Texas A&M football: Why the Aggies can't afford to take Arkansas lightly
Recent history suggests there isn’t much to sweat for Texas A&M this weekend against Arkansas.
The Aggies have dominated the Southwest Classic of late, having won the past eight meetings. If they win Saturday, it will tie for the longest streak in the series.
Vegas, at least, expects that to happen. A&M opened as an 11.5-point favorite, and it seems few people anticipate the Razorbacks being able to pull off the upset. Still, the Aggies have to avoid overlooking Arkansas as a couple of other teams already have this year.
The Razorbacks defense has been dangerous. Just ask Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, who threw 6 interceptions against them. They are allowing just 25.5 points per game (fourth in the SEC) and are forcing 3.3 turnovers (first).
Arkansas is much improved, already at two conference wins after failing to win even one in their past two seasons. This game is by no means a “gimme” for the Aggies. However, if they come away with a convincing victory here as well as in their remaining games, it could help shape the College Football Playoff committee’s opinion of them later in the season.
Kellen Mond will look to avoid suffering the same fate that Corral and Mississippi State quarterback K.J. Costello did against Arkansas. To do that, he’ll have to play mistake-free. He has so far protected the ball well, with only 2 interceptions to 9 touchdowns on the year.
The Aggies will also keep riding Isaiah Spiller. The sophomore running back was second in the SEC in rushing yards prior to the bye week with 430. He might be what works best again this week. As good as Arkansas have been defensively, they rank 11th in the conference in run defense.
A&M also can’t afford to overlook Arkansas offensively. The Razorbacks got off to a slow start, but Feleipe Franks has been efficient as the starting quarterback. Receiver Treylon Burks and running back Rakeem Boyd returned from injury last week, so it’s uncertain whether this team has reached its offensive peak yet.
Regardless, this isn’t an Arkansas team that should catch A&M off guard. That might have been the case early in the season, but the Razorbacks are squarely on everyone’s radar at this point. The real reason A&M needs to have a strong showing is to help themselves.
With no ranked opponents left on the Aggies’ schedule, opportunities to get marquee, resume-building victories likely aren’t going to be available. Even with the victory against Florida, it still feels like there are A&M skeptics. So the Aggies are going to have to convince the committee they are good enough with their play alone.
As improved as Arkansas is, the Aggies shouldn’t have any trouble beating them if they are truly a Playoff contender. They need to leave no doubt about who the better team is on Saturday. That doesn’t necessarily mean a blowout, just a commanding win. The Aggies won in dominating fashion against Mississippi State, but the margin of victory was still only 2 touchdowns.
A&M has a good chance to win out. If they do, a lot of their fate will rest on what happens with other teams. If it comes down to the Aggies and another one-loss SEC team, the committee is clearly going to put weight on the way in which they won.
Plus, you never want to lose a rivalry game.
Regardless, it’s exciting this game features a pair of teams that have put together respectable seasons. Even when Arkansas was atrocious, the games were still close. But this year, with both teams having respectable seasons, there is a lot to look forward to.