Aggies look to extend their Southwest Classic winning streak to seven in a row against the Razorbacks
The annual Southwest Classic between the Arkansas Razorbacks (1-3, SEC 0-1) and the Texas A&M Aggies (2-2, 0-1) at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, pits current SEC West foes seeking a much-needed win while trying to establish an identity under first-year head coaches. When Bret Bielema ruled the sidelines for the Hogs in a pro-style set and Kevin Sumlin was guiding the Aggies in a spread attack, the opposing styles offered a dynamic showdown for college football fans. While the schemes have flipped under Chad Morris for the Hogs and Jimbo Fisher for A&M, the opposing styles may still give a thrill to the college football faithful.
The Razorbacks struggled on offense last season, averaging 373 total yards per game through the SEC West schedule. Under new offensive guru Morris, with just one SEC game played, the Hogs are averaging 374 yards per game with the likes of Alabama, LSU and Mississippi State still left to play. Between Morris and offensive coordinator Joe Craddock, the Hogs seem confused on which plays to call with the personnel on offense. That confusion held QB Ty Storey to 141 passing yards and one interception against Auburn in a 34-3 loss last time out.
After a strong showing in a 28-26 loss in Week 2 against No. 2 Clemson, the Aggies ran into a buzzsaw on the road against No. 1 Alabama, losing 45-23. On a positive note, the Aggies offense generated 263 passing yards between starter Kellen Mond and backup Nick Starkel. On the downside, the Aggies running backs could muster only 32 yards on 10 carries between Trayveon Williams and Jashaun Corbin. The stat column was bailed out by Mond’s 18 carries for 98 yards and a score.
Arkansas vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, Texas)
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. ET
Where: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Spread: Texas A&M -21
Three Things to Watch
1. Texas A&M’s rushing attack
The Aggies are going to be hard-pressed to win games in the SEC without a rushing attack beyond their dual-threat quarterback. Statistically, Williams is off to a good start with 430 yards gained and four touchdowns, but the stats are padded from contests against Northwestern State and ULM. Against Clemson and Alabama, he posted exactly 31 yards in both games.
The Hogs have the seventh-best run defense in the nation, holding teams to 88 yards per game on average and limited Auburn to 91 yards. The Southwest Classic is a good measuring stick for the Aggies’ offense against their old defensive coordinator John Chavis.
2. Arkansas’ passing offense
Between Ty Storey and Cole Kelley, the Arkansas passing attack is averaging 211 yards per game; that’s the good news. When it counts, though, the Hogs are converting third-down opportunities only 30 percent of the time and have just one red zone passing touchdown this season. Storey has thrown three picks this year, while Kelley has thrown four; there is the rub.
Morris and Craddock are having difficulties adjusting their schemes and play calling to the abilities on the roster. They have an opportunity to turn that around this week. Despite having great talent up front with Landis Durham and Kingsley Keke, the A&M defense is allowing 292 passing yards per game, an opportunity the Hogs need to exploit.
3. The Kellen Mond effect
Kellen Mond is a one-man offensive force of nature capable of taking over games by himself. The knock on Mond last season was his inability to throw accurately. Mond is fourth in the SEC in total passing yards with 1,020 yards, just 13 yards behind Alabama media darling Tua Tagovailoa, with seven touchdowns against two picks. Mond has also upped his completion percentage from 52 a year ago to 59 this season.
If there is a knock on the Razorbacks defense this year, it's pass defense. They are allowing 259 passing yards per game. In years past, they have had trouble stopping running quarterbacks. A year ago, Mond rushed for a team-high 109 yards and threw for 216 yards with two touchdowns in a 50-43 overtime win against Arkansas.
Looking ahead at the schedule, this is a must-win game for A&M, especially against a team seemingly destined for the SEC West cellar. The Aggies get the upstart Kentucky Wildcats next, followed by three road games against South Carolina, Mississippi State and Auburn with home games against Ole Miss, UAB and LSU to wrap up the schedule. Life is not going to get any easier for the Aggies going forward. A win over Arkansas and UAB gets A&M to four wins with two more needed for a bowl game.
The Aggies have won six in a row over the Razorbacks. Look for Jimbo Fisher to add to the streak for A&M with a seventh.
Prediction: Texas A&M 35, Arkansas 10
— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.