Texas A&M football: 5 reasons Aggies will whip No. 16 Arkansas
The preliminaries are over, 3 victories are in the books. Now it’s time to play for keeps, the SEC schedule begins at 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday when No. 7 Texas A&M faces No. 16 Arkansas in the annual Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
Both teams come into the game undefeated at 3-0. It’s the Aggies’ first 3-0 start under head coach Jimbo Fisher and the first such start for the program since the 2016 season.
But the Razorbacks are scoring points in bunches, including a 40-point performance against Texas. They rank 4th in the SEC in scoring offense, tied with Alabama. Both are averaging 41 points per game.
They’ll be difficult to contain, but so far that’s exactly what A&M’s defense has done in their first 3 games, which includes a 34-0 blanking of New Mexico last Saturday, their first shutout over an FBS opponent at Kyle Field since 2004.
Texas A&M leads the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 5.7 points per game, and that’s 1 of 5 reasons the Aggies will extend their 11-game win streak, the longest since 1992, and whip Arkansas on Saturday. Here are all 5 reasons.
1. Because that’s what they do
The Aggies have beaten Arkansas 9 times in a row. It’s almost become a tradition. Regardless of the circumstances, regardless of the quality of the teams, regardless of the venue, one thing is for certain – or at least has been since 2012 – the Aggies will beat Arkansas.
Over the 9 years of domination, Texas A&M has beaten Arkansas 6 consecutive times at Jerry’s World, once in Fayetteville, and twice more in College Station. They’ve defeated the Hogs by 48 points, and they’ve defeated the Hogs on 3 occasions in overtime.
Most of the games have been competitive. Take away the 58-10 drubbing the Aggies laid on them in 2012 to start the streak, and their average margin of victory over the other 8 games has been by 9 points. Five of those games were won by a touchdown or less. Close game or not, in the end they always end up Aggies victories.
Texas A&M opened up as 6-point favorites to make it 10 in a row on Saturday over the Razorbacks.
You just can’t move the ball consistently on this defense. The Aggies have given up only 2 touchdowns all season, both on the ground. Add in a field goal and that’s the only offense the opposition has been able to muster. It’s the fewest points allowed to start a season since the beginning of the 1997 campaign when the Aggies allowed just 16 points in 3 games.
Sophomore DB Antonio Johnson has been sensational, recording a team-leading 16 solo tackles. Junior lineman DeMarvin Leal is growing into a leadership role in the trenches. He leads the team with 3.5 tackles for loss, including a team-high 2.5 sacks, giving him 7 sacks for his career.
But it truly is a team effort that has the Aggies ranked 9th in the nation in total defense, allowing 239.3 yards per game. They lead the nation in pass defense, over 3 games yielding just 232 total yards.
3. Field position with punter Nik Constantinou
The sophomore will get the Aggies out of any sticky situation with his cannon for a leg. The left-footed kicker blasted 4 punts last week for a 45.5 average, landing 3 of 4 inside the New Mexico 10-yard line. He leads the SEC with a 47.83 average for the season.
4. O-line healing/bonding
As well as healing, the hope is that the offensive line is developing chemistry as well after 3 games. Fisher, on Monday, said that right guard Layden Robinson (ankle) was expected back at practice this week. That would be a big boost. Center Luke Matthews (shoulder) is still day to day, according to Fisher. Getting him back would be huge, but you just can’t rush these things.
If both are back and healthy, the Aggies will return to their physical, ball-control type offense that typically wears down opponents and allows for the stable of talented running backs to have their way with gassed opposing defenses.
5. Emerging WRs
While quarterback Zach Calzada settles into the position, the O-line continues to jell, it is a group of wide receivers who are beginning to emerge that has the Aggies hopeful of improving on a woeful offense that is 12th in the SEC in scoring – only South Carolina and Vanderbilt have scored fewer points this year.
As Hezekiah Jones continues to nurse a shoulder injury, and Caleb Chapman out of last week’s game with an undisclosed injury, a couple of newbies stepped up. To complement the efforts of old reliables Jalen Wydermyer, Chase Lane and Ainias Smith, who only played one half and was held out for precautionary measures, freshmen Demond Demas and Moose Muhammad III displayed their talents.
Demas shined, scoring on a 70-yard touchdown pass from Calzada, the Aggies’ longest play of the season, and also grabbed a 29-yard throw from Calzada to finish with an even-100 receiving yards. Muhammad also displayed his abilities, making a one-handed snag in the back of the end zone for the first score of his career. He caught 3 passes for 24 yards and proved that he could be among those reliable receivers the Aggies already have on the roster.