FAYETTEVILLE — Even after a heartbreaking loss spoiled what could have been a top-10 showdown, Arkansas football was still getting a lot of action at sportsbooks because of the large spread against Alabama.
In fact, as of Friday morning, the Razorbacks were the second-most wagered team on BetOnline, with 73 percent of the action on them to cover as 17.5-point underdogs. Many experts — including at The Athletic and Athlon Sports — are also on that boat.
(For live updates from the Arkansas vs Alabama game, scroll below.)
What was once a trendy pick as an outright upset during the preseason, though, was no longer as popular thanks to Arkansas’ 23-21 loss to Texas A&M last week. However, not everyone had jumped off the bandwagon before the Hogs’ 49-26 loss on Saturday.
From a more regional perspective, Michael Bratton — the host of “that SEC podcast” and known by those on Twitter as SEC Mike — picked Arkansas to beat Alabama 38-35.
On a national scale, former Colorado, Washington and UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel had picked the Razorbacks to pull off a shocking upset and snap their 15-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide during a CBS Sports segment earlier this week.
“It’s totally understandable to see why people think Alabama’s going to win this game,” Neuheisel said. “They’re a top program, they’ve got the Heisman Trophy winning quarterback coming in with them, but if you watch those highlights, you saw Jameson Williams with the football.
“They’re still missing him. They’re still missing John Metchie. They are not the same. Both of these teams are coming into this game really able to run the football. … Both teams, defensively, can stop the run.
“So with that being the case, I know Bryce Young gives you the edge, but KJ Jefferson and his running ability forces people in there. This is going to be up to an Arkansas receiver to come through. A year ago, Treylon Burks had 170-something yards and two touchdowns in this game. Who can make those plays? Is it Matt Landers, Jadon Haselwood? That’s the reason, in front of this red out, Arkansas is going to win this.”
To Neuheisel’s point, Alabama managed just 20 points in its lone game against a decent opponent this season. In that game, Bryce Young averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt against Texas — his lowest single-game mark since becoming the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback.
As a team, Alabama’s leader in receptions is running back Jahmyr Gibbs and six of its touchdown receptions have been by non-receivers. On Pro Football Focus, the Crimson Tide’s receiving grade had dropped 15 points — but, at 67.9, it’s still higher than the Razorbacks’ 65.4.
It certainly won’t be easy to pull off the upset win, which arguably be the biggest by the Arkansas football program since the turn of the century, but at least the Razorbacks haven’t lost all believers in the national media.
LIVE UPDATES: Arkansas vs Alabama
Arkansas Wins the Coin Toss
Alabama called tails and it was heads. Arkansas won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Crimson Tide will get the ball to open the game.
Dwight McGlothern Interception – 12:48, 1Q
Arkansas opens the game in a 3-2-6. It stopped Alabama for a short gain on an opening run, but then Bryce Young hit Kobe Prentice for a 41-yard gain through the air. Simeon Blair was in coverage and got beat on the play.
Alabama got into the end zone before Dwight McGlothern came down with an incredible interception near the goal line. Arkansas takes over at the 1.
Arkansas punts it back to Alabama
After a KJ Jefferson keeper gave the Razorbacks some breathing room, Rocket Sanders made a nice cut back to gain 11 yards and a first down.
The Razorbacks got another first down before Alabama blew up a screen play that put them in a third-and-long, which they failed to convert. Max Fletcher’s punt bounces out of bounds at the Alabama 35. It was a 36-yard punt.
Kobe Prentice takes slant 47 yards for a TD
7:41, 1Q – Alabama 7, Arkansas 0
Bryce Young dropped a snap on third-and-one and for a moment it looked like Arkansas might have a chance to at least stop the play behind the line of scrimmage and force a three-and-out. Instead, the running back picked it up and converted.
On the next third down play, Arkansas brought pressure and Young just got it away in time, hitting Prentice on a slant. He took it 47 yards to the house to give the Crimson Tide the first score of the game.
Sam Pittman’s First Big Decision – 5:40 1Q
Faced with his first big decision of the game, Sam Pittman kept the offense on the field for a fourth-and-short (needed about half a yard) and tried to get Alabama to jump offsides. When the Tide didn’t bite, Pittman let the play clock run down and took a delay of game penalty.
Fletcher boomed a 50-yard punt that was fair caught at the 20.
Another Blown Coverage by Arkansas Leads to TD
2:35, 1Q – Alabama 14, Arkansas 0
Alabama converted another third-and-short to start the drive. Then on third-and-6, Isaiah Bond got by Myles Slusher and came down with it for a 53-yard gain. On the next play Young went untouched on an 8-yard touchdown run.
Arkansas Punts it Back – 0:48, 1Q
KJ Jefferson managed to scramble for 13 yards on the first play, but back-to-back runs by AJ Green resulted in a total of 2 yards. That put the Hogs in a third-and-long and Jefferson’s pass fell incomplete.
Fletcher got away a 47-yard punt, but it didn’t have great hang time, so it was returned 35 yards. A penalty tacked on another 5.
END of 1Q – Alabama 14, Arkansas 0
The Crimson Tide are already back in Arkansas territory as the first quarter clock expires.
Drew Sanders Makes Incredible Sack, Alabama Misses FG – 13:16, 2Q
On third-and-6, Young rolled out to his right and Drew Sanders tracked him down for a sack. It was an amazing individual effort. That forced Alabama to try a 53-yard field goal, which Will Reichard missed wide right.
Rashod Dubinion Fumble – 12:14, 2Q
Arkansas nearly squandered the opportunity with a three-and-out, but Jefferson completed a short pass to Rashod Dubinion who picked up 14 yards on third-and-10.
The Razorbacks went right back to Dubinion on the next play and he ran for 11 yards, but was apparently stripped at the end of the play. Alabama recovered, but Arkansas argued that he was down. It went to review and was confirmed.
Arkansas Forces Three-and-Out – 10:47, 2Q
Bryce Young Goes to Injury Tent
On third-and-8, Bryce Young looked like he might be able to move the chains again, but Traeshon Holden dropped the pass. The three-and-out leads to Alabama’s first punt of the game. Bryce Young fair caught the 49-yard punt at the 9.
After the play, Holden and Young went to the injury tent. Young was pointing at his throwing shoulder.
Long Punt Return by Kool-Aid McKinstry – 9:14, 2Q
A keeper by Jefferson immediately put Arkansas behind the sticks, as it lost 4 yards. On third down, Jaedon Wilson dropped what would have been a first down.
Fletcher boomed a 51-yard punt, but the coverage unit was no where to be found. It resulted in a 45-yard return by Kool-Aid McKinstry
Jalen Milroe Leads Alabama on Short TD Drive
8:29, 2Q – Alabama 21, Arkansas 0
With Young dealing with an injury, backup quarterback Jalen Milroe entered and led Alabama on a quick, 3-play, 17-yard touchdown drive. He scored on a 3-yard run.
Crowd Boos After Three-and-Out by Arkansas – 6:56, 2Q
On a drive that started with a snap infraction penalty on Ricky Stromberg and included Matt Landers not hauling in a deep ball that went off his fingers, the crowd boos when a third-and-23 shovel pass to Rocket Sanders gains just 3 yards.
Fletcher angles his punt this time and the 44-yarder is fair caught on the sideline. Alabama will take over at its own 41.
Arkansas Accepts Penalty, Gives Alabama Second Chance
2:51, 2Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 0
On second-and-15, Milroe completed his first pass. It went to Isaiah Bond, who forced a missed tackle by Hudson Clark and gained 23 yards. Later in the drive, a holding penalty on Latavious Brini moved the sticks on third down.
After yet another third-down conversion – Alabama’s fifth in seven tries – it appeared Jahmyr Gibbs scored on a 14-yard touchdown run, but it was wiped out by a holding penalty. Arkansas had the Tide in a second-and-20, but a short screen picked up 17 yards and put them in a third-and-manageable.
Milroe’s third-down pass fell incomplete, but Alabama was called for pass interference. Instead of declining it, Arkansas accepted and gave the Tide another chance. On third-and-18, JoJo Earl caught a short pass and scored from 22 yards out.
Arkansas Finally Puts Together Long Drive
0:21, 2Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 7
In a two-minute drill, Arkansas puts together its best drive of the day. Rocket Sanders started it with a 12-yard gain and also had a nice 26-yard run down the sideline to get the Razorbacks in the red zone. Trey Knox had a great block on the play. In between those runs, Jefferson hit Matt Landers for a 20-yard gain.
The Razorbacks finally get on the board with a 6-yard pass from Jefferson to Ketron Jackson Jr. The play was reviewed, but stood as called.
HALF – Alabama 28, Arkansas 7
Alabama takes a knee to send the game to halftime.
Halftime Stats – Arkansas vs Alabama
- KJ Jefferson: 7 of 12, 52 yards, 1 TD; 7 carries, 6 yards
- Rocket Sanders: 10 carries, 72 yards; 1 reception, 3 yards
- Rashod Dubinion: 1 carry, 11 yards, 1 fumble (1 lost); 1 reception, 14 yards
- Dominique Johnson: 1 carry, 6 yards
- AJ Green: 2 carries, 2 yards
- Ketron Jackson Jr.: 2 receptions, 14 yards, 1 TD
- Jadon Haselwood: 2 receptions, 1 yard
- Matt Landers: 1 reception, 20 yards
Arkansas Punts to Start Second Half – 13:31, 3Q
Arkansas opens up the second half with the ball. Rocket Sanders gained 12 yards on the first two plays, but that was it for the offense. Fletcher got off a 46-yard punt, but the coverage unit was slow getting down the field. It resulted in a 20-yard return, but a block in the back forced Alabama to start at its own 8.
Arkansas Defense Forces a Punt – 10:36, 3Q
Starting at its own 8, Alabama got in a third-and-10…before Jalen Milroe ran up the middle for 12 yards. The Crimson Tide are now 7 of 10 on third down.
The Razorbacks managed to get a third-down stop on the next set of downs thanks to a tackle by Simeon Blair and Drew Sanders just short of the line to gain.
Alabama’s 49-yard punt is fair caught by Stephens at the 22.
Incredible Play by Rocket Sanders Sets up TD by AJ Green
7:47, 3Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 14
After a couple of runs moved the chains, Jefferson hit Trey Knox for a 36-yard gain that moved Arkansas into Alabama territory
Facing a third-and-14, Jefferson somehow got a pass off to Sanders, who made a catch despite being tightly covered and shed the tackler, picking up 16 yards for the first down.
After an illegal substitution by Alabama, AJ Green scored – untouched – on a 13-yard run. It’s a two-score game.
Surprise Onside Kick!
After the touchdown, Arkansas dialed up a surprise onside kick and Jake Bates executed it perfectly. He actually fielded his own kick 11 yards away, with the help of a big hit by Chris Paul Jr.
Arkansas Settles for a Cam Little FG
1:38, 3Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 17
On third-and-6, KJ Jefferson steps up in the pocket and delivers a strike to Ketron Jackson Jr., who came down with a tough grab to move the chains. On the next set of downs, Arkansas dialed up a keeper on third-and-3 and Jefferson plowed ahead for the first down.
Back-to-back great decisions by Jefferson to keep it on RPOs resulted in gains of 8 and 9 yards, plus got Arkansas down to the 5. Consecutive runs by Sanders got the Razorbacks to the 3, but Jefferson was tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Arkansas settles for a 22-yard field goal by Cam Little.
Botched Snap on Punt After Three-and-Out by Alabama
With a chance to force a three-and-out, Arkansas’ defense forces Milroe to throw the ball away. On the ensuing punt attempt, the snap didn’t come anywhere close to the punter, who just had to fall on the ball. Arkansas takes over at the 4.
Rocket Sanders Punches it In
0:19, 3Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 23
On its first play, Arkansas hands it off to Rocket Sanders and he punches it in from 4 yards out. It went to replay and stood. Trying to pull within three, the Razorbacks went for two. Jefferson dropped back to pass, but eventually scrambled and was stopped just shy of the goal line.
END of 3Q – Alabama 28, Arkansas 23
Jahmyr Gibbs is stopped for no gain on the final play of the quarter. Arkansas outscored Alabama 16-0 in the third quarter.
Milroe’s Third-Down Scramble Snatches Momentum Back for Bama
14:09, 4Q – Alabama 35, Arkansas 23
Alabama tried a deep shot to open the quarter, but Milroe didn’t lead his receiver and McGlothern recovered in time to break it up. Before the third down, a false start backed Alabama up. But…on third-and-15, Milroe avoids pressure and takes off for a 77-yard scramble down to the 3.
After an offsides penalty on Arkansas, McClelland is stopped for a loss of 2 yards. But on the next play, he goes through a giant hole up the middle for a 3-yard touchdown.
Arkansas Punts it Back to Alabama – 12:29, 4Q
Jefferson started the drive with an 11-yard run, but Arkansas couldn’t manage much after that and had to punt it back to Alabama.
Fletcher’s 34-yard punt goes out of bounds at the 28.
That’s All She Wrote
12:17, 4Q – Alabama 42, Arkansas 23
On Alabama’s first play, Jahmyr Gibbs broke free for a 72-yard touchdown. He’s up to 131 yards on 16 carries. Prior to that run, he was averaging just 3.9 yards per carry.
Arkansas Settles for 34-Yard FG by Little
7:38, 4Q – Alabama 42, Arkansas 26
Arkansas went backwards on what would have been a three-and-out, but a personal foul on Alabama after the play gave it an automatic first down.
Completions to Haselwood and Jackson got Arkansas into Alabama territory and then a pass interference moved the Razorbacks down to the 32. A face mask got them to the 9. Jefferson got shaken up on a sack and Cade Fortin – not Malik Hornsby – entered. He threw an incomplete pass on a fade route to the end zone and Jefferson was back the next play.
Jefferson also had an incomplete pass and Arkansas settled for a 34-yard field goal, which Little made. That makes it a two-score game, but it’s 16 points, so it requires two touchdowns AND two-point conversions.
Gibbs Answers With Another Long TD
6:55, 4Q – Alabama 49, Arkansas 26
Two plays after the field goal, Gibbs broke free again for a 76-yard touchdown. That gives him 206 yards, with 148 yards coming on the two long TD runs.
Cade Fortin Replaces KJ Jefferson
With the game already out of hand, Arkansas turned things over to Cade Fortin – again, not Hornsby – and went three-and-out.
Arkansas Forces Three-and-Out
Alabama keeps things on the ground to kill clock and goes three-and-out. Bryce Stephens returned the ensuing punt 13 yards and a face mask moved the ball up to the 45.
Turnover on Downs By Arkansas
Fortin led the Razorbacks into the red zone, but Haselwood – who appeared to be able to get it easily – was stopped shy of the line to gain when he tried to shimmy and pick up more yards. It’s a turnover on downs with 2:06 remaining.
FINAL – Alabama 49, Arkansas 26
Alabama runs the clock out with a few runs.
Postgame Interviews – Arkansas vs Alabama
Pregame Tidbits, Injury Observations
A few players present, but not dressed out include wide receiver Quincey McAdoo, defensive end JJ Hollingsworth, defensive tackle Taurean Carter and walk-on wide receiver Kalil Girault. The most notable of those is McAdoo, as he’s been a special teams contributor.
McAdoo and Girault each have a cast on their right wrist/arm. Carter has been hurt since the spring game. Hollingsworth has yet to play and wasn’t expected to as a true freshman.
Another absence of note: reserve running back Javion Hunt. Not only is he not here, but he is not listed on the roster distributed to the media. He also wasn’t at practice this week.
Two other players not present are safety Jalen Catalon and cornerback LaDarrius Bishop. They have both suffered season-ending injuries.
Five-star wide receiver Ryan Wingo, a Class of 2024 recruit, is unofficially visiting for the game. He is the younger brother of former Arkansas running back Ronnie Wingo Jr. In a nice touch, he’s wearing his older brother’s 2010 Sugar Bowl jersey.
Other Arkansas vs Alabama Predictions
Here are several picks — including from our own managing editor, Andrew Hutchinson — and computer projections for the Arkansas vs Texas A&M matchup…
Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (preseason): Alabama, 41-34 (click here to read Hutch’s full preseason predictions)
If things unfold as I predict, the hype surrounding this game will be unlike any we’ve seen in Fayetteville in a long, long time. The Razorbacks would be 4-0 and at least a top-10 team, if not higher. Barring a slip up against Texas (LOL), Alabama will be 4-0 and ranked No. 1. College GameDay would most likely return to Arkansas for the first time since 2006, when Darren McFadden ran wild against Tennessee. As much as I want to pick the Razorbacks to finally beat the Crimson Tide (it has to happen eventually, right?), I just can’t bring myself to do it until they prove they can. Plus, with arguably the best offensive player (Bryce Young) and defensive player (Will Anderson) in the country, I think this Alabama team could give Nick Saban just his third undefeated national title.
Andrew Hutchinson, BoAS (updated): Alabama, 42-28
Well, things didn’t quite unfold as I predicted. The Razorbacks’ secondary has not been very good and Bryce Young – who threw for 559 yards against them last year – is still Alabama’s quarterback. I think Arkansas can keep things close for a bit, but ultimately, Young will lead the Crimson Tide to their 16th straight win in the series.
Bruce Feldman, The Athletic: Alabama, 31-21
Kevin McGuire, Athlon Sports: Alabama, 37-23
Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Alabama, 42-24
Vegas (using spread and O/U): Alabama, 39.5-22
ESPN FPI: Arkansas has a 6.9% chance to win (down 5.1 percentage points from preseason projection)
Bill Connelly’s SP+: Alabama has an 81% chance to win, favored by 15.3 (projected score: 37-22)
Sagarin: Alabama has an 86% chance to win, favored by 17.86 (projected score: 37.5-19.6)
How to Watch Arkansas vs Alabama
Date: Saturday, Oct. 1
Location: Reynolds Razorback Stadium (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Kickoff Time and TV Schedule: 2:30 p.m. CT (CBS)
Announcers: Brad Nessler (play-by-play), Gary Danielson (analyst), Jenny Dell (sideline reporter)
Alabama’s Rankings: No. 2 (AP) | No. 2 (Coaches) | No. 1 (SP+) | No. 1 (FPI)
Arkansas’ Rankings: No. 20 (AP) | No. 19 (Coaches) | No. 28 (SP+) | No. 42 (FPI)
Odds/Betting Line: Alabama, -17.5 | O/U 61.5 (FanDuel)
More coverage of Arkansas vs Alabama from BoAS…