Tide not sleeping on beaten up Razorbacks

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It happened to Alabama during Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa. The heavily favored Crimson Tide became the laughing stock of college football in 2007 after losing to Louisiana Monroe at home 21-14.

After the game, quarterback John Parker Wilson told reporters it was "embarrassing" and that "We're Alabama. We're supposed to win."

Maybe that's why coach Nick Saban spent all of last week lecturing reporters about the quality of another Sun Belt opponent -- the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers. Alabama dispatched WKU after Saban's tirade about overlooking opponents, winning 35-0, but the other pesky team from the Sun Belt wasn't so easily slain in Little Rock, Ark., on Saturday.

Then-No. 10-ranked Arkansas was upended by Louisiana Monroe in overtime at what was essentially a home game for the Hogs. The loss was a potential deathknell for a team with national championship aspirations.

"Any loss is devastating," Arkansas coach John L. Smith told reporters after the game. "Again, we still have the league in front of us."

This week, Arkansas will begin SEC play and look to rebound against a team familiar with the pain the Hogs are enduring in Fayetteville. It wasn't that long ago that No. 1 Alabama was in the same boat.

Bama linebacker Nico Johnson tuned in to watch the final minutes of the game Saturday and wasn't surprised by the outcome. He'd seen it happen before.

"It happens," he said. "It happened to us in 2007."

Johnson said he didn't think Arkansas' loss would benefit Alabama. If anything, he said, "they're highly motivated and they're ready to roll. They're going to want to bounce back."

Said Saban: "Regardless of what happened last week, that doesn't change how we feel, how we respect their players. ... They had a very difficult misfortune in the last game that they weren't able to overcome. But we still have to expect that we're going to get their very best performance, and we need to have our very best performance."

Alabama isn't taking Arkansas lightly. The two schools have gone head-to-head in the SEC West the past two seasons with Alabama coming out on top both times. Last year, the Tide forced two Arkansas turnovers and ran for a few feet shy of 200 yards. The defense bullied Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, but gained respect for what he can do in the passing game.

The first team All-SEC quarterback was knocked out of Saturday's loss to Louisiana Monroe, but Alabama is preparing for him as if he'll be ready to go this weekend. Saban called him a "probably the best quarterback we've played since maybe last year where we played him."

"Nobody here should be feeling warm and cozy about the other team's circumstance or situation," Saban said. "We need to be thinking about what we need to do to be successful, regardless of who plays in the game. They have a lot of good players that are very capable of making plays and having success, regardless of who plays quarterback."

Wilson won't be the only Razorback looking to answer health questions in the league opener. Running back Knile Davis is back after missing all of last season with a knee injury, but doesn't appear to be his old self, down from his 101.7 yards per game average in 2010 to just 66 yards per game this season.

Johnson said that while Davis' number are down, he doesn't see a drop-off in his play on the field. If there is, "I can't tell," he said. "Watching film he looks pretty good, he looks back 100 percent.

"He's an SEC running back," Johnson said, "Probably a first-round running back, I'd say. ... We're going to go in with the mindset of stoping the run and making them all feel less comfortable."

No matter who plays, the league opener will be exciting, said linebacker C.J. Mosley, who was named a player of the week by the coaching staff on Monday.

"We have to step up our play because it's our first SEC opener and we're playing away, so we just have to be ready," Mosley said. "We're going to treat it like it's our last game, our championship game, because that's how everybody is going to approach us."

Mosley added that while he's sure Arkansas will be eager to make up for Saturday's loss, he doesn't expect a different level of competition when the two teams meet in Fayetteville. After all, what the other team is going through isn't his concern.

"Like coach said, I’m pretty sure I heard him before, it’s not about them, it’s about us," Mosley said. "We’ve got to focus on the things we’ve got to do to stop them."