LITTLE ROCK — Analyze Alabama-Arkansas from any angle and the conclusion is the same, a lot of points for the home team and a few for the visitors.
The Razorbacks are inferior to the Crimson Tide. Period.
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier diplomatically identified Arkansas’ problem after the Gamecocks’ 45-point victory in Fayetteville and then offered a one dozen word road map to better days. “Bret (Bielema) and his guys need to recruit their way out of it,” Spurrier said.
That will take time, probably three recruiting classes at a minimum because of the numbers involved. Every week, it becomes more evident that Bielema inherited three players at the most who could start for Alabama and no recruiting class includes a dozen athletes who will start three months out of high school. For example, the yield from this year’s class includes regulars Hunter Henry, Alex Collins, Denver Kirkland, and Dan Skipper and four is a solid number.
Comparing the ranking of recruiting classes with results, there will always be surprises on both sides, but Alabama’s last four classes were ranked Nos. 1, 1, 2, and 3 and Arkansas had one class in the top 25 during that time, according to ESPN. Even if the four- and five-stars don’t always guarantee 10- and 11-win seasons, the rankings add up to a huge disparity in talent.
In fact, I was surprised to learn early in the week that Alabama was ONLY favored by 28 points or so over Arkansas, the fifth time this year the Crimson Tide has been favored by at least three touchdowns. Based on what happened last week, I expected the No. 1 team in the country to be favored by 31 to 35 points.
Arkansas played its worst game of the season against South Carolina and the 52-7 final included a litany of lousy numbers in the Razorbacks’ column. Meanwhile, Alabama, a 27-point favorite over Kentucky, scored on its final eight possessions and beat the Wildcats 48-7, making 668 yards and holding the Wildcats to 170.
Instead of wishing and hoping for a miracle in Tuscaloosa, Arkansas fans would do well to establish some goals that, if met, would yield a positive vibe heading into an open week and games against a couple of lesser opponents in November. To that end, a few ideas:
• Score twice. Kentucky’s third-quarter touchdown was the first allowed by Alabama in 14 quarters. The Crimson Tide has not given up a touchdown at home this year to its three opponents, including Ole Miss, which was prolific last week against Texas A&M.
• Total 270 yards, 100 more than Kentucky, including 135 in the first half while Alabama’s defense is still fully engaged. Cohorts encouraged me to set the number at 300, but I opted for something doable. Other than Texas A&M with its souped-up offense, Alabama’s five opponents have averaged 208 yards per game.
• Complete more than 55 percent of the passes. Brandon Allen’s completion percentage has declined weekly, from 47.2 against A&M, to 41.5 vs. Florida to 33.3 vs. South Carolina. He can’t do it on his own. Protection is a must and the receivers must do better when the opportunity presents.
• Buck up and stop Alabama after a turnover. Last week, South Carolina needed one play to negotiate six yards for a TD following an interception.
• Hold Alabama to less than 220 yards rushing. The Crimson Tide made 299 on 44 attempts vs. Kentucky and Nick Saban will run the ball relentlessly after his team builds a safe lead.
• Restrict McCarron to less than 20 completions. Against three SEC opponents, the senior has completed 20, 25, and 21 passes for almost 900 yards.
• Break even on turnovers. Arkansas had three last week.
Also know that Arkansas could meet half those goals and still lose by 30.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.