The nooks and crannies have been explored in detail concerning the long-anticipated Arkansas-Alabama matchup, let’s switch the spotlight to that blurry big picture that dominates the room.

No one really knows what’s going to happen in Tuscaloosa on Saturday.

Everything is based on the foundation of what the teams have established in the past and what is either hoped for or feared about in the future.

There is too little before us this season to relate to this game.

The Razorbacks have beaten three cupcakes, although the last (Troy), gave them some indigestion. Alabama has methodically disposed to two teams in need of a nice paycheck (Kent State and North Texas) and rather routinely handled a Penn State team that cannot be considered a Big Ten or national power right now.

Both teams have won without straying from the basic game plan. But we’re sure, knowing for a long time Saturday’s scenario would be the case, they’ve worked a little on the plan for each other in segments each week.

But there are not many secrets in each team’s basic approach. It’s pretty much old school versus new school.

Alabama will play smash-mouth, field position football, force you to do what you do not want to do, put the most pressure on the least-inexperienced players and make you pay for almost every mistake. Arkansas will use the length and breadth of the field, dink, dunk and wait for the big play, then try to catch you off balance with a zinger. The Razorbacks will try to attack enough with the secondary and linebackers to force a big play, especially when the defensive line is missing a key element in Jake Bequette.

It’s labeled as a matchup between one of the game’s greatest defensive gurus in Alabama coach Nick Saban against one of the college game’s most astute offensive play-callers in Bobby Petrino.

Ironically, the reverse may decide this one: The execution of Alabama’s offensive game plan versus Arkansas’ defensive game plan.

Here are some keys:

• Arkansas must run the ball OK — enough to keep the Alabama defense honest and set up the big ball.

• When Alabama starts the grind-it, field position routine, the Hogs must hold up and not wear down.

• The Crimson Tide will be well-served if they confuse inexperienced UA quarterback Tyler Wilson with formations and tactics and apply pressure to him before he can get the ball to his big-play receivers against a Crimson Tide secondary that could be vulnerable to getting beat with the numbers game on the backside.

• The UA must at-least lesson and neutralize as much as possible the "playing for Tuscaloosa and those storm victims" angle that will shroud the nationally televised conference opener.

• A deciding factor could be which quarterback (or quarterbacks) best manage the game.

Key players for Arkansas to win?

I’ll go with three.

Zach Hocker. The Crimson Tide are often content to force a game that will be decided by field goals. When the Hogs get in position to score, they’ll need points and field goals may be just as important as touchdowns.

Jarius Wright. His return will add another dynamic to the UA offense. He may be able to beat the Alabama secondary in key situations — if Wilson can get the ball to him.

Joe Adams. He can hurt Alabama both as a receiver and a runner and can do things a defense can’t handle just by knowing X’s and O’s.

I’ve heard folks make a great case why Alabama will win the game.

I’ve also heard the same from observers why Arkansas will prevail.

Next week, Arkansas plays Texas A&M and Alabama plays Florida.

We’d be able to analyze Saturday’s game better if the above contests went first.

(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 505-1235 or