SEC Betting Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks

#1 Alabama Crimson Tide at Arkansas Razorbacks
Saturday, September 15, 2012, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: CBS
Razorback Stadium – Fayetteville, Arkansas
Opening Line: Alabama -15 1/2
Current Line: Alabama -20
Opening Total: 52
Current Total: 53 1/2
Opening Money Line: Alabama -1200 / Arkansas +800
Current Money Line: Alabama -1200 / Arkansas +800

A.J. McCarron leads the Alabama Crimson Tide against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the SEC opener for both teams. The Crimson Tide are 20 point road favorites.

Upsets happen every week in college football, but few were as earth-shaking as 30 point underdog Louisiana-Monroe beating then #8 Arkansas last week in Little Rock 34-31 in overtime. The loss dropped the Razorbacks completely out of the AP poll, the single largest drop in the polls since #5 Michigan dropped out of the polls after a season opening loss to Appalachian St in 2007. The Razorbacks dropped to #21 in the coaches’ poll.

The upset also took a lot of the luster off the SEC opener between the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the Razorbacks in Fayetteville. In fact, ESPN’s College Gameday was supposed to go to Arkansas for a match-up between two top 10 teams, but switched to Knoxville for Florida-Tennessee after the upset.

Alabama leads the series 14-8 against Arkansas, and the Crimson Tide have won 5 straight in the series. Alabama won last year in Tuscaloosa 38-14.

Alabama is coached by Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide are 2-0 this seasonĀ  with wins over then #8 Michigan 41-14 in Arlington, Texas and last week at home 35-0 against Western Kentucky. The Crimson Tide are averaging 379.5 yards per game (212 passing and 167.5 rushing yards per game.) Alabama is holding opponents to 246.5 yards per game (189 passing and 57.5 rushing yards.) Alabama is outscoring opponents 38-7 so far this season. The Crimson Tide are 1-1 ATS and the total is also 1-1.

Alabama was a 38 point favorite at home last week against Western Kentucky and the total was 52. The Crimson Tide were never threatened in the 35-0 shutout. Alabama held the Hilltoppers to 224 total yards including 46 rushing yards. The Crimson Tide forced 4 turnovers and didn’t have any of their own. Alabama had 328 total yards including 225 passing yards. Quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 14 of 19 passes for 219 yards and 4 touchdowns.

McCarron had thrown for 418 yards and 6 touchdowns with no interceptions through two games. T.J. Yeldon has 17 carries for 136 yards and a touchdown, along with 5 catches for 73 yards. Jalston Fowler has 11 carries for 85 yards. Eddie Lacy has 18 carries for 71 yards with a touchdown. Kenyan Drake also has a touchdown run this season. Receiver Kevin Norwood has 6 catches, 145 yards and 2 touchdowns. DeAndrew White, Christion Jones, ans Michael Williams also have touchdown catches. Jones has 2 for the season.

Arkansas is coached by interim coach John L. Smith. The Razorbacks started off at home with a 49-24 win over Jacksonville St. Then came the disaster in Little Rock last week against ULM. Arkansas is averaging 470.5 yards per game on offense including 340.5 passing yards and 130 rushing yards. The Razorbacks are giving up 436 yards per game including 319.5 passing yards and 116.5 rushing yards per game. Arkansas is outscoring opponents 40-29 this season. There was no line on the Jacksonville St game, so Arkansas is 0-1 ATS and the total is 1-0.

Louisiana-Monroe was officially the home team last week, but the game against Arkansas was played in Little Rock. The Warhawks jumped out to a 7-0 lead, but Arkansas scored the last 21 points of the half to take a 21-7 halftime lead.

Quarterback Tyler Wilson suffered a head injury in the first half and did not return in the second half. He is listed as questionable or doubtful against Alabama according to various reports. As of Thursday he hadn’t practiced all week. Back-up quarterback Brandon Allen led the Razorbacks on a touchdown drive early in the third quarter to give them a 28-7 lead. If Wilson can’t go Allen could start or Brandon Mitchell could get the start. Smith hasn’t announced who the starter will be.

After getting down 28-7, ULM then scored 21 unanswered points to tie up the game with 47 seconds left. The game went into overtime. The Razorbacks kicked a field goal in their overtime possession. The Warhawks had 4th and 1 at the Arkansas 16. After a timeout, ULM decided to go for the first down instead of attempting the potential tying field goal. Warhawk quarterback Kolton Browning ran 16 yards to end zone to give ULM the monumental 34-31 upset. He accounted for 481 combined passing and rushing yards along with 4 total touchdowns.

The Warhawks racked up 550 total yards including 412 passing yards from Browning. Arkansas had 377 total yards including 281 passing yards. The Razorbacks had 9 penalties for 70 yards and 2 turnovers. ULM had 6 penalties for 49 yards and 1 turnover.

Wilson has completed 30/47 passes for 563 yards, with 5 touchdowns and an interception. Allen is 10/27 passing for 118 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Mitchell has yet to throw a pass this season. Expect Arkansas to lean heavily on running back Knile Davis if Wilson is out. Davis had 34 carries for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns. Dennis Johnson has 12 carries for 88 yards and a touchdown. Ronnie Wingo, Jr and Kody Walker also have rushing touchdowns this season. Walker is questionable with a knee injury. Chris Gragg has 14 catches, 193 yards and 2 touchdowns.Quarterback Mitchell has 4 catches for 122 yards. Cobi Hamilton has 8 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Javontee Herndon has 4 catches for 96 yards and a touchdown. Mekale McKay and Julian Horton each have touchdown catches as well.

Alabama has won 20 straight SEC openers straight up. The Crimson Tide haven’t trailed after the first quarter in 16 straight games. Alabama is 5-1 ATS in road games, and on fieldturf, 10-2 after a straight up win of 20 points or more, 7-2 in SEC games, 13-4 in September, 9-3 after allowing 100 rushing yards or less, 5-2 after failing to cover, 7-3 after a straight up win, and 11-5 overall.

Arkansas is 4-0 ATS after a straight up loss, 7-0 after rushing for less than 100 yards, 20-6 at home, 10-3 on fieldturf, 14-5 in SEC games, 5-2 after failing to cover, and after allowing more than 280 passing yards, 20-8-1 at home against teams with winning road records, 16-7 against teams with winning records, 15-7 after passing for more than 280 yards, 17-8 overall, and 6-16 in September games.

This line is a reaction to what happened last week, both the upset and the Wilson injury. I think even with Wilson, Alabama is clearly the stronger team here, but Alabama probably would be favored by 10 or 15 at the most. Still, I think Arkansas can keep it within the 20 point number playing at home. The line opened at -15 1/2 and has moved to 20 because of the uncertainty of Wilson for Arkansas.

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