Texas A&M Football: Aggies Can Make a Statement vs. Reeling Arkansas Razorbacks
Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
The buildup to Texas A&M's SEC opener was more than one year in the making, but the game itself didn't live up to the hype if you're an Aggie fan.
The Aggies followed up a strong first half with a second-half fade that saw the potent A&M offense total just 49 yards and the defense surrender the final 13 points en route to a 20-17 loss to the Gators.
That's nothing to be ashamed of. If we've learned anything during the first month of the season, it's that Florida is a legitimate SEC East contender and much better than most preseason publications predicted.
While the Aggies would have probably preferred to have made headlines with a win over the Gators, a bigger statement would be made with a win over the Arkansas Razorbacks this weekend.
It's simple, Arkansas' struggles have opened the door for the rest of the SEC West to walk on through and take over the No. 3 spot in the West pecking order.
The Aggies are 13.5-point favorites over the Razorbacks according to VegasInsider.com. Raise your hand if you saw that coming in August (put your hand down...no you didn't).
If Texas A&M wants to play big-boy football, it needs to take care of teams that it should beat. That's exactly what Arkansas is at this point.
The battle for the spot to become Alabama and LSU's primary contender in the SEC West is wide open.
Mississippi State is 4-0, but only the 28-10 win over Auburn is worth noting so far for the Bulldogs. Auburn's defense looked better in the 12-10 loss to LSU, but the Tigers are still 1-3 and searching for answers on offense. Ole Miss is 3-1 and has shown improvement, but let's hold off on anointing Hugh Freeze's offense as the next big thing until after the Alabama game on Saturday.
Considering how the first month of the season turned out, that label should go to the Aggies.
The offense sputtered in the second half vs. Florida, but we saw what it was capable of with freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel at the helm. The Aggies currently have the SEC's fourth-best offense at 462.3 YPG, and the defense has been surprisingly solid as well, giving up just 279.7 YPG.
Will that continue this weekend?
While Razorback head coach John L. Smith takes the majority of the criticism in Fayetteville, Arkansas' biggest problems—pass blocking and defense—remain from a year ago.
The Hogs are giving up a whopping 458.8 yards per game, which certainly will raise the eyebrows of Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury.
The Aggies currently lead all SEC schools with 16 sacks, despite playing one fewer game after its opener vs. Louisiana Tech was postponed due to Hurricane Isaac. Defensive end Damontre Moore leads all SEC defenders with six sacks and eight tackles for loss.
Who will win this weekend?
Texas A&M's strengths play into Arkansas' weaknesses, which makes this matchup very intriguing.
Saturday is a perfect opportunity for Texas A&M to rid itself of the "soft" label and take care of a fragile opponent.
It's a game that the Aggies should win, and based on what it would mean moving forward, one that it needs to win as well.
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