Texas A&M vs. Arkansas: Complete Game Preview
The Texas A&M football team improved its record to 4-0 with a 58-6 victory over SMU. The Aggies will take on the 3-1 Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
The Aggies are ranked No. 7 in the coaches poll. Arkansas is out to prove that it is a better team than the 2013 version that lost all eight of its conference games after going 3-1 in nonconference play.
This game will showcase diverging theories on offense, with the Aggies' no-huddle spread versus the Razorbacks plodding rushing game. Texas A&M wants to run as many offensive plays as possible in order to wear a defense out.
Arkansas wants to grind out yardage with the running game, control the clock and wear the defense down by physically overpowering them.
The Aggies are looking to improve to 2-0 in the SEC and move into contention for the SEC title. The Razorbacks are trying to even their conference record and remind the world that this is not a repeat of 2013.
This is a look at how the Aggies and Razorbacks match up.
Texas A&M's Keys to Victory
If the Aggies want to beat Arkansas, then they need to stop the Razorbacks running game, protect the ball on offense and execute on third downs. If the Aggies can protect the football and force Arkansas to pass on offense, they will leave Arlington with a win.
Arkansas is averaging 362 yards rushing per game and 7.9 yards per carry, which is a result of having three excellent running backs. Head coach Bret Bielema wants to win games with a strong running game on offense and a tough defense.
Arkansas attempted only 12 passes in a 49-28 win over Texas Tech. That will likely be their game plan against the Aggies. It is extremely important that the Texas A&M linebackers tackle well against Arkansas.
If the Aggie linebackers play well, then the defense will be able to control the Arkansas running game. If the linebackers struggle to get off blocks and make tackles, then the Aggies will be in for a long day against the Razorbacks.
Arkansas allows 251 yards passing per game. Aggie quarterback Kenny Hill should be able to move the ball in the air against the Razorbacks, and he'll need to make good decisions and protect the football.
If the Aggie defense is able to force Arkansas into passing situations, then Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall should be able to pressure Brandon Allen and get off the field on third down.
Arkansas' Keys to Victory
Arkansas is going to try to control the clock on offense and keep the Aggies offense on the sideline. If the Razorbacks want to beat A&M, they will need to have a great day running the football.
The Razorbacks will need to rush for at least 250 yards against the Aggies and convert on third downs in order to extend drives. If they can run the ball effectively, they will be able to keep the pressure off their quarterback Brandon Allen, and they will be able to employ some play-action passes into their offense.
Defensively, the Razorbacks have to stop the run and put some pressure on Kenny Hill. Senior defensive end Trey Flowers will need to have a big game against the Aggies offensive line. He has had 22 tackles with four tackles for loss and a sack in 2014.
Sophomore defensive tackle Taiwan Johnson has been the Razorbacks' most effective pass-rusher with five tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks on the season.
If the Razorbacks can control the clock with their offense and put pressure on Kenny Hill while on defense, they should win the game.
Texas A&M Players to Watch
The most important player on the field for the Aggies against Arkansas will be middle linebacker Jordan Mastrogiovanni. If Mastrogiovanni is able to fill the gaps and tackle against Arkansas, then the Aggies should win the game.
Sophomore outside linebacker Shaan Washington is also a player to keep and eye on. The 6'3", 230-pound athlete gives the Aggies a physical presence at the position, and he will need to play well against the Razorbacks offensive line.
Freshman wide receiver Ricky Seals-Jones should present a physical mismatch for the Arkansas secondary. He should have a big game against a Razorbacks defense that has been susceptible to the pass.
Freshman defensive end Myles Garrett will also be a good gauge for the success of the A&M defense. If he has a good game, then it means that the Aggies were able to shut down the run and force Arkansas to pass. If he is ineffective, then Arkansas was probably able to run the ball, and the defense struggled.
Arkansas Players to Watch
The Razorbacks have a dynamic duo at running back that defines their team. Sophomore Alex Collins has rushed for 490 yards and five touchdowns on the season. Junior running back Jonathan Williams has rushed for 391 yards and seven touchdowns in four games.
Both Collins and Williams will compete for All-SEC honors at running back in 2014. They will need to have success running the ball against the Aggies if Arkansas is going to win.
Collins is a speed back who is a threat to score every time he touches the football. Williams is more of a power runner who will break tackles and try to run through people.
The Arkansas offensive line has allowed one sack on the season. Part of that is good play by the Razorbacks offensive line and part of that is that Arkansas has only attempted 80 passes in four games. For comparison, the Aggies attempted 60 passes against South Carolina.
What They Are Saying
Texas A&M sophomore defensive tackle Jay Arnold on playing SMU:
Our job is to go out there and play the best football we can. We cannot help anything else. Just play the best we can play. There were some questions about what they would do, but overall we prepared for what we know.
Kevin Sumlin on what the team needs to work on:
The things we are continuing to work on are our penalties, our turnover margin has to improve and third downs. We accomplished some things but have areas to improve in.
Arkansas defensive coordinator Robb Smith on the improvement on that side of the ball, via Allie Raymond of ArkansasRazorbacks.com:
There’s no question we’re improving. It’s small and it’s gradual, but I think our guys have embraced Coach Bret Bielema’s 1-0 attitude. If we can keep improving on a daily basis that's when you really get better as a defense. There’s some highs and lows from last week. We have to improve on the lows and maintain the things we did well. If we can do that, we’ll be a better football team and a better defense on a weekly basis.
*Texas A&M quotes taken from SMU postgame press conference.
The Razorbacks do not have the pass rush or the secondary to slow down the Aggies offense. If the Aggie linebackers tackle well, then the Aggies will beat Arkansas by multiple scores. If the Aggies have poor play at linebacker, then the game will be a shootout.
This is the biggest challenge for the Aggies since they opened the season against South Carolina. Fans should expect the Aggies offense to be sharp and the defense to come out and play inspired football.
The Aggies will beat the Razorbacks 45-27 to move to 2-0 in the SEC.