Arkansas-Texas A&M Preview
Much of the talk about this week's Arkansas-Texas A&M game has centered on the historical angle of the old Southwest Conference rivals.
The chance to renew an old rivalry at a neutral site for a ten year series, especially in the hotbed for high school blue-chippers that is north Texas and the Dallas area was a golden opportunity for both programs.
There are currently twenty or so Texans on the Arkansas roster and Bobby Petrino is on record as having a desire to increase that number. Assuming the Texas Longhorns get the lions share of the top players instate and the Aggies get their share, there are still plenty of big time players up for grabs.
Of course, OU has mined Texas talent for many years and is a strong presence in the Lonestar State, in large part due to the Red River rivalry annually held around the Texas State Fair.
Now that the Hogs have an annual game in the Dallas metroplex, that along with the new ESPN contract and the Hogs new-found passing prowess give UA a chance to expand recruiting greatly in Texas.
As for the inaugural game of the Southwest Classic, winning this game would be an important step for increasing the Hogs presence in the area. Not only that, but winning this game is crucial to the teams' chances to go to a bowl.
With Auburn, Florida and Ole Miss looming on the schedule the next three weeks, a loss Saturday and the Hogs could be looking at a disastrous 1-6 start.
A win, on the other hand could give the Razorbacks a shot of confidence that could put the team around the .500 mark halfway throughout the 2009 season.
Green Day's song Wake Me Up When September Ends could be the Hogs' theme song for the opening month of the season. Now it's a new month and time to think of the Texas band Blue October. Putting opponents in a funk this month is the goal.
So, having said that, what do the Hogs need to do to get back in the win column for the first time since Labor Day weekend?
1. Cut the penalties drastically, especially on offense where the Hogs have had way too many flags putting the team in a long yardage hole. Most of the 3rd downs have been 3rd and 10 or longer. Protecting Ryan Mallett on 3rd and 5 as opposed to 3rd and 20 is much easier.
2. Run the ball with Michael Smith, Ronnie Wingo and Broderick Green. The Hogs have fallen in love with Mallett's arm strength a little too much thus far.
3. Play run defense more consistently. The last two weeks against Georgia and Alabama, the run defense was good 90% of the time but yielded long touchdowns each game.
4. Find someone who can play the ball in the air in the secondary. Or the man. Or anyone who can occasionally break up a long pass, even if it means committing a penalty. The Hogs last pair of opponents looked like they were playing against air when the ball was thrown deep.
5. Try Andru Stewart or Darius Winston for No. 5. How much worse could they get burned than the starters? On that front, I notice a certain cornerback who has been vocal about A.J. Green and Julio Jones has been quiet this week. Maybe Bobby Petrino has discovered one of the many uses for duct tape.
6. Don't get caught up in all the hype about the Cowboys' new palace. "I've never been in the Taj Mahal" Petrino said this week. Any player who is caught watching the huge replay screen will probably be watching himself get a tongue lashing as soon as he gets to the sidelines.
7. Run the ball some more. Texas A&M runs a hurry up no huddle spread offense, so keep possession of the ball over 30 minutes and keep the defense off the field.
The Hogs aren't likely to correct all the problems of the last two games overnight and the Aggies have a good pass rush, but running the ball right at that stud end will take care of a lot of ills.
I don't know about A&M strength and conditioning program, but this game should see some dividends from Jason Veltkamp's grueling summer workouts on what could be a hot day.
Hopefully, the fact that the Hogs have played a pair of SEC teams the last two weeks as opposed to Texas A&M's schedule, which seemed to include every cupcake this side of Hostess, will make a difference. UA's last two foes are 7-1. A&M 's are 2-7.
Utah State, 1-3 with a win over Southern Utah, compiled 31 first downs, 521 total yards and 30 points on the Aggies with a running back who had 13 carries for 121 yards as the Ags held on for a 38-30 win.
In any event, one record that should fall is the series high 59 combined points for an Arkansas-Texas A&M game.
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