TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Sophomore quarterback Mac Jones will make his first career start in place of injured Tua Tagovailoa when top-ranked Alabama hosts Arkansas in SEC play on Saturday. Tagovailoa injured his right ankle in last Saturday's game against Tennessee and underwent surgery, providing Jones with the biggest opportunity of his career.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Alabama -32.
Jones was 6-of-11 passing for 72 yards in the 35-13 victory over Tennessee and now has the benefit of a full week of practice repetitions heading into the game against the Razorbacks. "I think with Mac, it's not a matter of arm talent or ability," head coach Nick Saban said during a press conference. "It's staying focused and being able to execute on a consistent basis and make good choices and decisions and not think about it too much and just take what the defense gives. When he's done that, he's been very, very effective, and that's what we've worked with him on throughout the season." Arkansas has dropped four straight games and was smashed 51-10 by Auburn last Saturday and coach Chad Morris isn't looking at the Alabama quarterback situation as his team receiving a break. "They'll have a plan for him, but as far as deficiencies, you're the quarterback at Alabama or a program of that caliber, you're a really good football player," Morris said of Jones. "He was playing behind a really good one, too."
ABOUT ARKANSAS (2-5, 0-4 SEC)
Morris hasn't yet decided whether junior Nick Starkel (1,060 yards, seven touchdowns, seven interceptions) or senior Ben Hicks (692 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) will be the starting quarterback against the Crimson Tide. Hicks got the call in last week's lopsided loss against Auburn and was 19-of-39 passing for 182 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Razorbacks, who allow 30.7 points per game, have given up more than 200 rushing yards on four occasions, including the past two games (330 to Kentucky and 298 to Auburn).
ABOUT ALABAMA (7-0, 4-0)
The passing game has been tremendous with junior wideouts DeVonta Smith (nine), Jerry Jeudy (six) and Henry Ruggs III (five) combining for 20 receiving touchdowns and Ruggs insisted the chemistry with Jones is already established. "We practice situations, we practice with every receiver, so he has relationships," Ruggs told reporters. "He knows what we like and what we don't like, so he'll be ready." Senior linebacker Anfernee Jennings (53 tackles) is excelling for the defense and junior linebacker Terrell Lewis also has been producing at a high level with six sacks.
1. Alabama has won the past 12 meetings and holds a 22-7 lead in the series.
2. Crimson Tide junior RB Najee Harris has a team-high 556 rushing yards and has topped 100 in three of the past four games.
3. Starkel threw five interceptions in a loss to San Jose State on Sept. 21.
PREDICTION: Alabama 44, Arkansas 17