Texas A&M football: Southwest Classic always a nail-biter; expect no different in 2020
Texas A&M might not have lost to Arkansas since joining the SEC, but the Aggies have come close quite a few times.
Last year was no exception, as they squeaked out a 31-27 win. Of the eight matchups between the teams since 2012, three have gone to overtime. It doesn’t seem to matter how bad Arkansas is; they always comes ready to play against A&M.
Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said there is a team like that at every stop, and the Razorbacks are his.
“When you get in leagues with people like A&M and Arkansas, you’re like, ‘I gotta play these guys every year?’” Fisher said. “The stigma of playing them if you only play them every so often goes away. You get used to playing them, like somebody at the park that’s beating your brains in and he’s kicking your tail. You say, ‘I’m gonna come up here and play so I can figure out how to beat him.’ You learn the guy and what he does and all those sorts of things. I think that’s what happens here. A&M and Arkansas have played for so many years. It means a lot to the alums and everybody else. It becomes that game.”
The series certainly has provided a lot of entertainment in the past eight years. There was the 2017 overtime game, in which the lead changed four times in the fourth quarter. An interception sealed the victory, 50-43, in that one. The Aggies overcame 2 interceptions from Kellen Mond to win 24-17 in Fisher’s first season in 2018. Last year, A&M built an early lead, but Arkansas stormed back to make it a competitive game before Mond threw the go-ahead touchdown.
This year, there is again a feeling this game could come down to the wire. Arkansas is much improved under first-year coach Sam Pittman and received 15 votes in the latest AP poll. They’re not the team the Aggies have faced in the past.
A&M itself is much better, too. Not that the Aggies were awful the past couple of seasons, but this year, their preseason expectations are still within reach. With both teams on the rise, this could be one of the best matchups we’ve seen from this game in the past few years.
As rivalries usually are, Aggies-Razorbacks is also a battle for territory. Arkansas is close enough to Texas that the state is a recruiting pipeline, and the Razorbacks often end up fighting with A&M for the same players. Arkansas has 29 players from Texas on their roster.
“I would assume it’s exciting for them,” Pittman said. “Especially maybe if A&M didn’t offer them a scholarship or something. It’s like anything. You have something to prove. I would imagine maybe mom and dad can get there easier. When your family is in the stands, you tend to play better, harder and things of that nature. I think they’re probably looking forward to it.”
Arkansas has not had a recruiting class that ranks higher than A&M’s since the teams have both been in the SEC, likely due to the bevy of talent in Texas. But Pittman has been lauded as a recruiter. One has to think a victory against A&M would be enough to sway a few players.
This is still a game the Aggies should win. Arkansas is an improved team, but A&M is still more talented at most positions. That usually wins out.
However, if we’ve learned anything from watching this game the past few years, it’s that we can expect it to be a challenge.