FAYETTEVILLE — A couple of weeks ago, Lane Kiffin made a comment about Nick Saban that Arkansas football fans, and fans across the SEC, hope is true.
Prior to his matchup with Alabama, the Ole Miss coach told the SEC Network that “maybe this is our last time” facing the legendary Crimson Tide coach, insinuating he was nearing retirement.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman doesn’t believe that’s necessarily the case, despite Saban turning 72 at the end of this month.
“He’s the best coach that’s ever been,” Pittman said. “I imagine he’ll quit when he’s not having fun anymore and not changing lives in these kids. Until that time, you know you’re going to get one hell of a football team. Well-coached and talented and plays physical.”
The Razorbacks are probably hopeful Kiffin’s statement is closer to the truth because they’ve certainly felt the brunt of Pittman’s statement over the years, as they haven’t beaten Alabama since 2006. That year, a touchdown pass from Mitch Mustain to Ben Cleveland lifted them to a double-overtime win on their way to an SEC West title.
Saban took over the following year and the Crimson Tide haven’t lost to Arkansas since, winning 16 straight in the series. The Razorbacks’ last win over a Saban-coached team was 2002, when the Miracle on Markham helped them beat LSU at War Memorial Stadium.
There have been some close calls — including the last two matchups, a 42-35 loss in Tuscaloosa in 2021 and a 49-26 loss in which Arkansas trailed by just five early in the fourth quarter last year — but it’s the most consecutive losses to a single opponent in UA history.
The Razorbacks now face a tall task in trying to avoid that losing streak reaching 17. In the midst of a four-game skid, they are 19.5-point underdogs in Saturday’s Arkansas vs Alabama matchup, according to BetSaracen. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, lead the SEC West with a 5-1 (3-0) record and are ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll.
“You don’t have to play perfect, but you have to play really good,” Pittman said when asked how you beat a team like Alabama. “You have to get off the bus believing you are going to win. … There are some teams you walk off the bus and half the team, they’re going, ‘Who we playing next week?’ I don’t think we have that team. I think our team believes we can win, but I think that is the biggest battle.”
Pittman addressed some of the things Arkansas must do better to have a chance against the Crimson Tide, as well as several other topics, during his weekly Monday afternoon press conference…
Arkansas Football’s Weekly Press Conference
Here are several other updates from the fourth-year coach’s weekly Monday press conference, in which he looked back at the Ole Miss loss, previewed the Arkansas vs Alabama matchup, gave some injury updates and more…
- On facing Alabama: We’re really excited to go to Alabama. They’ve got a great team. Very physical, big. Milroe is playing really good. Their defense is playing exceptional. Got a huge offensive line. Burton is the real deal at wide receiver. Both running backs are really good runners. They’re Alabama. Playing really well right now. But we’re excited to go over there and play the game.
- On the offensive line struggles: There was so much movement that we couldn’t stay in front of them. We just weren’t quick enough to stay in front of them. We practiced what they did and we were over-reaching in those situations. We weren’t quite seeing the game like we had practiced it. Maybe their movement was faster than what our scout team was able to do. Because of the age of some of the guys, I don’t think we can make the moves and stay with the moves that we made. With Beaux being a veteran, I think he has to start at center. Some of our problems in the RPO when we hand the ball off and aren’t blocking a linebacker, sometimes it looks like an unblocked guy, but it’s designed to throw the ball if he’s out of an area. Sometimes we handed the ball off in that. Got a lot of work to do in that area.
- On penalties: Our penalties, we’re continuing to work on that. We’ve just got to keep the noise going all the time. That might help.
- On Brady Latham’s penalties: He’s jumping. I don’t know how else to say it. He’s flinching when they say “move.” He’s had several.
- On how to turn the close losses into wins: We’re putting ourselves in the hole a lot of the time. We have to win first down. That would help us with sustaining some drives. We haven’t been very good at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. We have to move the pocket because we can’t protect KJ. That’s okay, we know that, so we gotta move the pocket. Defensively, we have to get off the field on third down more often. Our secondary had its best game this year against Ole Miss.
- On the team’s mindset: When you lose your will to fight, you’re just a survivor. How long can you hold on to the rope if you’re not fighting? I feel like we have a team full of fighters.
- On quarterback KJ Jefferson: I think he’s pressing. I think everyone would understand if he was. It’s his senior year and a lot of things are on his mind. That’s what I believe. He also has way more on his plate now than he ever has. I’m sure it’s been difficult for him. But I do believe he can really thrive and shine if we just protect him a little bit better. If he does have protection, we’re able to throw and catch well.
- On the evolution of Alabama’s offense: Milroe is great at throwing the deep ball. They’ve put some quarterback sweeps in. If you go back and look at the South Florida game vs. now, they’ve made changes to the offense. They’re a run-first team and throwing the long ball, and connecting on them.
- On his secondary: Two of them we don’t know if they’ll be able to play, but they’re really communicating well. You’re not seeing anyone run wide open or get behind us. They really like each other. They’re a close-knit group back there. Milroe is going to throw it and he can throw it a country mile. We need to get some pressure on him.
- On Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe: That’s going to be a big deal. He’s the guy who makes them go. That’s our No. 1 concern. We’re going to try to do everything we can to make them uncomfortable.
- On tight end Ty Washington: It took him a little bit of time to learn the offense and what to do. That makes you play a little slower. When we said it was an open competition, he believed us and saw an opportunity. He had a great week of practice. I think it was after Tuesday’s practice that I told Morgan (Turner) we were sticking to that because that’s what we said we’d do. To see him have that success, just really, really happy for him.
- On defensive end Nico Davillier: Nico had his best game. Had his most production and was flying all over the field. He played more Saturday than he had and has certainly earned that right to keep doing that.
Watch Arkansas football coach Sam Pittman’s full press conference ahead of Arkansas vs Alabama here:
Arkansas Football Injury Report
Here’s the latest on various Arkansas football players dealing with injuries ahead of Arkansas vs Alabama…
- LB Chris Paul Jr. (undisclosed), DT Cam Ball (undisclosed), CB Jaylon Braxton (undisclosed), S Alfahiym Walcott (undisclosed): All four got injured during the Ole Miss game… Pittman spoke broadly about these four, grouping them with McGlothern when he said as many as five could be out vs. Alabama, but two of them could potentially play
- CB Dwight McGlothern (concussion): Did not travel to Oxford after suffering a concussion against Texas A&M… Could potentially play this week, but still up in the air
- OL Devon Manuel (stinger): Traveled, but did not play against Ole Miss after starting the previous week against Texas A&M… Pittman said the key for him will be practicing full speed this week at practice
- DE John Morgan III (neck): Traveled and went through pregame warmups, but did not play against Ole Miss after suffering scary injury against Texas A&M
- DE Jashaud Stewart (groin): Did not travel to Oxford… No update on his timeline to return
- OL Eli Henderson (undisclosed): Did not travel to Oxford
- OL Joey Su’a (undisclosed): Did not travel to Oxford… Has not dressed out this season
- OL Luke Brown (undisclosed): Did not travel to Oxford… Has not dressed out this season
- DT Marcus Miller (undisclosed): Did not travel to Oxford… Has not dressed out this season
- DB Dallas Young (undisclosed): Did not travel to Oxford… Has not dressed out this season
- TE Luke Hasz (broken clavicle): Out for the season… Could potentially return for a bowl game if Arkansas makes one
- CB Quincey McAdoo (neck): Out for the season
- OL Terry Wells (torn pec): Out for the season
- WR Sam Mbake (knee): Out for the season
Arkansas Football Depth Chart
The following depth chart was released to the media by the UA in its weekly game notes…
For a breakdown of how the depth chart has evolved throughout the season, click here.
(NOTE: It’s important to remember that this depth chart is essentially worthless, as has been proved time and time again.)
|QB||KJ Jefferson||Jacolby Criswell|
|RB||Rocket Sanders||AJ Green||Rashod Dubinion|
|TE||Nathan Bax -OR-||Var’keyes Gumms -OR-||Francis Sherman -OR-|
|WR||Andrew Armstrong||Tyrone Broden|
|WR||Isaac TeSlaa||Davion Dozier||Dazmin James|
|WR||Jaedon Wilson||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
|LT||Andrew Chamblee -OR-||Devon Manuel|
|LG||Brady Latham||Josh Street|
|C||Beaux Limmer||Amaury Wiggins|
|RG||Joshua Braun||Ty’Kieast Crawford|
|RT||Patrick Kutas||E’Marion Harris|
- Once again, the only change is at tight end. Washington and Sherman are listed as the starter and backup, respectively, after winning those jobs in the open competition at practice last week. Bax and Gumms are listed third and with an “or” between them.
- There is still an “or” at left tackle. Manuel started against Texas A&M, but Chamblee was back in the lineup against Ole Miss after starting the first four.
- The Razorbacks shuffled their starting offensive line against Ole Miss, as well, with Limmer moving to left guard, Latham moving to right tackle and Kutas moving to center. They reverted to the original combination in the second half, though.
|DE||Landon Jackson||John Morgan III||Jashaud Stewart|
|DT||Taurean Carter||Keivie Rose|
|DT||Eric Gregory||Cam Ball||Anthony Booker Jr.|
|DE||Trajan Jeffcoat||Zach Williams|
|LB||Chris Paul Jr.||Antonio Grier -OR-||Brad Spence|
|LB||Jaheim Thomas||Jordan Crook|
|NB||Lorando Johnson||TJ Metcalf||Jaylen Lewis|
|CB||Dwight McGlothern||Kee’yon Stewart||LaDarrius Bishop|
|S||Alfahiym Walcott||Malik Chavis|
|S||Jayden Johnson||Hudson Clark|
|CB||Jaheim Singletary||Jaylon Braxton||LaDarrius Bishop|
- The only change is at defensive tackle, where Ball is now listed as a starter alongside Gregory after starting the last two games. That bumped Carter to the second unit and Rose to third team. It also meant Booker is now second behind Gregory.
- It’s also worth noting that McGlothern missed the Ole Miss game with a concussion despite being listed as a starter. With him out, Lorando Johnson moved to cornerback and Hudson Clark moved to nickel.
- Braxton has started the last two games despite being listed as Singletary’s backup.
|K/KO||Cam Little||Blake Ford|
|P||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|LS||Eli Stein||Ashton Ngo|
|H||Max Fletcher||Devin Bale|
|KOR||Isaiah Sategna||AJ Green|
|PR||Isaiah Sategna||Bryce Stephens|
- No changes were made to the special teams depth chart for Arkansas vs Alabama.
How to Watch Arkansas vs Alabama
Date: Saturday, Oct. 14
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 11 a.m. CT (ESPN)
Announcers: Dave Pasch (play-by-play), Dusty Dvoracek (color analyst), Tom Luginbil (sideline reporter)
Arkansas’ Rankings: NR (AP) | NR (Coaches) | No. 50 (SP+) | No. 32 (FPI)
ESPN FPI: Alabama has an 90.4% chance to win
SP+ Projection: Alabama has a 87% chance to win, favored by 19.6 (proj. score: 36-17)
Odds/Betting Line: Alabama, -19.5 | O/U 48.5 (BetSaracen)
More coverage of Arkansas football from BoAS…