2012 SEC Football: Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies Preview


Sep 22, 2012; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks quarterback Tyler Wilson (8) signals at the line against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

College Station, Tex. – On the surface the Southwest Classic lives on as an old rivalry between Southwest Conference teams renewed as SEC West opponents. Looking deeper at this weekend’s matchup the game is more than renewing a nearly 100 year long history. The Arkansas Razorbacks and Texas A&M Aggies are battling for respect, a potential bowl berth at season’s end, and shared recruits in the hotbed of Texas will all come to play at Kyle Field come 11:21 a.m.

There are several ways to preview or hype the Razorbacks first road game of the season to College Station, Texas. 1) Fans of both programs enjoy having a familiar enemy to cheer against. 2) The national recognition for the winner can give a tremendous boost to an uncertain season both programs are experiencing to date. 3) And perhaps most important, the loser of Saturday’s matchup could find themselves stuck in a lost season.

Despite A&M’s 2-1 record first year head coach Kevin Sumlin still has a lot of unanswered questions lingering around his program. The Aggies lost a heartbreaker at home to then No. 24 Florida 20-17 and have mopped up two creampuffs in SMU (48-3) and South Carolina State (70-14).

The Aggies missed out on playing at Louisiana Tech due to inclement weather. The Bulldogs are a team to be reckoned with and A&M may have dodged a bullet there for the time being.

Florida was banged up and still using a two-quarterback system before when they traveled to College Station. Since then Jeff Driskel has settled in under center while the Gator defense has gelled into an above average unit.

Questions still remain about how good the Aggies really are this year.

Sumlin needs that first SEC victory under his belt to relieve the pressure and the Aggie fans would love to have the ceremonious first win come against their old Razorback rival as a sign they have arrived in the SEC.

On the other side of the ball, Arkansas has had to deal with disappointment, poor coaching, and too many injuries on their way to a 1-3 start to their season. The bad news keeps getting worse for the Hogs as starting safety Eric Bennett, starting corner Darius Winston, and starting tight end Chris Gragg will all be out for this weekend’s game.

There has always been a heavy load on Arkansas’ senior quarterback Tyler Wilson but the load just got a heavier.

Wilson is second in Division-I with an 11.4 yard per completion average. Even though he has missed 1.5 games of action he is tied for 27th overall in total passing yards with 982. As a team the Razorbacks are 25th in the nation with 295 passing yards per game.

The unfortunate truth is Arkansas is the 112th worst team in total rushing yards (391 yards, 98 yard per game average) out of 120 total teams. True Wilson’s passing attempts may have kept a few more yards off of the Razorbacks running tally but when given the chance only Dennis Johnson has shown the fight, power, and willingness to extend plays after contact.

A&M sports the No. 12 total defense team in the nation limiting teams to 280 total offensive yards per game. The Razorbacks are ranked No. 99 allowing 459 yards per game.

Arkansas’ pass defense has been disastrous under first-year defensive coordinator Paul Haynes. To make matters worst Haynes is in charge of the Razorback secondary. The Hogs give up an average of 12.6 yards per pass and have generously given way to 1,249 total passing yards in four games (312.25 yards per game average).

Aggies freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has flourished under Sumlin’s spread offense to date. The 6’1’, 200 pound, dual threat QB has been accurate (67.4 completion percentage), effective (zero interceptions), and able to move the chains with his legs racking up 262 rushing yards in three games (87 yards per game).

Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova and UL-Monroe quarterback Kolton Browning were mobile enough to cause fits for the Razorback defense. Nova and Browning ended up having career games against the Hogs, expect Manziel to improve upon his personal single game best of 294 yards passing (vs. SMU).

Texas A&M has the No. 29 pass defense in the nation while leading the nation in sacks per game average with 5.33, 16 total sacks.

The Razorback offensive line has been porous in pass blocking at times which could be a bigger issue for Wilson against the Aggies. Wilson was knocked out of the UL-Monroe game after suffering a concussion late in the first half. Will Wilson be able to finish this weekend’s game with the amount of pressure the Aggies put on opposing quarterbacks?

If the Hogs’ offensive line does not provide time for Wilson to get off his throws this could be another long game for Razorback Nation.


Arkansas’ pass defense is too young and too raw plus down three potential starters in Darius Winston, Tevin Mitchell, and Eric Bennett to see a significant turnaround this weekend.

The Razorback defense has produced seven sacks in four games. For Arkansas to win they will have to disrupt Manziel’s timing and rushing efforts on broken plays. If the Hogs can manufacture a three or four sack game while limiting big plays down field… there’s a chance.

Not only does Arkansas offensive coordinator Paul Petrino need the running game to kick into gear so does Tyler Wilson, and the Razorback defense. They get a boost on the line with the return of Tyler Deacon after missing last week’s game.

The one thing everyone has been waiting for from Arkansas is Knile Davis to explode. He has the talent and ability to do so, as does Dennis Johnson. Could this be the game when the offensive line gels with their senior running backs, takes pressure off Wilson, and the defense?

To date Arkansas’ longest running play from scrimmage was a Brandon Allen 27-yard run on a broken play.

A&M has a rushing defense that is highly ranked but poorly tested. They allow an average of 94 yards per game, around Arkansas’ average. If Johnson or Davis can break a few, move the chains while running the clock positive things could happen for Arkansas.

By the end of Saturday’s game all Arkansas fans will know the name Damontre Moore. Moore is a beast of a defensive end for A&M and is sure to cause problems for Wilson throughout the game.

Final Score

Texas A&M 48, Arkansas 38

News and Notes

Tank Wright has remained at defensive end for the Hogs after playing the first three games at middle linebacker. Alonzo Highsmith and Terrell Williams (Senior, Tulsa, OK) have taken over the linebacker duties.

Will Hines and Kaelon Kelleybrew received significant snaps with the first-team defense at cornerback throughout the week.

Kickoff is scheduled for 11:21 a.m. at Kyle Field. ESPN3 partnered with the SEC Network will televise the game.