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No. 1 Alabama hosts Arkansas after closer-than-expected game

(AP Photo/Sean Rayford, File)

By JOHN ZENOR

AP Sports Writer

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama coach Nick Saban expressed his displeasure to the Crimson Tide after they struggled to put away Texas A&M.

Now, the top-ranked Crimson Tide gets to show how well it worked when Arkansas, another big SEC West underdog, visits Bryant-Denny Stadium for homecoming.

Saban's postgame message was that the players better listen to him not the glowing media reports about how good they are.

"From what he's told us, we can't get relaxed," Tide linebacker Rashaan Evans said. "We can't look to exterior things for us to see whether we're doing good or not. Our stats and numbers will show us if we're doing those things.

"We have goals that we set up throughout the season that we want to achieve. If we don't meet those goals, none of the other stuff matters."

Alabama (6-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) is a 30-point favorite over the Razorbacks (2-3, 0-2), who are 0-10 against Saban's Tide.

While Saban wasn't pleased how the team finished a 27-19 win over the Aggies , Arkansas has much bigger problems. The Razorbacks have given up 98 points in two SEC games, both losses .

Now, they play on the road against back to back Top 10 teams , including No. 10 Auburn next week. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema is aware of what the odds makers think of this game.

"It's not the first time we've seen these kind of situations," Bielema said. "Our first couple wins here (at Arkansas), the odds were decidedly against us in several of those situations and we always kind of poked fun about it afterward.

"It's not the first time we've seen this number, or this much of a percentage of an odd against us by the experts. The good news is every game is a chance to play your best, and that's what we're going to try to do on Saturday."

Alabama had won its first two SEC games by a combined 125-3 . Thus the media praise.

Saban maintains the Razorbacks won't be a pushover, noting they took Texas A&M to overtime.

"This is going to be a challenging team," he said. "It always has been for us and we're certainly going to prepare that way."

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Some other things to know about the Arkansas-Alabama game:

INJURED ALLEN: Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen expects to play on Saturday against the Crimson Tide, despite missing practice time this week with a right shoulder injury he suffered in last week's 48-22 loss to South Carolina. Allen threw for 400 yards in last year's 49-30 loss to Alabama and entered this year as the SEC's leading returner in passing efficiency, but he has struggled at times this season with a largely new group of wide receivers and an offensive line that's allowing more than 2 + sacks per game.

"I like to think of myself as a quick healer," Allen said. "I like to think I'll be feeling pretty good by Saturday."

PREPARING FOR BACKUP

Saban said after turning on the film he initially thought Arkansas backup QB Cole Kelley was a tight end playing as a Wildcat quarterback. The 6-foot-7, 268-pounder was 8-of-13 passing for 140 yards after replacing Allen against South Carolina.

"Allen is a great passer, very athletic, quick, can make all the throws," Saban said. "The second guy is a little different style. I'm not sure they'll change their offense but when he has played they've done more quarterback runs."

BATTERED BIELEMA: The coach could use a strong performance from his team. He's in his fifth season at Arkansas and has a record of 27-29, including 10-24 in the SEC. The 0-4 record against Alabama doesn't help.

HAND OUT: Saban said defensive end Da'Shawn Hand will miss his second straight game with a sprained MCL. Raekwon Davis started in his place while junior college transfer Isaiah Buggs had perhaps his best game on the other side of the line.

STARTING FAST: Alabama has outscored opponents 83-9 in the first quarter and 145-26 in the first half this season. The Razorbacks have a scoring edge over opponents of 87-58 in the first half but have been outscored by 16 points in the second.

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Updated October 13, 2017

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