Southwest Classic Preview
The #7 Texas A&M Aggies will open up SEC play on Saturday against the #16 Arkansas Razorbacks. After a crazy week 2. That same day Arkansas took down #15 Texas 40-21, which vaulted the Razorbacks into the top 25. Each team cruised to a blowout win last weekend, setting up a top 20 matchup on Saturday. The game returns to AT&T Stadium after a one year hiatus due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The Aggies won last years matchup 42-31 at Kyle Field in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicates.
The #7 Aggies come into this game riding an 11 game winning overall dating back to last year, and a 9 game head to head winning streak. The Razorbacks enter the annual showdown 3-0 and ranked 16th in the polls. This is the first time since 2016 that both teams have been ranked for this matchup. The #10 Aggies defeated the #17 Razorbacks 45-24 in that matchup. The Aggies are currently 5.5 point favorites for this matchup, with the over/under currently at 47.5. I will have more on this in my betting preview later in the week.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
One of the main players to watch for Texas A&M is quarterback Zach Calzada, Calzada is making his second start for the Aggies. This will be his first real test as a starter. After struggling during the Colorado game, he seemed to find his stride during the game winning drive. A drive which ended with a great touch pass to Isaiah Spiller. Calzada connected on 19/33 passes, for 275 yards and 3 TD’s, including a 70 yard strike to Demond Demas against New Mexico.
Aggie Running Game: Isaiah Spiller, Devon Achane, Ainias Smith
I know this technically is not just one player, but the Aggies have one of the best backfields in the country. The Aggies currently have a rotation of Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane, while mixing in Ainias Smith, who has moved to more of a slot receiver this year. Isaiah Spiller came into this year widely regarded as the best running back in the country. Although through three games he has 250 rushing yards and only one rushing touchdown. Some may see this as a problem, but it seems they have been keeping his touches down. Spiller has also has a receiving touchdown as well. Look for Spiller to have a much higher amount of touches now that SEC play has begun.
The other half of the Aggies dynamic back field is Devon Achane. Achane has shown his world class speed on multiple occasions, the most recent being his 26 yard TD reception against New Mexico. Look for Achane to have a huge day for the Aggies, if they control the line of scrimmage.
I also would not sleep on “Human Flex Position” Ainias Smith to make plays in the running game. Ainias has become electric in the return game. He had 3 electric kick returns in the New Mexico game although only one return actually counted. Ainias has been battling an injury suffered in Saturday’s win, but according to coach Jimbo Fisher, he should be good to go.
The Aggies defense is lead by standout defensive linemen DeMarvin Leal. Leal, a projected top 5 pick in this April’s NFL Draft, is one of the best defensive linemen in the country. He anchors an Aggie defense that is first in total scoring defense and has allowed the fewest passing yards in the nation. Leal will be crucial in the Aggies defensive effort. Arkansas is missing 2 offensive line starters, so expect Leal to have a field day getting after the Razorback quarterback.
Keys to The Game
The Aggies come into this game with the number one ranked scoring defense, allowing 5.9 points per game. They also boast the number one passing defense as well, only allowing 77.3 yards per game. The secondary led by Leon O’Neal will be crucial in this matchup. secondary has been giving the defensive line led by Top 5 draft prospect, DeMarvin Leal plenty of time to get home and pressure the QB. Look for more of the same against a Arkansas offense that is missing 2 starters on the offensive line.
Another key to the game is discipline, the Aggies had a punt return touchdown called back against New Mexico, due to a holding call on Tyreek Chappell. Although the Lobos were not good enough to make the Aggies pay for it, Arkansas will be able to. On Saturday the Aggies committed 6 penalties. This number is not awful, but the type of penalties were.
Line of Scrimmage
The line of scrimmage battle will be crucial in determining the winner of this game. If the Aggies are able to control the offensive line of scrimmage they will win this game handily. The unit led by future top 5 pick Kenyon Green will be crucial in determining the outcome of this game. Although the unit has struggled over the first three games, they will be back to full strength when they take on the Razorbacks on Saturday. As stated earlier, the defensive line should have no problem against a Razorbacks offensive line missing 2 starters.
The spread for this game currently favors the Aggies by 5.5 points, the total is also set at 47.5. If recent history any indication, this game will most likely be a one possession game. In 3 of the last 5 matchups, A&M has won by less than one score. Last years game ended 42-31, but was 42-14 going into the fourth quarter. Recent history has also shown that the last 3 times the Aggies were single digit favorites, they have covered the spread. I expect this game to be a close game going into the fourth quarter. The running game and defense will prove to be too much for the Razorbacks with A&M pulling away late, similar in to the North Carolina game. Give me the Aggies and the points in a 24-13 win.
Gig ’em and BTHOarkansas