Four Quarters: Alabama vs. Arkansas

It’s finally here. Alabama’s SEC schedule kicks-off this weekend against the Arkansas Razorbacks.

The Crimson Tide has performed well in the first three weeks of the season.  But now, Alabama must shift gears and take on a familiar and dangerous opponent in Tuscaloosa.

Arkansas has improved on both sides of the ball and are led by new starting quarterback Tyler Wilson.  The Crimson Tide will have to be at its very best to win against an Arkansas team that has thrived this season using Bobby Petrino’s spread offense.

Alabama comes off a 35-0 win over North Texas while Arkansas arrives in Tuscaloosa after a 38-28 victory over Troy.  Both teams look to remain undefeated going into this showdown.

The Crimson Tide leads the all-time series with the Razorback 11-8.  Last season, Alabama won 24-20 in Fayetteville, and is 4-0 under Nick Saban

Here are four things to keep in mind while watching Alabama vs. Arkansas.

Don’t expect to see wide receiver Duron Carter play in this game or for the rest of the season.  There is still one transfer paper that the University hasn’t gotten, that would instate Carter to play this season.

According to Coach Saban, Carter may be redshirted as a result.  This would give the 6-4 target two full seasons of play at Alabama.  Carter had 690 yards on 44 receptions and 10 touchdowns for Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College last season.

Alabama will need to utilize a few extra defensive schemes up its sleeve in order to stop that Razorbacks attack.

Alabama’s defense has been exceptional entering the fourth game of the season, ranking third nationally.  According the ESPN Stats & Information, 48 percent of Alabama’s opponents’ drives have ended in three and outs.

Alabama will need to diversify blitz packages to keep quarterback Tyler Wilson on his toes.  Wilson has thrown for 822 yards through three games and has five touchdowns.

Petrino uses a plethora of receiving targets, as 13 different players have caught passes.  Greg Childs is the most notable of the Arkansas receivers, but hasn’t been as effective this year after returning from season ending knee injury in 2010.

Cobi Hamilton, Joe Adams, and Jarius Wright are also highly capable receiving targets.

Running back Ronnie Wingo Jr. is effective out of the backfield and also has seven receptions to go along with three total touchdowns.

Kody Walker will see reps if the Razorbacks make to into the red zone.  The goal line back has five touchdowns on the year.

The Razorbacks will also be a defensive presence more so than in years past.

Watch for Arkansas linebacker Jerico Nelson to have an impact all over the field.  Nelson is a versatile outside linebacker that processes all the skills of an elite run stopper and can also blitz the quarterback.

Nelson is a special player who can also act as a ball hawking safety.  His coverage skills are utilized in nickel defensive packages by the Razorbacks.

According to Coach Petrino, defensive end Jake Bequette is out for the game.  Bequette is considered one of the best ends in the SEC.

Alabama’s special teams’ coverage will have another test this weekend.  Wide receiver Marquel Wade is tenth in the nation on kickoff returns with a 41.7 yard average run back.

The game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. CT, and will be televised on CBS.

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Four Quarters: Alabama vs. North Texas

Alabama (2-0) rolls into its third game after a 27-11 victory over Penn State in Happy Valley over the weekend.  Up next for the Crimson Tide is North Texas.  The Mean Green (0-2) will arrive in Tuscaloosa after suffering losses to Florida International and Houston to open the season.

This will be the fourth meeting between the schools; a series that Alabama leads 3-0.  The last meeting between the teams on Sept. 19th, 2009, resulted in a 53-7 Alabama win.

The game will mark the last contest for Alabama before Southeastern Conference play begins against Arkansas on Sept. 24th.

Here’s what to watch for during Alabama’s game against North Texas.

Expect the Tide to attack the North Texas defensive secondary from the opening snap.

Senior wide receiver Darius Hanks is active for the game.  Hanks will make his return to the field after missing the first two games of the season because of an NCAA redshirt rule.

Hanks’s experience bolsters a talented Crimson Tide receiving core.  The wideout had 32 receptions for 456 yards in 2010.  And he has six career touchdowns.  His presence will make the Tide more effective and efficient on the offensive side of the ball.

Meanwhile another Alabama receiver’s status remains hazy.

Wide receiver Duron Carter, a former Ohio St. and JUCO player and son of NFL legend Cris Carter, hasn’t been cleared to play by the NCAA due to rules set for student athletes who transfer schools.

The University of Alabama is still awaiting documents that would make Carter eligible to play this season.  This comes after Carter’s admission to the University of Alabama was delayed because issues with his academic transcript.

On the other hand, Phillip Sims will play.  The Tide quarterback will take snaps under center for the third straight game.

Against Penn St. AJ McCarron started, and for all intents and purposes finished the game.  McCarron attempted all of the Crimson Tide’s passes, going for 163 yards and a score.  Sims played late in the fourth quarter after the game was all but over.

According to Coach Nick Saban, both quarterbacks will see playing time.  The timeshare at quarterback will continue in an effort to develop both players’ passing skills and pocket presence.

It will be interesting to see if Sims receives the amount of playing time that he saw against Kent St. or if his snaps will be limited to noncrucial situations.

Lastly, Alabama’s defense and special teams must play at a high level in order to remain successful.

The Crimson Tide is 12th in the nation in points allowed this season but must continue to improve if the team plans to keep the Mean Green off the scoreboard.

North Texas wide receiver Brelan Chancellor leads the NCAA with 483 return yards through two games.  And Chancellor has added 104 yards receiving on just six receptions.

The game kicks off at 6:38 p.m. CT, and will be televised on Fox Sports South and ESPN3.com.

I submitted this article to BleacherReport.com in hopes that they’ll let me submit more of my work to them.  I was limited to around 500 words for this one due to the application process.  Nonetheless, I like the idea of doing previews for the Alabama games every week.  Hopefully I’ll be able to think of some good adjectives for the Arkansas article.  I thought this one was a little cut and dry.

You can see my Bleacher Report profile here.

You can also see what I’m tweeting about @BradThinking.