Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: Previewing the Aggies' Matchup with the Hogs

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Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: Previewing the Aggies' Matchup with the Hogs
Bob Levey/Getty Images

The No. 13 Texas A&M Aggies will take on the No.14 Arkansas Razorbacks in a non-conference showdown at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Saturday.

The Aggies were announced as the 13th member of the Southeastern Conference on Monday, and this game will be their last non-conference game against Arkansas since A&M will join the SEC in 2012.

Both schools are coming off a loss with the Aggies dropping a 30-29 game to Oklahoma State, and the Razorbacks losing 38-14 at Alabama.

For the Aggies this matchup is very similar to the OSU team they played last Saturday.

Arkansas features a prolific passing game with an elite group of receivers. The Razorbacks have size and speed like you would expect on any SEC defense.

The Aggies enter the game after the coaching staff abandoned the run in the second half during an OSU comeback victory. A&M had a six-game winning streak in 2010 when they committed to running Cyrus Gray in the second half. The Aggies will need to get back to pounding the football if they want to compete for a conference title in 2011. 

 

When Arkansas is on Offense

Fourth-year junior quarterback Tyler Wilson makes the Arkansas offense go. Wilson is completing almost 67 percent of his passes for 251 yards per game. He has thrown seven touchdowns and three interceptions, filling in admirably for the graduated Ryan Mallett.

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Sledgehammer running back Knile Davis was lost to a leg injury before the season started. Arkansas has good depth at the position though, and junior Ronnie Wingo has replaced Davis in the starting lineup. Wingo has rushed for 260 yards on the year, averaging 4.8 yards per carry with two touchdowns. He also had a 62-yard touchdown run against A&M in 2009.

The Razorbacks probably have the most talented group of wide receivers that the Aggies will face this year. Joe Adams, Jarius Wright, Cobi Hamilton and Greg Childs are as good as any group of receivers in the country.

Hamilton is a deep threat, averaging 19.4 yards per catch with two touchdowns on 14 receptions this season. Adams is a dynamic playmaker who is dangerous with the ball in his hands. Wright is second on the Razorbacks squad with 15 receptions for 197 yards and leads the team with three touchdown catches. Childs only has four catches for 46 yards on the season, but he was one of the best in the country in 2010 before an injury cut his season short.

The Arkansas O-line is solid, but not spectacular. Alabama was able to shut down the Razorbacks' offense by harassing Wilson all day. Arkansas is only averaging 3.9 yards per carry, but that number is skewed by the Alabama game when they were held to just 19 yards on 17 carries.

 

When Texas A&M is on Defense

The Aggies need to shut down the Arkansas running game to make the Razorbacks' offense one-dimensional. A&M has been strong against the run all year, allowing just under two yards per carry.

The Aggies need to be able to get off the field on 3rd-and-short and not let Arkansas extend drives. The fact that Knile Davis will not be there to pound away on the Aggies' defense is a big help.

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The A&M secondary struggled mightily against OSU. The return of starter Coryell Judie from a hamstring injury would help a lot. The bottom line is, the Aggie secondary needs to tackle better, especially against players like Joe Adams.

The Ags will also need to get consistent pressure from their D-line on Tyler Wilson to disrupt the timing of Bobby Petrino's spread offense. 

Sean Porter has stepped up his play at outside linebacker. The junior leads the team with 23 tackles and 3.5 sacks after three games. He should be fully recovered from a virus that caused him to lose 12 pounds during the week leading up to the OSU game.

Sophomore OLB Damontre Moore displayed his talent with a sack against OSU and his immaturity with a needless personal foul. The Aggies will need big games from Porter and Moore against the Razorbacks.

The Ags simply need their secondary to make the simple plays and tackle well. If the secondary can limit the big plays from the Arkansas offense, then the Ags have to like their chances.

 

When Texas A&M is on Offense

The Aggies need to balance the run and the pass like they did the first two games.

Senior QB Ryan Tannehill is completing 67 percent of his passes on the year for just more than 297 yards per game. Tannehill has thrown four interceptions in the last two games and needs to limit turnovers if A&M wants to win.

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The Aggies must commit to run the ball throughout the entire ballgame. A&M has one of the best backfield combinations in the country in Cyrus Gray and Christine Michael, so the coaches need to use them.

Michael averaged more than 10 yards per carry against OSU, but the coaches stopped giving him the ball after the first half. Gray gets better as the game goes on and needs to get 10 or more carries in the second half.

The Aggie O-line has been solid this year and needs to play their best game of the season against a talented, but dinged-up Razorback front seven. The O-line allowed two sacks against OSU, but will need to keep Tannehill upright against Arkansas.

The Aggies did not throw any passes to their tight ends against OSU, abandoning their intermediate passing game. The Ags need to utilize their TEs in the middle of the field to extend drives against the Razorbacks and prevent the Arkansas secondary from sitting on out routes to the wide receivers.

 

When Arkansas is on Defense

The Razorbacks are led by linebackers Jerry Franklin and Alonzo Highsmith Jr.

Franklin leads the Razorbacks with 25 tackles and has 2.5 tackles for loss. Highsmith is the son of former University of Miami and Houston Oiler RB, Alonzo Highsmith. Highsmith is a JUCO transfer who has spent a lot of time in opponents' backfields for the Razorbacks; he leads Arkansas with five tackles for loss.

The Arkansas defensive line is banged up. Starting senior DE Jake Bequette sat out the Alabama game because of injury. He is questionable for the A&M game.

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The Razorbacks lost their other starter at DE when junior Tenarius Wright broke his arm against Alabama and will be out 4-6 weeks.

Sophomore DE Chris Smith has been solid in replacing Bequette, leading Arkansas with 1.5 sacks and is second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss.

The Arkansas secondary is allowing a 59 percent completion rate and 213 yards passing per game. Those are solid numbers with the prevalence of spread offenses today.

 

Special Teams

Joe Adams is one of the best punt returners in the country. He averages 18.1 yards per return and has already taken two back for touchdowns this season.

Coryell Judie is one of the top kick returners in the nation, but his status for the game is still unknown.

Arkansas' Zach Hocker is 3-for-4 on the year for field goals with a long of 32 yards. Dylan Breeding is averaging 43.5 yards per punt for the Razorbacks with five punts of more than 50 yards on the season.

Randy Bullock is 7-for-8 for the Aggies, with a long of 46. Drew Epperson is averaging 40.1 yards per punt for the Aggies with one punt of more than 50 yards.

A&M must play Arkansas to a stalemate in the kicking game if they want to win this game.

 

Prediction

I think the Aggies recover from their loss to OSU and win a shootout with Arkansas 34-31. The Aggies should be able to run on a depleted Arkansas D-line. Ryan Mallett is not back there to evade the rush and then throw a 50-yard bomb down the field anymore. Watch out for blocked kicks by the Arkansas special teams as well.

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