The Alabama Crimson Tide will be without Heisman hopeful quarterback Tua Tagovailoa for a short period of time after he sustained an ankle injury last weekend against Tennessee. Mac Jones, a four-star recruit out of Mandarin, Florida, will make his first career start on Saturday evening as he faces an Arkansas Razorbacks team that surrendered 51 points last week to the Auburn Tigers. Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) looks to remain unbeaten and get into its bye week as healthy as possible before a colossal showdown against the LSU Tigers in two weeks. Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) has lost four games in a row, and head coach Chad Morris is still seeking his first SEC win in his second year in Fayetteville.
Arkansas at Alabama
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Alabama -31.5
When Arkansas Has the Ball
Chad Morris and the Razorbacks could very well have lingering questions about their quarterback in this contest. Senior Ben Hicks suffered a shoulder injury against Auburn but did practice on Tuesday. If Hicks can't go, junior Nick Starkel, who has started five games this season, would get the nod. Regardless of who is at the helm, Morris will feature junior running back Rakeem Boyd, who has 656 rushing yards and five touchdowns on the year while averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
When Alabama Has the Ball
Expect offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to ease Mac Jones into the game with some high-percentage throws. Alabama's passing game has been dynamic with receivers Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle, especially with Tua Tagovailoa at the helm in the RPO game. It will be interesting to see if Jones is utilized in the RPO attack or if Sarkisian plays more to Jones' strengths. The Alabama ground game could be featured more this week with Jones under center and/or in the shotgun, as Nick Saban might decide to challenge his offensive line and demand domination at the line of scrimmage and point of attack. If that is the case, expect Najee Harris and Brian Robinson to be featured heavily in a game that could get out of hand.
The Alabama Crimson Tide have never lost to Arkansas in the Nick Saban era, and it's hard to imagine that happening this week, even with Bama starting a backup quarterback. The Tide should continue to cruise as they get set for their monumental matchup against LSU after their bye week. The Razorbacks' best hope is to catch Alabama on a letdown and take the game into the second half. Arkansas ranks 13th out of 14 teams in the SEC in total defense and is also 13th out of 14 in the SEC in scoring defense. Alabama will roll to victory, but the chunk plays might not come as easily as they would with Tua starting. Expect longer, more time-consuming drives from Alabama this week as the Tide improves to 8-0.
Prediction: Alabama 37, Arkansas 10
— Written by Nick Kayal, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network as a college football and NFL writer. Nick is a Morning Show Host in Nashville on 102.5 The Game. Follow him on Twitter @NickKayal.
(Top photo courtesy of rolltide.com)