Photo by Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Arkansas (16) vs Texas A&M (7) will meet in AT&T stadium for the Southwest Classic in a pivotal top 20 SEC West matchup. Notably,
the Aggies ride into this game boasting a 9 win streak against the Hogs, however, most matchups over the past decade have been very close.
Arkansas is spearheaded by a multidimensional run game offensively and solid veteran defense. The Hogs are going to look to stop the run early and to put pressure on Zach Calzada. filling in for an injured Haynes King. Diamonds are formed with pressure and this will be a true testament to how good this Arkansas team really is.
The running game for this Arkansas team is no secret; there is a reason they are top 10 in the country for rushing yards. The game against Texas earlier in the season only put an exclamation point on how deep the Arkansas backfield is. The Hogs ran for 333 yards while not having a single player rush over 100 yards. Trelon Smith, Dominique Johnson, Rocket Sanders, AJ Green, KJ Jefferson, and Malik Hornsby all contributed to that total while having a 15+ yard rush each.
The biggest question on this Arkansas offense is what happens when the run game is stopped? With Coach Sam Pittman’s background as an O-Line coach. It is no surprise that Arkansas is able to rush for over 280 yards per game. The passing offense has looked a bit shaky at times, but reliable.
This is arguably the biggest game sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson will have played in, especially away from Fayetteville. KJ has shown a bit of everything so far in his early career; he has the ability to load up and throw a tight spiraling deep ball while still able to make plays with his legs. KJ has the explosiveness and weapons needed to be an elite quarterback, but at times this year he has looked a bit shaky. I expect A&M to try to keep the Hogs running game in check.
Defensively, Arkansas showcases a solid unit capable of containing high powered offenses in every form. The Arkansas run defense is unforgiving to say the least. Grant Morgan and Jalen Catalon set the tone and simply just get it done. Elite Texas RB Bijan Robinson was held to just 69 yards on the matchup earlier in the season. With A&M’s offensive line woes, I don’t look for Spiller or Achane to have a big day. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom is as good of a coordinator as anyone in the country, and I expect a heavy box all game forcing the inexperienced Calzada to come through for A&M.
TEXAS A&M OUTLOOK:
This game is very winnable for A&M if the offense can alleviate pressure off of Zach Calzada and stop the mind numbing Arkansas rushing attack. The Aggies defense is headlined by highly touted names. such as DeMarvin Leal and Leon O’Neal, while having Isaiah Spiller, Devon Achane, Jalen Wydermyer, and Ainias Smith to set the offensive tone. Based off of pure star power Arkansas is outmatched, but if Calzada can’t get the ball in their hands it will not matter.
I expect Arkansas to bring a great amount of pressure, which will leave their achilles heel from the 2020 matchup Jalen Wydermyer in the one on one situations he thrives in. The Aggies bolster one of the best backfields not only in the SEC, but in the entire country. Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane have rushed for 453 yards with only 70 carries averaging an eye popping 6.5 YPC.
The Aggie defense is no doubt an elite unit, allowing the fewest points per game in the country. Are they ready for SEC offenses? They not only have the fewest allowed PPG and also the number 1 passing defense in the country, but how are the Aggies allowing 162 rushing yards per game with opponents such as Kent St. Colorado, and New Mexico?
Once again, I cannot emphasize enough that this game will be won at the line of scrimmage. Both rushing offenses will be crucial in leaving Arlington with a win. Arkansas is expected to be without All-SEC center Ricky Stromberg and Dalton Wagner, but with Pittman’s O-Line prowess the Hogs are loaded with talent. The Aggies impact player Ainias Smith suffered an undisclosed injury last week in the New Mexico game, but is expected to play Saturday.
I honestly can’t lean one way or another on the offensive edge. A&M has the bigger names, but the Hogs are deeper with a better offensive line. I think it will be a tight game all the way to the end, but attrition will set in and Arkansas will squeak by in a nailbiter.
The current line for the game has Arkansas as +5.5 with an over/under of 47.5. Past contests have shown this will be a high scoring game so I’m pretty favorable on the over. I have already locked in the Arkansas ML!
PREDICTION: Arkansas 31 Texas A&M 28
Woo Pig Sooie Written by Devon Sexton