0 per game) in the first half in 2018. UA has outscored the opposition by 177 points (197-20) and outgained them by 1,046 yards before the break this season.

Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports’ personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).

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