Arkansas Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Texas A&M

James Brown@@chasingballgameSenior Analyst ISeptember 27, 2012

Arkansas Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. Texas A&M

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    The Arkansas Razorbacks enter Week 5 with nothing to lose.

    When the Razorbacks travel to play against Texas A&M in Week 5 they will be trying to secure a victory for the first time in three weeks.

    That is easier said than done as the motivated Aggies will be looking for their first win since becoming a member of the SEC. The Aggies will be motivated by revenge after suffering a difficult loss a year ago to the Razorbacks.

    If the Razorbacks have any hopes of winning this game then they will need to focus on several key areas leading up to game-time.

Overcome Injuries

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    The Razorbacks have had to deal with injuries all season long and that trend will unfortunately continue for this game.

    Running back Dennis Johnson is suffering from migraines but has returned to practice. Johnson will most likely play in this game, but that cannot be said for three other key members of the football team.

    It was reported today via Twitter that Arkansas starters Chris Gragg, Eric Bennett and Tevin Mitchel are out against Texas A&M with injuries.

    Arkansas starters Chris Gragg, Eric Bennett and Tevin Mitchel are out against Texas A&M with injuries.

    — Matt Jones (@NWAMatt) September 27, 2012


    Mitchell is no surprise as he is recovering from a serious injury, but he will be missed along with Gragg who is a big target on offense.

    The Razorbacks need to get several players step up in their absence if they hope to win this game.  

Embrace the Underdog Role

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    The entire world has witnessed the Razorbacks' collapse and now there are low expectations for Arkansas for the rest of the season.

    It has gotten so bad that the latest football odds have the Razorbacks as two-touchdown underdogs. The Razorbacks need to embrace this role and play with the mindset that no one respects or believes in them.

    The football consensus picks for this game show just how bad it is for this team. Over 78 percent of the betting public is backing the Aggies in this game as they predict a blowout for the home team. This is not surprising with the recent play on the field.

    The Razorbacks can twist this perception and use it for motivation heading into this week.

Get Defensive

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    The Razorbacks have played horribly all season long, but if there is one unit that is under serious scrutiny—it's the defense.

    Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel is on a hot streak coming into this game and is directly responsible for 11 touchdowns in the last two games.

    Manziel should be thrilled to face a Hogs secondary that is last in the SEC in defending the pass. This Achilles heel of the Razorbacks allowed Rutgers' Gary Nova to put up almost 400 yards last week.

    The Razorbacks defense needs to step up to the plate and play aggressive football.

    Tyler Wilson and the offense can score against this defense, but if the Hogs defense doesn’t do its part then it will be a long day for the Razorbacks.

Coaching Has to Improve

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    The John L. Smith experiment is a failure.

    It is easy to feel bad for Smith with his recent off-the-field troubles and his sad sack appearance, but he is not the right fit for this program.

    Smith often comes off as more of a cheerleader than a head coach, and the rest of the coaching staff appears to be just as incompetent.  

    Paul Petrino has been under fire all year long for his play-calling. The play-calling has been inconsistent and perplexing throughout the season.

    The Razorbacks will have to get some sort of help from the coaching staff in order to have a chance of winning this game.

Establish the Run

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    Tyler Wilson is back under center and is getting better and better with each game.

    Last week against Rutgers, Wilson posted 419 yards and three touchdowns and renewed his chemistry with wide receiver Cobi Hamilton.

    Hamilton produced a SEC record 303-receiving yard day and is the go-to-guy on this offense.

    That combination will be even deadlier if the Hogs can run the rock.

    Knile Davis has yet to have a breakout performance, and the Razorbacks are dead last in the SEC in rushing offense. The Hogs have to get Davis started early and often if they want to stay in this game.

    The Razorbacks can win this game, but they will need to execute in several key areas. Up to this point in the season, the Razorbacks have failed miserably, but perhaps now is the time they play up to their potential.

    What do they have to lose?

    James Brown is a B/R featured columnist and can be followed on Twitter. Feel free to contact James at He also is a contributor at Bookie Blitz, a sports picks website.