After an impressive 29-16 win over the Auburn Tigers and a 3-0 start, the road ahead doesn’t look any easier for the Texas A&M Aggies.
For the third year in a row, the #10 Texas A&M Aggies have started the season 3-0. They open conference play with a big win over a key Southeast Conference opponent and have made the case that they are the strongest team in Texas. But that’s not the end game for the Ags, who continue conference play this coming Saturday at AT&T Stadium.
Looking back through Texas A&M-Arkansas history
The #17 Arkansas Razorbacks await them in a Jerry World showdown. For those that may not remember, Texas A&M and Arkansas were conference mates from 1915 to 1991 as members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference, facing each other annually from 1934 until 1991. But despite the last four games going to A&M, the Razorbacks lead the all-time series 41-28-3.
Considering that none of the players involved in this Saturday’s game were even alive in 1991, those results have nothing to do with what will occur in the 2016 Southwest Classic (A fitting name for a classic Southwest Conference Rivalry game).
Looking back recently
Within the last decade, we see a little more balance. Despite the fact that neither team were conference mates until 2012, the two schools began playing annually again in 2009. The Razorbacks got three good shots in to start the revived series.
While that 2009 game wasn’t even close, things evened out the remaining years. In fact, that ’09 game and the 2012 game (won by the Aggies) were the only two true blowouts in that timeframe. These teams typically play each other well, and they typically put up a lot of points when they do. This year’s meeting will most likely continue that new tradition.
Looking back at 2015
If we turn back the clock just roughly a year ago, you’ll remember that the Razorbacks gave the Aggies a heck of a fight in an overtime battle that ended with a 28-21 win for A&M. It was the fourth meeting between the schools since the Aggies joined the SEC, and the Aggies have won them all.
Following that game, Arkansas went on a hot streak. They closed the season by going 7-2, capped with a 45-23 win over Kansas State in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. That streak has extended into this season to give the Razorbacks a nice full head of steam.
Looking forward to Saturday
That brings us to this season. Neither starting quarterback from last season’s game is playing this weekend because they aren’t with their team anymore. However, there are plenty of returning starters at other positions between the teams.
Looking towards Arkansas having the ball
For Arkansas, the biggest offensive player returning is senior wide receiver Drew Morgan. He hauled in eight catches for 155 yards with a touchdown reception last year and he will be the key target for junior quarterback Austin Allen. (Yes, he’s the second straight starting QB for Arkansas named Allen because he’s the younger brother of last year’s starter, Brandon Allen.)
To compliment Morgan, senior Dominique Reed and junior Jared Cornelius also return at wide receiver. Senior tight end Jeremy Sprinkle will also play again. In the 2015 game, Reed and Sprinkle combined for four catches for 24 yards.
On the offensive line, junior guard Frank Ragnow and senior tackle Dan Skipper will both start again for a squad that rushed for 225 yards in last season’s game. And while he didn’t start last season’s game, sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III will be the featured back for the Razorbacks. On the season, he has 71 carries for 354 yards and three touchdowns.
To oppose him, the Aggie defense returns six starters, including senior linebackers Shaan Washington and A. J. Hilliard. The two combined for 19 total tackles last season against Arkansas and will be all over the field this year, too. On the defensive line, sophomore Myles Garrett returns, who had a sack, a forced fumble and two total tackles against the Razorbacks, is this season’s sack leader for Texas A&M. He and junior Daeshon Hall anchor a strong defensive line that will apply a lot of pressure Saturday night.
Looking towards Texas A&M having the ball
Sophomore wide receiver Christian Kirk had a huge game in 2015 against Arkansas. He nabbed eight receptions for 173 yards and two touchdowns and is the early season reception leader for A&M with 18. What bodes well for the Texas A&M Aggies even more, is the fact that three offensive lineman return in seniors Jeremiah Stuckey and Avery Gennesy and sophomore Keaton Sutherland.
For the Arkansas defense, junior defensive end Tevin Beanum, who had a half a sack and four tackles in last season’s game, comes back for this meeting. Senior defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter will also play a key role in applying defensive pressure, especially in the run game.
Looking at the intangibles
Texas A&M Aggies Head Football Coach Kevin Sumlin is 39-16 (.709) in College Station with a lifetime head coaching record of 74-33 (.692). In his head coaching career, he’s 4-0 (1.000) against the Razorbacks, 7-2 (.778) when his team in playing in the Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton area, and 3-0 (1.000) at AT&T Stadium. In other words, good things happen when he brings a team to North Texas, especially Arlington.
Razorback Head Football Coach Bret Bielema is 21-20 (.512) at Arkansas and 89-44 (.669) for his careeras head coach. During that time, he’s 1-2 (.333) when playing in Dallas/Fort Worth/Denton and is 1-1 (.500) at AT&T Stadium.
Looking at the prediction
The offenses are going to trade a lot of passing yards with each other. The Aggies will have more luck penetrating the Arkansas offensive line and will get in for a couple of sacks.
The game will be somewhere around 24-21 at halftime with the Razorbacks in the lead. However, Coach Sumlin will get the Aggies clicking in the second half with a rousing locker room speech and the Texas A&M Aggies will take it with a 45-40 win.