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Alabama vs. Arkansas final score: 3 things we learned from Tide's 14-13 win

Alabama managed just two touchdowns in the win, just like everyone expected?

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

There aren't a whole lot of teams in the SEC—especially the West division—that Alabama played well enough to beat on Saturday night. Fortunately for Nick Saban and his players, Alabama was facing Arkansas.

Even after a sluggish first three quarters (after which Arkansas actually led 13-7) the Crimson Tide's significant talent advantage was just too much for the Razorbacks to handle, and the Tide hung on for the victory. Alabama gained just 227 yards from scrimmage and 10 first downs on the day, but it was ever so slightly enough.

The one-point margin was a result of a blocked extra point in the second quarter, which preserved Alabama's lead at 7-6. When Arkansas scored in the next frame on an improbable 54-yard catch-and-run by A.J. Derby, Bret Bielema—never a shrinking violet when it comes to two-point conversions—opted for the extra point. You can't assume at the time that a third-quarter touchdown will be the last time your team scores, but with the power of hindsight, one assumes Bielema would like a chance to go for two there.

Arkansas had chances to get its lead back after Alabama scored with 12 minutes left. In the four ensuing drives, Arkansas gained one first down—that's one, total—and never made a serious push into scoring territory. The Razorbacks' last gasp drive was snuffed out on a bad, bad interception by Brandon Allen in which he threw across his body to the other side of the field, and Alabama ran out the last three minutes of play.

The hand-wringing from Tuscaloosa that started after last week's loss won't abate after this one-point victory. But at the end of the day, it's a win.

Three things we learned

1. The Bama running game needs real work. This game stayed close for as long as it did because Alabama just plain couldn't run the ball. It doesn't pass the smell test in the slightest—Arkansas' rush defense is basically average, and the Tide came into the game averaging over 240 yards per game on the ground—but you look at the stat sheet at the end of the day, and it's 32 rushes for 66 yards. There are not many permissive defenses remaining on Alabama's schedule.

2. Brandon Allen isn't the answer for Arkansas. The Razorbacks needed to do something in the fourth quarter—something involving points, obviously, but sustaining a drive and giving the defense a breather would have been nice. But Arkansas went pass-heavy and QB Brandon Allen had his worst quarter of the four. His stats: 3-11 for 27 yards, the backbreaking pick and (obviously) no touchdowns. Allen's stats had been great coming into today, but Arkansas' unholy leveling of Nicholls State in Week 2 (in which Allen went 4-5 for four TDs) skewed things. Against good competition, Allen struggles, and it cost Arkansas a serious chance at winning a big, big game.

3. Alabama just might be average. Mind you, that's "average by SEC West standards," which is still mighty good in the FBS universe as a whole, but we're still talking about a team that's 5-3 in its last eight games, including 0-3 against ranked teams. West Virginia—hardly a powerhouse—gave Bama a fit this season, and there are some big, big names still looming. Maybe... Alabama's just not that good.