FAYETTEVILLE — Other than losing a game and nationally ranking No. 2 instead of No. 1, much seems business as usual for Nick Saban’s 9-1, 5-1 leading the SEC West reigning national champion Alabama Crimson Tide annually beating Arkansas 14 years running.

Coach Sam Pittman’s surprising nationally 21st Razorbacks, 7-3, 3-3 in the SEC off successive SEC successes over Mississippi State in Fayetteville and at LSU, and the Tide clash in Saturday’s 2:30 p.m. CBS televised SEC West game at Alabama’s Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

As usual the Tide rolls a wave of players up for national awards. Leading Heisman Trophy candidate Bryce Young, also in consideration for every quarterback award, linebacker Will Anderson, a Bronko Nagurski Award finalist, receiver Jameis Williams, Biletnikoff Award semifinalist, and left offensive tackle Evan Neal, Outland Trophy semifinalist are among Alabama’s Tidal wave of national award candidates with backups recruited as five- and four-stars next in line.

If not initially recruited out of high school, Saban still can get the best from others like linebacker Henry To’oTo’o taking the transfer portal from Tennessee to the Tide and making 13 tackles versus Mississippi State.

So the Tide that Pittman saw on film prepping for Alabama games as the offensive line coach at Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia he sees again as Arkansas’ second-year head coach.

“I mean they’re Alabama,” Pittman said. “When you turn on the film they’re what you expect to see.”

Last year, what Arkansas saw was a 52-3 season-ending whipping in Fayetteville belying the strides Pittman made in his Arkansas Year One.

Arkansas from Bret Bielema’s final three SEC games of 2017 through the 2018 and 2019 Chad Morris era lost 19 consecutive SEC games.

So Pittman’s 3-7 record for an entirely 2020 SEC schedule was deemed outstanding even if closed flooded by the Tide.

The Tide could flood Arkansas again. All its ingredients loom as usual on both sides of the ball starting with Young and Anderson.

“Man, he (Young) has got a really smooth release and has a way to throw the ball at all kinds of different angles. Throws a great long ball. Obviously he’s got (John) Metchie and (Jameson) Williams out there that … he’s got guys to throw it to. And he’s an elusive runner.”

Anderson lives on the edge. That’s not good for an Arkansas team that lost the edge trying to block LSU’s perimeter defense even while ultimately winning the game, 16-13 in overtime.

“Defensively Will Anderson is as good a player as anybody has,” Pittman said. “The No. 1 thing you try to do is not let a difference-maker make a difference. In his case, it’s very, very difficult.”

All that oddsmakers generally tabbing Alabama a 20-point favorite stacks against Arkansas.

It’s the most favorable Arkansas outlook versus Alabama in years.

That’s how dominant the Tide has been yet the Hogs can believe it doesn’t have to be. Arkansas just found that Alabama struggled just as hard to beat LSU, 20-14 in Tuscaloosa, as Arkansas did in Baton Rouge.

The Razorbacks even beat, 20-10 at a neutral site the same Texas A&M Aggies that beat Arkansas.

And other than at No. 1 Georgia, the Hogs have won or been ultra-competitive in every 2021 game. They don’t appear beaten before kickoff as often has been the case against Alabama.

“We have a chance,” Pittman said. “The No. 1 thing you have to do to beat a team is believe you can do it. If you’ve got a whole plane full of guys that are going, ‘Man, when’s this game over,’ you don’t have a chance.”

This team asserts it does.

“We’ve seen what we can do.” Arkansas senior linebacker Grant Morgan said. “We’ve seen that we can win games. We beat LSU at LSU. We played a really good Texas A&M team really well at a neutral site. So we know what we can do.”

Saban knows it, too. He’s seen the Arkansas films. He’s seen when Arkansas’ stars like quarterback KJ Jefferson, receiver Treylon Burks shine supported by a bigger, better offensive line. He’s seen an Arkansas defense led by linebackers Morgan, Bumper Pool and Hayden Henry and cornerback Montaric Brown wreak havoc. And he saw from Arkansas versus LSU that if it comes down to a field goal, Arkansas kicker Cam Little can be a devastating difference.

Most importantly, he sees their belief.

“I think they play with great intangibles,” Saban said. “They play with great effort, they’ve got great toughness and discipline in terms of how they execute what they do. And their players have all improved.”

Still not a great Arkansas chance in Tuscaloosa, but indeed a chance.

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