It's a new year and the storyline is still the same in the SEC. Alabama is Alabama, and Arkansas is well ... Arkansas.
Now, don’t take that as a direct shot at the Razorbacks. They have been a fine program in recent memory, with seven seasons of eight-plus wins in the past 11 years. That’s a great stat -- an impressive one for almost any school in the country.
Not for Alabama.
You see, while the Razorbacks should be proud of their football program’s success over the years, it can’t hold a candle to what the Crimson Tide has accomplished. I really shouldn't have to explain this to anyone, but in case you are new to college football or have just been living under a rock for the past couple of years, Alabama has won three out of the past four national championships, and is well on its way to a fourth this year as the top-ranked team in the nation yet again.
Don’t let Nick Saban hear me say this, but whether he likes it or not, this team is not only a perennial powerhouse, but a living, breathing dynasty. Frankly, it's naïve of anybody to think differently. If you want to test that opinion, fine. Go watch Alabama play on a fall Saturday and try to convince any reasonable college football fan what you’re seeing isn't the best in the business. (Warning: It’s an argument you can't and won't win.)
So, when Alabama takes the field against Arkansas Saturday night, make no mistake about who will come out on top. Saban will try and try his hardest to make everyone believe all the way up until kickoff that Arkansas is a dangerous team that is capable of handing his Crimson Tide a colossal upset, but it is not. Arkansas is a bad team right now, as in not good at all.
This is a team that just last year, had one of the all-time great collapses ever in sports history, and it all began over four months before the season even started. (How is that even possible?) Granted, no team plans for its head coach to get into a motorcycle accident with his mistress, like Bobby Petrino managed to do in April 2012. But there had to have been somebody, anybody out there, who Arkansas could have picked to replace Petrino on short notice, instead of the one-year train wreck that was John L. Smith.
To be fair, Arkansas did make a solid move in hiring Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin this past offseason. But he has managed to only marginally improve Arkansas in Year 1 as head coach.
So far in 2013, Arkansas' wins have come against the Sun Belt’s Louisiana-Lafayette, Samford of the FCS and Southern Miss, who is currently on a 17-game losing streak. Not quite a murderers' row of opponents.
Brandon Allen, the Razorback quarterback, has been played poorly enough this season to have some fans calling for his job, while the defense gave up 52 points and 537 total yards of offense at home against South Carolina last week. The lone bright spot has been from a pair of running backs in Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams.
As for Alabama? Last week’s win over Kentucky was enough to tell you what kind of team it is. Two-time national championship-winning quarterback AJ McCarron passed for a career-high 359 yards, running backs T.J. Yeldon and Kenyan Drake both rushed for more than 100 yards and two touchdowns and the defense allowed only one touchdown, the first it had allowed in 14 straight quarters.
Even with the odds stacked against them, I always like to believe that the underdog has a puncher’s chance. That said, it’s a completely different story when that underdog is going up against Alabama.
Good luck, Arkansas, you’ll need it.