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Tide Buzz: Key matchups, factors in Alabama-Arkansas game

The details:

What: No. 1 Alabama at Arkansas

When: Saturday, 11 a.m.

Where: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Line: Alabama is a 35-point favorite, according to Westgate

This game will determine…

Whether Alabama can extend its record streak of consecutive victories over unranked opponents to 78 wins.

Three things to look for:

1. Tua Tagovailoa latest feats: Alabama’s sophomore quarterback has dazzled throughout the first five games. He leads the nation with a 238.32 efficiency rating and has delivered 14 touchdown passes and no interceptions. Tagovailoa has put up eye-popping numbers and emerged as a Heisman Trophy contender despite having yet to take a snap in the fourth quarter. Tagovailoa has become appointment viewing for fans across college football who want to tune in and see what he’s going to do next.  

2. Jaylen Waddle and Alabama’s return game: Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs said he’s never seen any player quite like Jaylen Waddle, the Crimson Tide’s freshman sensation. Waddle scored three touchdowns last Saturday during a 42-point rout of Louisiana, including one that resulted from a 63-yard punt return. Waddle could have an encore performance Saturday against the Razorbacks, a team that has already surrendered three scores on special teams. 

3. Left tackle Jonah Williams’ status: Alabama’s offensive line has been the recipient of criticism — some justified and plenty unwarranted. Now, the unit could have to carry on without its best player. Jonah Williams suffered an ankle injury last Saturday against Louisiana, and while head coach Nick Saban is optimistic the left tackle will play, he acknowledged that the junior lineman’s status is questionable. The recent return of Matt Womack from a fractured foot should mitigate any falloff if Williams can’t play. Womack was the starting right tackle in 2017. 

Key matchup:

Alabama’s defensive front vs. Arkansas’ offensive line

Ty Storey may want to put on some extra padding this weekend. The Arkansas quarterback is expected to be under duress Saturday. After all, the Razorbacks’ offensive line resembled a sieve during the first month of the season, yielding 14 sacks. Right tackle Brian Wallace has been the weak link, according to The senior from Missouri has allowed 11 pressures and two sacks. Alabama’s defense, which is equipped with a bevy of capable pass rushers, should be able to take advantage. The Tide has accumulated 18 sacks — tied for the third-highest total in the country.

By the numbers: 11-0

Nick Saban’s record against Arkansas since he’s been at Alabama. 

Arkansas player to watch: Linebacker Dre Greenlaw

The senior standout was a force last Saturday in a 24-17 loss to Texas A&M, making 13 tackles and intercepting two passes. In short order, he has become one of the linchpins of John Chavis’ defense. Greenlaw has played a critical role in a unit that has forced ten turnovers — the third-highest total in the SEC. He forms a formidable tandem with fellow linebacker De’Jon Harris, who leads the conference with 53 tackles. 

Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin

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