The Texas A&M football team will take on the Arkansas Razorbacks at Kyle Field on Saturday. The game will mark the first conference contest between the two schools since 1991, when both schools were members of the now-defunct Southwest Conference.
This contest pits two teams going against each other who are currently headed in opposite directions. The Aggies enter the game on a two-game winning streak after overwhelming SMU and South Carolina State in consecutive weeks. They have a 2-1 record on the season.
Arkansas is 1-3 and has lost three consecutive games. The Arkansas program is in disarray after losing their head coach in the offseason and their starting quarterback to a concussion in their second game.
Both the Aggies and the Razorbacks are 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference. This game is a West division contest and neither team can afford to lose it if it wants to qualify for a bowl game.
This is a look at five keys to the game for the Aggies to beat Arkansas.
The Aggie offense has started slowly the last two games, but needs to jump on the Razorbacks early. Arkansas is like a wounded animal right now. The players are looking for a reason to give up hope on the season.
The Ags need to come out of the gate and score and kill any hope Arkansas has of stealing a victory on the road. The offense needs to hit a big play early and demoralize the Hogs defense. If Arkansas has success early, the game could become a dog fight.
Arkansas has a lot of skill-position talent, and with Tyler Wilson at quarterback, it is as dangerous an offense as any team in the country.
A&M needs to score early to create doubt in the minds of the Arkansas' players, and apply pressure to the Razorback offense to make it think it needs to take some chances to keep up.
Arkansas running back Knile Davis is one of the most talented running backs in the country. He has struggled to get going this season after missing the 2011 season with an injury.
Davis is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry so far in 2012. The Ags need to shut him and the rest of the Arkansas running backs down and force the Arkansas offense to become one-dimensional.
Arkansas head coach John L. Smith would love nothing more than to control the clock with the running game and keep the Aggie offense on the sidelines. It is very important for the Aggies to control the line of scrimmage on defense and prevent Davis, Ronnie Wingo and Dennis Johnson from running all over the Ags.
This goes along with getting an early score. If the Aggies can force turnovers, especially early in the game, they can gain a lot of momentum and kill the will of the Razorbacks. Arkansas is looking for a reason to give up. The Ags need to give them that reason.
The Texas A&M and Arkansas defenses have each only forced one turnover this season. Whoever wins the turnover battle in this game is likely to win the game. Forcing turnovers creates momentum, and the Aggies do not want to give the Razorbacks any momentum in this game.
While the Aggie defense needs to force turnovers, the offense cannot afford to make any. The Aggie offense is running the spread passing scheme but have only committed one turnover in three games.
With a redshirt freshman quarterback running a passing scheme, that is somewhat of a statistical anomaly. At some point, Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel is likely to have a bad game and commit multiple turnovers.
The Ags just have to hope it is not this weekend against an Arkansas team that is just waiting to quit on the season.
The Arkansas offensive line has been suspect during the first four games. The Aggies currently lead the nation in sacks.
The A&M defense does not need to get a bunch of sacks against Arkansas, but it needs to consistently apply pressure to him.
Damontre Moore and his teammates need to consistently get a pass rush and make Wilson uncomfortable. They cannot give him time to sit back there and pick apart a secondary that has not proven it can stop a good passing attack yet.
In their previous game against Arkansas, wide receiver Cobi Hamilton had 303 yards receiving and three touchdowns. The Ags need to make Wilson scramble so he will not have time to find Hamilton against the Ags secondary.
The Aggies have employed a soft zone scheme during their first three games. They will not be successful against the Razorbacks if they cannot apply pressure to Wilson.