No. 2 Alabama tries to keep pace in CFP race vs. No. 21 Arkansas

Field Level Media

November 17, 2021 at 8:02 am.

Second-ranked Alabama looks to maintain its dominance of No. 21 Arkansas when the Southeastern Conference foes battle on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

The Crimson Tide (9-1, 5-1 SEC) are in a must-win situation if they want to be part of the College Football Playoff. A loss this week to the Razorbacks likely would knock them out of the top four heading into the regular-season finale at Auburn.

However, a victory would keep Alabama rolling as it would clinch the SEC West and earn a spot in the conference title game against top-ranked Georgia.

Alabama crushed Arkansas 52-3 last season, but the Razorbacks (7-3, 3-3) aren’t the same pushovers who lost the past four matchups by an average of 39 points. The Crimson Tide have won their past 14 meetings with the Razorbacks, though one of those victories was subsequently vacated.

Sam Pittman’s Arkansas team has won its last three games, including a 16-13 overtime victory at LSU last weekend.

“Sam Pittman has done a fantastic job, I think, with his team in the two years that he’s been there,” Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. “They’re probably improved as much from last year to this year as anybody in the country. They’ve had some great wins over some very good SEC teams.

“And they’ve got really good players. They play well together. They play winning football. … They really do a good job all the way around, so we’re going to have to be at our best and certainly prepare that way this week for this game.”

Alabama has won its past four games, including an easy 59-3 win over visiting New Mexico State last week.

Quarterback Bryce Young completed 21 of 23 passes for 270 yards and five touchdowns. He completed 91.3 percent of his passes, marking the second time this season he has set the school mark. He hit on 90.9 percent against Southern Miss on Sept. 25.

Young has passed for 3,025 yards and 33 touchdowns with just three interceptions. He is the sixth Alabama quarterback to throw for more than 3,000 yards in a season.

Receiver Jameson Williams caught three touchdown passes and had six receptions for 158 yards against New Mexico State. He has 51 receptions for 1,028 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Alabama defense has allowed 14 or fewer points on six occasions with star linebacker Will Anderson Jr. leading the way.

Anderson leads the nation with 12.5 sacks, an amount that ranks third in school history behind College Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas, who had 18 in 1987 and a stunning 27 in 1988.

“I think Will’s done an outstanding job,” Saban said. “He’s a good player. He plays hard.”

Dealing with Anderson will be part of the deal for the Razorbacks as they look to reach the eight-win mark for the first time since 2015.

Arkansas also would remain in the mix for the SEC West with a victory.

“To be alive in Week 11, it’s hard to do and I’m happy we have that opportunity,” Pittman said.

One thing Pittman has preached is to not worry about the record with the program playing in arguably the toughest division in the nation.

“It’s not necessarily about the number of wins over what’s the expectations,” Pittman said. “To me it’s about how you’re playing. Is the team playing hard? Do you have a chance to win? Sometimes the ball doesn’t bounce your direction and you played a good football game.”

Razorbacks quarterback KJ Jefferson has passed for 1,990 yards, 17 touchdowns and three interceptions. He also has 474 yards and five scores on the ground.

Arkansas linebacker Bumper Pool has been superb with 100 tackles, his second straight season of reaching that figure. He has posted 10 or more stops six times this season and 15 times in his career.