The Texas A&M football team is 3-1 and ranked No. 9 in the country. They travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas on Saturday to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in a contest that will tell the nation whether the Aggies are really a top-10 team.
In most years, teams have to be great in all three aspects of football to win a national title; they have to be great on offense, defense and special teams. Sometimes they can get away with just being average in one area, but most years the champion will excel in all three.
Right now, the Aggies are great on offense, average on special teams and terrible on defense. The Texas A&M run defense is among the worst in the nation.
The Aggie defense ranked No. 105 out of 123 FBS teams against the rush. They are allowing 218 yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry. Their inability to get defensive stops is what led to their 49-42 loss to No. 1 ranked Alabama.
The Aggies’ special teams are average. Punter Drew Kaser is having a tremendous year averaging 50.5 yards per punt. The issue is at placekicker.
Sophomore placekicker Taylor Bertolet has missed three extra points and a field goal. He was replaced against SMU after missing consecutive extra points, and his replacement Josh Lambo promptly missed an extra point because of a poor hold.
A&M crushed Arkansas 58-10 last season, but that team shows little resemblance to the Arkansas team that will take the field on Saturday. The Razorbacks are 3-1 and are looking to make a statement at home in their first Southeastern Conference game of the year. They hired Bret Bielema away from Wisconsin and he has tried to mold the Razorbacks in the Badgers image.
Wisconsin featured a powerful running game and a tough defense and through four games, Arkansas has followed suit. The Razorbacks rank No. 23 in the nation with 246 yards rushing per game and average an impressive 5.1 yards per carry.
Although their defense is solid, allowing 289 yards per game, they can be beaten with the pass. They allowed 346 yards and three touchdowns through the air to Rutgers in a 28-24 loss. They have been extremely tough against the run only allowing 93 yards per game and 3.0 yards per rush.
Arkansas is going to try to control the clock with their running game. They will try to hold onto the ball and keep quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies’ explosive offense on the sideline.
Arkansas has two excellent young running backs in freshman Alex Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams. Collins is leading the SEC in rushing with 481 yards through four games. Williams is averaging 104 yards rushing per game and 6.6 yards per carry.
The Aggies will have their hands full trying to stop the Razorback’s tandem of running backs. Fortunately Arkansas does not have much of a passing game. Junior A.J. Derby will start at quarterback for the Hogs and he only averages 86 yards passing per game.
This game will come down to who can win the war in the trenches between the Arkansas offensive line and the Texas A&M defensive line. If the Aggies can limit turnovers and force Arkansas into third and longs, then they will get a big road win.
If Arkansas can force some turnovers and control the clock with their running game, then they will have their first signature win of the Bielema era. Arkansas is a good example of why the SEC is the toughest conference in the country.
They were 4-8 a year ago and lost their top three offensive players to the NFL. The Razorbacks still have enough talent on the roster to put the No. 18 defense in the country.
The Razorbacks constitute a major test for a young Aggie football team. This is a test the Aggies must pass in order to prove that they deserve their top 10 ranking.
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