Four Keys To Arkansas Defeating Texas A&M

On Saturday, all eyes will be on AT&T Stadium and Arlington, Texas, as the Razorbacks and Aggies meet in the annual Southwest Classic for a 6-pm kickoff. This season’s game will have a different feel as the Razorbacks will come in as a top 10 team and the favorite. Notably, they have not been since the 2011 season. The Hogs and Aggies know the importance of starting the SEC season with a win and know it will have to be earned. In what has already been an exciting 2022 season, can these two teams create even more craziness? What is the history of these two schools? What are the keys to the Razorbacks walking out of the game as winners for the second consecutive season? Can the Razorbacks apply pressure to the Aggies and get their first SEC win of the season?

History Between Two Schools

This season will be the 79th meeting between these two programs dating back to 1903. Arkansas leads the overall series with a 42-33-3 record. The series began its run in AT&T Stadium in the 2009 season under the name “Southwest Classic” in Arlington, Texas.  This was the first meeting between these two schools since the 1991 season. In 2012, when the Aggies joined the SEC, they would begin to control the Hogs and win the first nine games, with three going into overtime in 2014, 2015, and 2017. The 2014 and 2015 overtime games were the first two between these two schools. Emphatically, the 2017 overtime classic featured a series record of 93 points combined between these adversaries. As a result, Texas A&M would go on the win all three of these teams’ engagements. Subsequently, the games mentioned above would make three in four years for these bitter adversaries.

In these conference rivals’ most recent contest, Arkansas would come away with a 20-10 win over the Aggies on September 25th, 2021. This season’s challenges for the Hogs don’t get any easier this Saturday. Can the Razorbacks make the 350-mile trip back to Fayetteville smiling through their tusks?   For Arkansas to close the gap of the Aggies’ 4-6 series lead in Arlington, they will have to do a few things to head back to Fayetteville with their first “trophy” of 2022. What will Sam Pittman and the razorbacks take to complete challenge four this season? Let’s look at three keys to a Razorbacks win in Arlington.

Four Keys to a Razorbacks Win

1. Run ‘Rocket’ Run

Obviously, this seems relatively simple, right? Just run the ball. Unquestionably we all know that the game of football, especially at the SEC level, is not this easy. For Arkansas, they, in a way, have it easy when it comes to sophomore running back Raheim Sanders. Sanders has taken the nation by storm by rushing for 440 yards in just three games. To demonstrate this, the yardage for Sanders has earned him the SEC leading rusher and number four rusher in the nation coming into this week. Sander’s 146.6 yards per game also garners the SEC lead and a number three national ranking.

Sanders wears the number five on his jersey, and to the Fayetteville faithful, that holds high standards. The standards of some legends on the hill. Without reservation, Sanders has already reached names such as Jonathan Williams and Alex Collins as he is the first rusher since the 2013 season to rush for one hundred yards in his first three games. They may not want to light the rocket for an Aggie defense that ranks one hundred and twelfth in the nation in rush defense. When you light this fuse, the number five rocket makes significant noise. This will undoubtedly be the number on key for the Hogs Saturday evening, The number two ranked rushing team and tenth nationally may run hog wild in ‘Jerry World.’ The running game will be one of Arkansas’s primary keys this week.

2. Pass With Precision

The defense of Texas A&M has not allowed any of the three teams they have faced throw the ball with any success. The Aggies’ defense averages 147.3 yards passing per game, ranking them second in the SEC and ninth nationally. Arkansas will need to utilize the weapons for their junior quarterback, KJ Jefferson, such as tight end Trey Knox, wide receivers Matt Landers and Ketron Jackson, to get the ball and make it in the open field. Jefferson has thrown with accuracy this season as he is 74/125 for seven hundred and seventy yards with six touchdowns and one interception. The average of these numbers comes to 70.5 percent in 2022 thus far. The Arkansas offense will have to be crisp to get past the Aggies. Another key to the Pittman Effect is his offensive line tutelage. The Razorbacks came into the 2022 season with a combined one hundred and thirty-six starts between Dalton Wagner, Ricky Stromberg, Brady Latham, and Beaux Limmer. For the Hogs to get a win Saturday, the line must protect Jefferson for this high-powered offense to light the Aggies up. If this Kendall Briles offense can continue their six in the SEC and fifty-fourth nationally ranked passing ranking, we may have a classic on our hands. Out of these four keys for Arkansas, this one will be the most interesting to see if they can complete.

3. Pressure Up Front

Arkansas comes into this game with the rankings of thirteenth in the SEC and one hundred and fifth nationally in total defense. For defensive coordinator Barry Odom, this needs to be fixed. The most important part of this tenacious defense is in the trenches. The Razorbacks do one thing: get after the quarterback and do it in masses. To illustrate this, the Hogs average 5.7 sacks per game which sit at number one in the SEC and nationally. Just in the offensive line portion of this unit, three players in, Jordan Dominick, Landon Jackson, and Zach Williams, average 7.5 sacks a game.

Then you get the heart and soul of the Odom defense in Fayetteville. The linebackers for the team are the core of the Razorbacks. Alabama transfer Drew Sanders is flying around the field with bad intentions. Sanders is averaging a game of 6.5 tackles and 5.5 sacks with 28 tackles on the season. Sanders was named Walter Camp and SEC defensive player of the week after the Hogs’ week two win over South Carolina. The Hogs are licking their tusks when they look across the field and see an Aggie offense that ranks fourteenth in the SEC and one hundred and tenth in the nation. With the pressure mentioned above, the Aggies’ average of 1.5 will need to surpass this challenge in week four. This week, the pressure for Arkansas is the easiest out of these four keys.

4. Close The Swiss Army Knife

Aggie head coach Jimbo Fisher said that wide receiver. Ainias Smith was a ‘Swiss Army Knife type of player, and he is. The Senior has put up video game-like numbers in 2022. Smith has 164 yards and two touchdowns of 40 or more yards. As well as, a four-catch 74-yards performance against Miami last week. He is also a special team weapon that you must tackle cleanly. Of these four keys for Arkansas, this one may be the most challenging to accomplish on Saturday.

It will be a much-needed boost for a banged-up Arkansas secondary to get star nickel back Myles Slusher back from injury this week. Slusher, injured in week one against Cincinnati, paired with Georgia transfer, Latavious Brini, will look to keep the weapon at bay in the secondary. This will take an entire defensive unit to stop Smith. He is many different prongs wrapped into one. All three phases of the defense must play and tackle soundly. The Aggie headman will use Smith on Saturday, and he is a gameplan all-in-one.

Surely, if Arkansas accomplishes these four keys in Arlington, I believe they will come home with a victory. Arkansas Razorbacks’ history isn’t much more important than Texas A&M. This series has seen some absolute classics over its history, and the challenge of 2022 may create another.