KJ A&M game

Arkansas redshirt junior quarterback KJ Jefferson prepares to run the ball against Texas A&M. Jefferson and the Hogs will welcome the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide to Fayetteville on Saturday.

It will be a tusk-to-tusk Southeastern Conference battle in Fayetteville on Saturday when No. 20 Arkansas faces off against No. 2 Alabama.

The last time the Razorbacks defeated the Crimson Tide was before the Nick Saban era in 2006 — when current players from both teams were freshly beginning elementary school. Since then, Arkansas has lost 15 straight games to Alabama, which is its longest winless streak against any opponent.

“They have a lot of fine players, two of the finest on both sides of the ball in the country,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said in a press conference Wednesday. “We have a huge, huge challenge, but we’ve had a good week of practice and we’re excited for the opportunity.”

The last time the Hogs saw Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, he broke a 52-year school record, throwing for 559 yards. This year, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner will compete against an Arkansas defense that has given up the sixth-most passing yards per game in the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

Young will also be facing former teammate turned Razorback, junior linebacker Drew Sanders. After transferring to Pittman’s program in the spring, Sanders has the second-most sacks in the FBS with 5.5.

“(The Razorbacks have) got 20 sacks on defense and play really, really sound, solid,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said in the SEC teleconference. “They’re a well-coached defense. So this is going to be a different kind of challenge for us.”

After their loss to Texas A&M dropped the Razorbacks 10 spots in the Associated Press Top 25, they will be all in on breaking up Alabama’s mojo. Rounding off last week’s game that was littered with mistakes, the Hogs will have to improve upon their abilities to tackle and force turnovers against the Tide.

“They’re just a really good team that you can’t make mistakes against,” Pittman said.  “Because if you do, they're like piranhas. They feast on that.”

Where rushing yards are concerned, Razorback Raheim “Rocket” Sanders’ numbers trump Alabama’s Jace McClellan. Over four games, McClellan has rushed 245 yards over 29 carries compared to Sanders’ 508 yards over 83 carries.

“He's strong, physical and does a nice job of reading plays and making the right cuts,” Saban said of Sanders. “He runs behind his pads and has good contact balance. He's a good all-around player and a physical player.”

Arkansas gave Alabama a run for its money last year, powerful enough to force the Tide to make big plays well into the fourth to hang on for a 42-35 victory. With one touchdown making all the difference – Alabama has left a craving for a rematch on the minds of the Razorbacks.

“I think a big key is going into the game believing you can win,” Pittman said. “I think there’s not a whole lot of teams in the country that go into a game thinking they can beat Alabama…If you have a whole team full of guys that believe they can win, you have a chance.”

The atmosphere on the Hill is expected to be amplified this Saturday. Students have already started camping out in line, and the crowd is expected to mimic the energy from last year’s matchup against Texas. Fans can watch the tusked teams take the turf at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, and the contest will be broadcast on CBS.

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