ArDarius Stewart

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Jalen Hurts scores five TDs as No. 1 Alabama dominates Mississippi State

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There are a few teams capable of giving No. 1 Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) a decent contest in the SEC. Texas A&M and LSU were two, and Auburn may be another. As was put on display on Saturday afternoon, Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4 SEC) was not anywhere close to being up to the task, even a week after upsetting Texas A&M. Alabama moved a little bit closer to the SEC West Division championship with a decisive 51-3 victory over the Bulldogs on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts continued to have the kind of game that merits at least a little bit of Heisman Trophy consideration by passing for 347 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 100 yards and another touchdown in the win. This was the first 300-yard passing game and three-touchdown game for Hurts through the air. ArDarius Stewart was on the receiving end of three of those touchdown passes, with 156 yards in the box score. Alabama’s defense was once again dominant as well. Mississippi State didn’t manage to put three points on the board until after Alabama had a 30-0 lead at halftime.

Alabama won’t have a bye week next week, but they might as well. TheCrimson Tide will host FCS Chattanooga for the typical late-season cupcake mismatch that is common among SEC schools. The game will serve as nothing more than a final tune-up for the Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn the following week. If Auburn wins on the road against Georgia this afternoon, the Iron Bowl will determine the champion of the SEC West and send the winner to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.

Alabama will have the SEC West wrapped up today if Auburn should happen to lose at Georgia.

Mississippi State is now walking on thin ice when it comes to bowl eligibility.Dan Mullen needs to win both of his remaining games, against Arkansas at home and at Ole Miss, to meet the six-win bowl minimum. It is a possibility Ole Miss may be in a win-or-stay-home situation in the regular season finale as well.

No. 1 Alabama forced five turnovers in 49-24 win at No. 16 Arkansas

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If you thought No. 16 Arkansas was going to give top-ranked Alabama a good battle in the SEC West, well, you were out of luck Saturday night. Alabama improved to 6-0 (3-0 SEC) with a 49-30 victory that never felt as the final score might even suggest. Arkansas (4-2) fell to 0-2 in SEC play on a night in which they turned the football over five times. Against Alabama, that is far too many turnovers to have, and Alabama showed why.

Alabama returned two Arkansas turnovers for a touchdown and converted another Razorback turnover into a touchdown. One of the highlights of the night for the Alabama defense was Minkah Fitzpatrick‘s 100-yard interception return for a score in the fourth quarter. The score was somewhat crucial too, as a touchdown for Arkansas could have cut Alabama’s lead to 11 points. Instead, Alabama padded its lead and took a 49-24 lead to essentially hold Arkansas at arm’s length the rest of the way.

Nick Saban will find plenty to be upset about despite his top-ranked team once again coming through with a double-digit victory, because that’s just what Saban does. Giving up 400 yards through the air surely will catch the ire of Saban. Austin Allen tossed three touchdowns and hit the 400-yard mark, but he did so while also having three passes picked off. Alabama did do a good job of taking away the run, which Arkansas loves to use to their advantage. The Razorbacks were held under 100 rushing yards for the first time since November 21, 2015 when Mississippi State held them to 73 rushing yards. Alabama was one of two teams in 2015 to hold Arkansas to fewer than 100 yards. The last time Arkansas had more than 100 rushing yards against Alabama was in 2013, with 165 yards in a 52-0 defeat at the hands of the Crimson Tide.

Alabama also had three turnovers of their own, which will not sit well with Saban. Quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 13 of his 17 pass attempts for 253 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, and Damien Harris led all players with 122 rushing yards. Hurts led the way with two touchdown runs. ArDarius Stewart was the leading receiver for Alabama with five receptions for 120 yards. Jared Cornelius of Arkansas topped that with five receptions for 146 yards. Neither scored a touchdown, however.

One other stat Saban will likely focus on is his defense’s lack of getting off the field. Arkansas converted half of their third down plays for a first down, and one of two fourth-down plays.

Next up for Alabama is another road game, this time against Tennessee. Expect Alabama to put a hurting on the Vols in the first half before Tennessee inexplicably battles back to make things interesting and perhaps dicey in the second half. If this season has taught us anything thus far, it is that Tennessee does not go away easily. Can they do the same against Alabama?

Arkansas hosts Ole Miss next week.

Alabama’s offense doesn’t pass Saban’s mid-term exam

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This spring Alabama’s offense, more specifically the quarterbacks, have been focusing on avoiding turnovers. If the spring game is to serve as a litmus test for the progress being made, Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin have some work to do if the Crimson Tide are going to be SEC and College Football Playoff contenders in 2015.

Alabama’s offense had six turnovers in the spring game Saturday in Tuscaloosa. Jake Coker, who some pumped up as Alabama’s likely starter a season ago, went just 14 for 28 with one touchdown (a long pass to ArDarius Stewart) and an interception. Redshirt freshman David Cornwell was not all tat much better, going 12 for 24 with 110 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. So it looks as though Alabama is heading into the summer with a quarterback situation to sort through. This is not totally unexpected, although it would have been nice if either Coker or Cornwell could have elevated themselves and created some separation in the spring game.

It was not all bad of course. Receivers Stewart (6 receptions, 125 yards, 1 TD) and Robert Foster (8 receptions, 118 yards, 2 TDs) had solid outings even if the quarterbacks were not particularly sharp. Alabama’s defense seemed to be in good form, and more than capable of taking advantage of an unsteady quarterback situation on the other side of the ball. Reuben Foster was playing nickel, which Saban has said he’s been doing all spring. Foster also played with some more maturity, according to Saban. Five different players in Alabama’s secondary recorded an interception.

Fortunately, the season does not start tomorrow, or next week. Saban referred to the spring game as a mid-term exam, which leaves plenty of time for the Alabama offense to bring its grade up before opening the new season of what will surely be high with expectations after a second straight season ending in a postseason loss.

Alabama saw a crowd of 65,175 fans come to Bryant-Denny Stadium. Weather may have kept some away from the game. Regardless, the Crimson Tide will likely lock in with the fourth-highest spring attendance this year. Ohio State smashed the competition with a new spring game record, Nebraska is holding firm with the second highest crowd and Penn State edged Alabama’s crowd on Saturday.

Alabama opens the 2015 season against Wisconsin in the Cowboy Classic in Arlington, Texas on September 5.

Saban: Alabama getting healthy for SEC Championship

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Watch out, Missouri. Alabama looks to be getting a little bit healthier for this weekend’s SEC Championship Game in Atlanta.

While meeting with the media Wednesday night, Alabama head coach Nick Saban said linebacker Denzel Devall is questionable for the SEC championship game, but a handful of others should be available. Left tackle Cam Robinson, wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, and tight end Brian Vogler all have been practicing this week and will be ready to play if called upon Saturday.

Robinson, a starter on the offensive line, had a high-ankle sprain in late October that kept him out of a few games for the Tide. Vogler and Stewart each suffered stretched knee ligaments, as it was reported leading up to last week’s Iron Bowl against Auburn.

“With all these guys, we’ll have to evaluate how they progress this week, how they respond to the activity that they’ve done,” Saban said, per Al.com. “Some of them might even … we’ll have to decide before the game. But most of the time when guys practice … as long as they don’t have a setback, chances are they’ll be able to contribute in the game.”

Alabama is ranked on top of the latest College Football Playoff rankings. A win against Missouri would pretty much guarantee the Crimson Tide a spot in the four-team playoff. A loss could put Alabama in jeopardy of making the playoff. Having all hands on deck certainly would be a nice luxury with so much on the line.

Alabama TE Brian Vogler questionable for Iron Bowl

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With the Iron Bowl this week and a spot in the SEC Championship Game and possibly another in the College Football Playoff on the line, having as healthy a starting lien-up as possible is key for Alabama. A cupcake of a game against Western Carolina proved to be a bit more bruising than expected, and starting tight end Brian Vogler is said to be questionable for the Auburn game this week.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Vogler is considered questionable for this weekend’s Iron Bowl, but Saban suggested that could change as the week goes on with practices. Saban also noted freshman wide receiver ArDarius Stewart is also questionable for the Auburn game. Both players reportedly left Saturday afternoon’s win with strained knee ligaments.

“We’ll see how they progress throughout the week, but they would be listed as questionable for the game right now, not that everyone will practice today,” Saban said Monday, per Al.com. “As the week progresses, we’re hopeful that everybody will respond and be able to get back and contribute in the game.”

Vogler and O.J. Howard have split top tight end duties this season, and Howard has been the more productive of the two in the receiving game. Howard is third on the team with 206 receiving yards, although Vogler brings some solid blocking skills to the field whenever he is on the field.

Stewart has caught 12 passes for 149 games while appearing in 11 games this season.