Arkansas to host Alabama in make-or-break game

Springfield, Mo. (  -- Arkansas Razorbacks fans knew the Alabama game would make-or-break the 2012 season.  But the did not expect like this.

The Hogs will hope to rebound this Saturday from an embarrassing loss this Saturday against the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide.   Arkansas blew a 28-7 lead in the third-quarter last Saturday against Louisiana-Monroe, losing 34-31 in overtime.  If the focus was not then on Alabama, it is now.

"It is crucial for us from a mental standpoint to bounce back to get ready to go and to go to practice with an energy about us," said Arkansas Head Coach John L. Smith.  "Everybody has a tendency to drop their chin to the ground and carry it there throughout the week.  We as coaches have to get their chin up off the ground and get going again and start believing in what it is we are going to get done this week."

The focus of Razorback nation has been firmly on the health of quarterback Tyler Wilson.  The senior remians a game-time decision against Alabama.  Wilson left the Louisiana-Monroe game in the first-half after suffering a head injury.  The Heisman-hopeful was sharp, going 11-20 for 196-yards and two touchdowns.  His availability remains in question.  However, Louisiana-Monroe's game-plan of pressuring Wilson worked, hitting him several times.

Arkansas offense struggled without Wilson behind center.  The Razorbacks scored the only touchdown of the second-half on the first drive of the third-quarter.  Redshirt-freshman quarterback Brandon Allen threw a dozen straight incompletions.

"I am sure he is going to get better with a week's preparation if he does have to play in the game," said Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban about Allen.  "We just have to adjust and adapt to whatever it is we are facing."

The defense is not alone in Razorback nation's blame game.   Arkansas gave up 872-yards to the first two opponents.   Starting sophomore cornerback Tevin Mitchel is out for Alabama game after he was hospitalized for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Louisiana-Monroe.  Mitchel then underwent gall bladder surgery during the hospital stay.  A timetable for his return is not known.

Alabama looked like the defending national champions in its first two games of the season.  The Crimson Tide blitzed then No. 7 Michigan in the opening week, winning 41-14.  The Tide then dominated Western Kentucky 35-0 last week.   Junior quarterback A.J. McCarron was 14-of-19 for 219-yards and four touchdowns in the win against the Hilltoppers.

"They are a good offense and that is kind of the way that good offenses are," said Smith.  "They are able to take what they are going to get and be satisfied with that and be good enough to live with that and take it down the field."

Arkansas has not defeated Alabama since 2006, the season before Saban became the Tide's head coach.   However, Arkansas has had success against defending national champions in Fayetteville.  Arkansas has won the last two contests against defending champs, defeating Tennessee in 1999 and Auburn last season.

"A win this weekend would be tremendous," said Smith.  That's the great thing about athletics is that you get to gthis weekend and you get to play it again.  You're never as good and you're never as bad.  It's never as good and it's never as bad as you think.  That's kind of the way we approach it."
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. on CBS.

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