Alabama puts its No. 1 spot on the line as it gets set to face SEC West foe Arkansas in a night game in Tuscaloosa. It's Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema's toughest task to date in his first year down south. While his job will eventually depend on a game like this becoming winnable, nobody's going to hold it against the rebuilding program if Alabama wins here.
The Crimson Tide's defense is rounding into form after a shaky start. Alabama has given up just 16 points in its last four games, including a 25-0 shutout of then-ranked Ole Miss, and it's now second in the nation in points allowed at 11.3 per game. Meanwhile, Arkansas' defense is faring slightly worse, as it just gave up 52 points to South Carolina in a blowout loss, and its offense is 95th nationally in points scored. Again, this is a rebuilding process.
Rankings and records: Alabama is 6-0 (3-0) and back at No. 1 for yet another week; the Crimson Tide have had a stranglehold on the top spot all season and haven't been out of the top four on the polls since the 2010 season ended. Arkansas is 3-4 (0-3) and still struggling to rebuild after the ignominious end to Bobby Petrino's career in Fayetteville. Alabama is 16-7 all-time against Arkansas, including wins in the last six meetings.
Vegas: Alabama is favored by 28 points, which seems implausibly low until you realize that a 45-3 lead before two Arkansas garbage time touchdowns against the ninth string gets the game to 45-17, a 28-point spread. Voilà!
Weather: It's football weather in Tuscaloosa, with temperatures in the 60s and partly cloudy, and a small chance of rain.
Three names to know
Senior QB A.J. McCarron has dipped out of the Heisman spotlight thus far, but starters racking up enormous numbers on cupcakes has never been Nick Saban's m.o.; besides, like conference championships, Heismans are won in the last half of the season, and McCarron is still in position to make his move as long as Alabama stays undefeated. Look for McCarron to exert his will on the Arkansas defense and remind Heisman voters he's still one of the most efficient passers in the nation.
McCarron's top target is junior WR DeAndrew White, who is emerging as a force on the outside after patiently waiting his turn as a starter. White had this ridiculous one-handed grab for a touchdown two weeks ago, and he's leading the team in receiving yards and receiving touchdowns while coming in second in catches. McCarron should find him early and often against a mediocre Razorback secondary.
For Arkansas, five-star freshman Alex Collins has been a revelation at tailback; he's big, fast and aggressive. Perfect for a Bret Bielema offense, in other words. He'll need the performance of his life against Alabama's imposing defense, though, because anything less than 150 yards and a couple scores probably means the Razorbacks are in serious trouble.
Two things at stake
Alabama needs this win, of course, since it's arguably the easiest left on the Crimson Tide's SEC schedule, and there's no margin for error with so many teams poised to go undefeated in the nation. More than that, though, Alabama needs to win big, because its No. 1 spot will be imperiled by whomever wins the Florida State-Clemson showdown that's also happening on Saturday night. If voters start getting second thoughts about who to put atop the polls, anything worse than a monster win by the Tide won't help keep the season-long streak on top alive.
Past that, if Arkansas somehow pulls off the upset, there'll be a statue of Bielema put up before the Razorbacks' charter plane touches back down in Fayetteville.
How to witness
TV: ESPN will carry this game at 7 p.m. ET. Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe are on the call.