Mac Jones, DeVonta Smith Guide No. 1 Alabama to 52-3 Win over Arkansas

Alabama punt returner DeVonta Smith (6) returns a punt for a touchdown against Arkansas during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Dec. 12, 2020, in Fayetteville, Ark. (AP Photo/Michael Woods)

Michael Woods/Associated Press

Top-ranked Alabama finished an undefeated regular season Saturday with a 52-3 victory over Arkansas at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Crimson Tide, who’d already locked up a berth against Florida in next week’s SEC Championship Game, improved to 10-0. They’ve outscored opponents 495-168 and will be a sizable favorite over the Gators as they look to secure another College Football Playoff appearance.

Arkansas dropped its fourth straight game to finish the campaign 3-7. The Razorbacks played one of the nation’s toughest schedules with six contests against ranked opponents, including four meetings with foes ranked eighth or higher at the time they faced off.

              

Notable Performances

QB Mac Jones (BAMA): 24-of-29 for 208 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT

QB Feleipe Franks (ARK): 8-of-10 for 90 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT; sacked 8 times

RB Brian Robinson Jr. (BAMA): 54 rushing yards, 3 TD

RB Najee Harris (BAMA): 46 rushing yards, 2 TD

RB Jase McClellan (BAMA): 95 rushing yards, 1 TD

WR DeVonta Smith (BAMA): 22 receiving yards; punt return TD

DL Christian Barmore (BAMA): 2 sacks

LB Will Anderson Jr. (BAMA): 2 sacks

LB Bumper Pool (ARK): 13 tackles

              

DeVonta Smith Belongs Alongside Mac Jones in Heisman Race

Smith, and the rest of Alabama’s playmakers, have been overshadowed by Jones’ success for most of the season. While the standout quarterback certainly deserves a place in the final Heisman conversation, the senior wide receiver also belongs in the discussion.

The Tide struggled for most of the first quarter, showing little explosiveness on offense and defensively allowing an overmatched Razorbacks squad to move the ball.

One play changed the game’s entire vibe: Smith took in a punt deep in his own territory, made a couple of Hogs miss and sprinted past the rest for an 84-yard touchdown return.

It was reminiscent of two weeks ago when Alabama was still locked in a scoreless tie with No. 22 Auburn after 10 minutes before the 22-year-old Louisiana native burned the Tigers’ secondary for a 66-yard touchdown reception. The Tide rolled from there as he later added a 58-yard score.

Smith entered Saturday’s game with 80 receptions for 1,305 yards, which led the nation, and 15 touchdowns. He also added a rushing score.

His success shouldn’t come as a surprise. He led the Crimson Tide in receiving yards last year (1,256) despite playing alongside two first-round draft picks, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, and he’s fully embraced the role as the unquestioned top target in 2020.

The Heisman race may ultimately come down to which quarterback leads his team to the SEC championship next weekend, either Jones or Florida’s Kyle Trask. Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence also remains in contention for college football’s top individual honor.

Perhaps a game-changing play or two by Smith would be enough to swing the pendulum in his favor, and he’d be just as deserving of a winner as any of those signal-callers.

               

Arkansas Offense Lacked Creativity Needed for Upset Bid

It takes a special performance to win a game as a four-touchdown underdog, and it’s likely Alabama was going to walk away from Saturday’s game with the win regardless of Arkansas’ game plan.

That said, the lack of creative thinking within the Razorbacks’ offensive attack Saturday left a lot to be desired. It was a basic, straightforward approach that had little chance of success against a Tide defense littered with future NFL players.

The best example came on their field-goal drive midway through the first quarter.

With 1st-and-goal from the 8-yard line, the Hogs were called for a false start and then threw three passes with Feleipe Franks, who struggled throughout the contest. The third-down play from the 9-yard line was thrown one yard beyond the line of scrimmage and had no chance to find the end zone, even if a catch was made.

If the Razorbacks were going to win the game, they needed a touchdown on that drive. A 3-6 team doesn’t beat a national championship contender with field goals.

Arkansas was able to get a turnover on downs on the ensuing drive, and it’s fair to wonder if the pressure starts to mount on Alabama if the Hogs are up 7-3 with the ball.

Running some trick plays, a little more misdirection and making a few calls that haven’t already been put on tape this year wouldn’t have guaranteed the Razorbacks could have stayed competitive for 60 minutes because of the Tide’s sizable talent and athleticism advantage.

But it would have at least given the underdogs a chance and potentially injected a spark into an offense that otherwise lacked energy in their season finale.

            

What’s Next?

Alabama and Florida will meet in the SEC title game next Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET on CBS.