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By Michael Casagrande, sports@timesfreepress.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Mark Ingram could not fight it. The urge to smile was much too strong when Alabama's leading rusher heard the question of the day.

Yes, he saw Arkansas lose a 52-41 football track meet with Georgia on Saturday night.

"Yeah, they gave up a lot of points," the sophomore running back said with a reluctant grin. "I don't know. I think they are a pretty good team."

Arkansas (1-1) will be Alabama's first Southeastern Conference opponent of the season Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy likened the wins over Sun Belt Conference schools Florida International and North Texas the past two Saturdays to "preseason games" after a season-opening win over then- No.7 Virginia Tech.

"We played good teams, but none of those games in the past three weeks helped us toward our goals," he said. "The first goal being winning a conference championship, and in order to do that, we have to beat Arkansas this week."

McElroy also said the Razorbacks defense was better than Saturday's scoreboard indicated. Georgia simply found a way to hit on big play after big play while rolling up 530 yards in Fayetteville. Stretching the field will be a big part of the Alabama game plan, McElroy said, which should be aided by the expected return of wide receiver Julio Jones following a knee bruise.

Alabama coach Nick Saban didn't directly address the big numbers Georgia posted Saturday. He did point to the experience Arkansas returned on defense that included nine starters from last season and its entire front four.

Giving up such big chunks of yardage to the opposition meant Arkansas needed big offensive days to keep up. Quarterback Ryan Mallett, a Michigan transfer, gave Arkansas that jolt by leading the offense to more than 1,000 total yards in the first two games of the season.

Crimson Tide linebacker Rolando McClain did not see the ESPN telecast of the Arkansas loss to Georgia, but he did catch some of the highlights.

"They have a good offense and they score a lot of points," he said. "But they haven't played us.

"We do a good job of stopping people from scoring points. That's what a defense does. We're not overwhelmed by the points that they score. We just focus on us and do what we do."

That Tide defense ranks third nationally overall, second against the run and 31st in pass efficiency.

Alabama cornerback Javier Arenas came away impressed from watching Mallett for the first time.

"I was pretty astonished at how confident the quarterback was," Arenas said of the Razorback whose 193.49 passing efficiency leads the nation. "I didn't know of him before this point. But, I mean, he's an excellent quarterback and he came as a surprise to me, because I've never seen him before."

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