Having San Jose State and Duke scheduled before Penn State and Arkansas respectively might allow for some peeking over the fence at what comes next. It’s not quite like having a bye week to prepare, but the Blue Devils didn’t exactly show up until the game was already out of hand.
But with the big arm of Mallett and the reliable hands of his big receivers up next, an alarming trend is developing for those inside the Tide defensive meeting rooms. Even though the opponents went from easy to hard to beyond easy, the defense allows more and more yards as the season progresses.
San Jose State went for 175, Penn State came up with 283 and Duke finished with 302.
Granted, the most important number is the one on top of the scoreboard, and all three opponents left the field without piling up many. The 6.3 points Alabama opponents have averaged ranks second nationally, but the Tide hasn’t faced an offense with as many weapons as the Razorbacks will bring to the party on Saturday.
Arkansas has the third-best passing offense judging by the numbers. It averages 367.7 yards a game, and Georgia learned a little about the big-play capability Mallett’s offense brings to the table.
Setting up to avoid the big hit is part of the reason Alabama’s first three opponents only have one touchdown between them. Duke needed 13 plays to drive 68 yards, although it was hoping to strike much quicker.
“Their defensemen were able to make us lay the ball underneath and take away the deep threat,” Blue Devil quarterback Sean Renfree said. “We were trying to get it out of our hands on the underneath routes, but they did a good job of covering those up too.”
A year ago, Mallett had quite a reputation when he came to Bryant-Denny Stadium. That reputation took somewhat of a hit when the Tide threw pressure his way and limited the Hogs to just one touchdown. Mallett was sacked three times and pressured on eight other occasions.
Arkansas’ starting offensive line starts four seniors surrounding a freshman at center.
Expect pass-rushing defensive end Marcell Dareus to find his way into the gap patrolled by the youngster to try to repeat last season’s effective pressure on Mallett.
Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star.