College preview: SEC heats up Saturday with Alabama vs. Arkansas

Arkansas’ T.J. Hammonds scores a touchdown during the Razorbacks’ 52-10 victory over Alcorn State.
Arkansas’ T.J. Hammonds scores a touchdown during the Razorbacks’ 52-10 victory over Alcorn State. AP

No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) at No. 16 Arkansas (4-1, 0-1 SEC) (6 p.m. Saturday, ESPN): Alabama started slow last week against Kentucky but rebounded to win 34-6. This week’s trip to Arkansas kicks off a rough stretch for the defending champs. The Crimson Tide hopes to survive an upset-starved Razorbacks squad, then in the following three weeks they will face the gauntlet of No. 9 Tennessee on the road, No. 8 Texas A&M at home and LSU on the road. Alabama’s hopes of repeating could be dashed in the next month, or the Crimson Tide could prove again to be an unstoppable force.

No. 25 Virginia Tech (3-1, 1-0 ACC) at No. 17 North Carolina (4-1, 2-0 ACC) (2:30 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8): North Carolina is still riding high following an upset win at Florida State last week. Now the Tar Heels have a chance to get a quality win against an ACC Coastal Division challenger. The Hokies’ lone loss came to Tennessee, but Virginia Tech is a balanced team, solid on offense and defense. Former Mansfield player Jerod Evans, a transfer quarterback for Virginia Tech, has thrown for 970 yards and 13 touchdowns this season. North Carolina has won four straight games after falling to Georgia in the first week of the season.

Playoff watch

No. 2 Ohio State (4-0, 1-0 Big Ten): Ohio State has a big win against Oklahoma on its résumé, but the Buckeyes don’t have many true challenges on their upcoming schedule. Ohio State beat Rutgers 58-0 last week and should dispatch Indiana this week. If Alabama wins its big upcoming games, the Crimson Tide will reclaim the top spot.

No. 3 Clemson (5-0, 2-0 ACC): After surviving a second-half push from Louisville, Clemson has leapt back into the playoff picture. Expect few challenges for the Tigers until they visit Florida State on Oct. 29.

No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC): Alabama keeps winning. This week, we will get to see how the Crimson Tide defense stacks up against a quality conference opponent when QB Austin Allen leads the upset-minded Razorbacks at home.

No. 6 Houston (5-0, 2-0 American): Houston still has a shot to make the playoff, but Washington’s decisive win against Stanford last week put some pressure on the Cougars to keep winning big. There is also a chance Louisville could beat the Cougars late in the season to give the ACC a shot to land two teams in the playoff.