The Crimson Tide has completed the task four out of six times this season. Texas A&M averaged a shade over five yards with its numbers skewed a little by quarterback Johnny Manziel’s running ability, while Virginia Tech averaged 4.6 yards a carry, which was aided by a 78-yard touchdown run.
But this week may be the Tide’s toughest test when Arkansas travels to Tuscaloosa for a 6 p.m. showdown on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Razorbacks are averaging 5.5 yards a carry and the bulk of it comes from their running backs.
“Even games they’ve lost, they’re still averaging 150, almost 200 yards rushing,” Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said. “Their big linemen are able to control the line of scrimmage, get a good push to get up to the second level with linebackers and DBs. As long as we control the line of scrimmage, we’ll have a good chance of stopping the run.”
Last season, Mosley wouldn’t have played a lot against a team like the one Arkansas is fielding this season. Nico Johnson stepped in against power running teams like LSU, while Mosley specialized in pass coverage against spread teams like Texas A&M.
Now, Mosley is an every-down linebacker, although even a year ago, he spent as much as 80 percent of each game on the field. That's how often Alabama was in a pass-defense package, rather than its base defense.
“It’s going to be a new experience,” Mosley said. “But not really too much because we go against our offense pretty much every day. So we go against some of the best linemen and one of the best offenses in the country and in the SEC. We’ve just got to be physical in this type of game. No excuses there.”
The Razorbacks’ top two rushers rank in the top six in the SEC. True freshman Alex Collins is second in the league with 720 yards and gains 5.9 yards a carry, while Jonathan Williams averages 6.5 yards a carry with 564 yards on the season.
Arkansas uses a lot of zone blocking schemes, and Alabama coach Nick Saban said “it’s all about execution” when discussing how to defend the Hogs' rushing attack.
“It’s about executing what you have to do, and you cannot do it unless you are physical, strike blockers and everyone stays in their gaps whatever the call is,” Saban said. “I don’t think there’s any scheme you can draw up that you’re all of the sudden going to stunt some place and they’re not going to be able to block you because you can stunt yourself right out of the play as well.”
Added Mosley, “For linebackers, it’s all about the center. If you see the wide receivers going out for passes, but the center's coming past the line of scrimmage, you know it’s a draw because they wouldn’t be able to throw the ball if it wasn’t. It’s all about reading keys.”