Arkansas coach Sam Pittman knows how to beat Alabama Saturday in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
But that’s sort of like how comedian Steve Martin used to say, “How can I be a millionaire and never pay taxes? First, get a million dollars.”
Pittman knows that in four of the five games Alabama has lost since 2018, the Tide lost the turnover battle. Texas A&M beat the Crimson Tide, 41-38, last year despite having one more turnover than Alabama. But in the other four losses – Georgia in the national championship game last season, LSU and Auburn in 2019 and Clemson in the 2018 national title game, Alabama lost the turnover battle.
Usually, Alabama wins because usually Alabama wins the turnover battle.
Kickoff between the No. 2 Tide (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) and No. 20 Arkansas (3-1, 1-1 SEC) is at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.
Arkansas Coach Sam Pittman’s Team Must Play ‘Clean’
“Well, you have to play a really clean game,” Pittman said Wednesday on the SEC teleconference. “You can’t turn the ball over. You have to convert situational football. You have to score touchdowns in the red zone. You have to make your third-and-ones. If you go for it on fourth, you have to make it.”
Do not leave a crack, or the Crimson will seap in and take over, like The Blob.
“They’re just a really good team that you can’t make mistakes against, because if you do, they’re like piranhas, you know,” Pittman said. “They feast on that. They just don’t beat themselves.”
And Alabama has been winning in that fashion for decades, long before Coach Nick Saban and going back to Coach Bear Bryant.
A team must also truly believe it can beat Alabama, which is also harder than it sounds. This is the Crimson Syndrome.
“LSU never really believed they could beat us,” former Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens of Gadsden said when he became a graduate assistant at LSU under Saban in 2000. “Teams that played us and their fans always just seemed so worried.”
Alabama’s Confidence Is Hard To Beat
Funny thing about Alabama people, they never really believe they can lose, even when they do. Kitchens lost twice to LSU – 17-13 in 1993 in a major upset and 27-0 in 1997 when the Tide finished 4-7 under first-year coach Mike DuBose.
“I think a big key going into the game is believing you can win,” Pittman said. “There’s not a whole lot of teams in the country that go into a game thinking they can beat Alabama. There’s some, but there’s not a bunch.”
Alabama players and fans tend to think they’ll always pull it out. It’s amazing.
Texas was in position to beat Alabama on Sept.10, but the moment may have just been too big, and Alabama won 20-19 on a last-minute field goal. Auburn should’ve beaten Alabama last year. Florida was in position to beat Alabama last year, but didn’t.
“You have to have that belief, then you have a chance,” said Pittman, who lost a 42-35 thriller at Alabama last year. “If you can get a whole team full of guys who believe they can win, then you have a chance.”
Pass Rush Fest
The Arkansas-Alabama game will match two of the best pass rushers in the nation. Arkansas junior linebacker Drew Sanders, who transferred from Alabama after last season, is No. 1 in the nation with 1.38 sacks a game. He has 5.5 on the season for -32 yards. Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr. is sixth in the nation with 1.12 sacks a game. He has 4.5 on the season for -26 yards.
Arkansa is No. 1 in the nation with 20 sacks on the season for -148 yards. Alabama is 19th with 12 for -84 yards.
Auburn’s “Wins” By Numbers
As far as average yards per play, Auburn’s 17-14 “win” over Missouri Saturday was its ugliest since its win over Nebraska in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2007 – also by 17-14. Auburn averaged 3.29 yards a play against Missouri – lowest in that category since 3.18 a play vs. Nebraska.
Yes, even Auburn’s 3-2 win over Mississippi State in 2008 was not as ugly as far as yards per play. Auburn managed 4.4 yards a play in that fiasco.
Auburn tailback Tank Bigsby netted nine yards on seven carries after the first quarter. He finished with 44 yards on 19 carries. Amazingly, he gained 62 yards after contact, but those were negated by his many carries of lost yardage amid contact at, near or behind the line.
Bigsby should be a first round draft choice if NFL personnel realize that perhaps no one is better in college football at being your own blocker. He has not had a decent offensive line in his three years at Auburn.
In all, Auburn netted 82 yards on 45 carries for a 1.8-yard average.
Offensive Line Injuries
Auburn (3-1, 1-0 SEC) will host LSU (3-1, 1-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday on ESPN with each minus a starting offensive lineman. Auburn starting center Tate Johnson is likely out for the season with an elbow injury suffered against Missouri. He was replaced by Jalil Irvin, who had the lowest grade of a low grading offensive line on Saturday. Senior Brandon Council, a backup guard, may start at center against LSU.
LSU starting left guard Garrett Dellinger is doubtful for Saturday after having hand surgery on Tuesday. Starting right guard Miles Frazier will move to Dellinger’s spot, and Anthony Bradford is expected to start at right guard.
Georgia Arrest Update
Georgia starting defensive back Javon Bullard’s status for the Bulldogs’ game at Missouri Saturday night is unclear after his arrest on a charge of driving while intoxicated and seven misdemeanors in all over the weekend.
Bullard, a sophomore from Milledgeville who has seven tackles on the season, was to appear before a campus committee about the charge that includes athletic director Josh Brooks.
“Disappointed in Javon,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Hate it for him. He has a wonderful family, but made poor decisions.”
Asked about Bullard on Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, Smart said only, “We’ll handle Javon internally.”
The misdemeanor charges include Bullard swerving in and out of his driving lane and holding a cellular phone.
Saturday Predictions (DraftKings Spreads)
No. 7 Kentucky (4-0, 7-point favorite) at No. 14 Ole Miss (4-0), Noon, ESPN … Ole Miss 27, Kentucky 20.
No. 2 Alabama (4-0, 17-point favorite) at No. 20 Arkansas (3-1), 3:30 p.m., CBS … Alabama 37, Arkansas 21.
No. 17 Texas A&M (3-1) at Mississippi State (3-1, 3.5-point favorite), 4 p.m., SEC Network … Texas A&M 24, Mississippi State 21.
LSU (3-1, 8-point favorite) at Auburn (3-1), 7 p.m., ESPN … LSU 24, Auburn 10.
No. 1 Georgia (4-0, 28-point favorite) at Missouri (2-2), 7:30 p.m., SEC Network … Georgia 48, Missouri 14.
THURSDAY (MOVED BY HURRICANE IAN)
South Carolina 50, South Carolina State 10.
SUNDAY (MOVED BY HURRICANE IAN)
Eastern Washington (1-2) at Florida (2-2, 30-point favorite), Noon, SEC Network+, ESPN+ … Florida 42, Eastern Washington 10.
1.Georgia (4-0, 1-0 SEC) 2. Alabama (4-0, 1-0) 3. Kentucky (4-0, 1-0 SEC) 4. Tennessee (4-0, 1-0) 5. Ole Miss (4-0) 6. Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0). 7. Arkansas (3-1, 1-1) 8. Florida (2-2, 0-2). 9. LSU (3-1, 1-0) 10. Mississippi State (3-1, 0-1) 11. Auburn (3-1, 1-0) 12. Missouri (2-2, 0-1) 13. South Carolina (3-2, 0-2) 14. Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1).
STAT OF THE WEEK
Auburn and Missouri combined for 12 straight punts in the second half Saturday before Auburn went for a fourth-and-inches and failed late in regulation. Auburn won 17-14 in overtime.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I tell people all the time that the audacity for the other team to even step on the field is disrespectful to me.”
-Alabama defensive end Will Anderson Jr.