**Note: This was a print-only story**
The Crimson White spoke to Arkansas Traveler sports editor Haley Markle in Fayetteville, Ark., to get her take on Arkansas’ current state, its offensive playmakers and how the team can limit the Alabama offense.
Crimson White: The Razorbacks are in the midst of a difficult stretch in their schedule, which includes a 52-7 loss to South Carolina last week. What’s the team morale like right now, especially as they head into a showdown against the No. 1 team in the nation?
Haley Markle: Not having a bye until week nine is definitely taking its toll on this team, especially since it was struggling with depth issues when the season began. At Rutgers, against Texas A&M and for a lot of the Florida game, they were at least trying to compete, though. Bielema said at halftime of the Florida game that the team had lost its confidence and they haven’t found it yet. The offense looked really good on the first drive against South Carolina, but as soon as it started to get rough they got frustrated and it snowballed.
CW: What’s the optimism like surrounding first-year head coach Bret Bielema? The results have been much of the same compared to last year’s 4-8 season, but is there a belief that the program is moving in the right direction?
HM: I think most fans are optimistic about where Bielema is trying to take the program. They seem to understand that the athletes just aren’t there for the Razorbacks to be really competitive in this conference and they are withholding judgment until he puts together a couple more of his own recruiting classes. That said, the honeymoon is definitely over. Fans weren’t as forgiving after the loss to South Carolina as they had been earlier in the season.
CW: Brandon Allen has struggled in recent outings for the Razorbacks. Is he still the guy at quarterback, or is there any creeping doubt about his status as the starter moving forward?
HM: As much as some fans would like for there to be a change, Brandon Allen is still the guy. Bielema was asked about it again Monday and he made it clear that he believes Allen gives his team the best chance to win.
CW: Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams look to be as good as just about any running back duo in the country. What kind of challenges do they pose for Alabama?
HM: The bright spot for Razorback fans has been that even when they have almost no passing game to take some of the pressure off of them, Collins and Williams have managed to put together some decent performances. It seems that Collins is always a shoestring away from turning a five- or six-yard gain into a big play.
CW: The Alabama offense amassed 668 yards of total offense against Kentucky last week. How can the Arkansas defense slow down Alabama’s balanced offensive attack?
HM: The Hogs have been pretty bad on defense all season. They have been better at stopping the run. The best chance Arkansas will have to keep the game close is if they can keep the running game in check and hope for mistakes from McCarron, and both of those things are tall orders.
Prediction: 48-7 Alabama. Honestly, I’m having a hard time not picking a more one-sided score. I think Bielema will have the team ready to play and make a statement going into the bye week, and they will probably start strong like they did against South Carolina. However, I fully expect Alabama to control every aspect of the game, and I’m not sure Arkansas can fight through that mentally to make it a competitive game.