FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas did what they were supposed to do on Saturday. They stopped the run, improved in the passing game, and got the backups into the game for a full quarter of action. KJ Jefferson aired it out in the passing game for 366 yards and 3 touchdowns, including a 91 yard backbreaker to Treylon Burks.
The breakout back in the running game this week was Dominique Johnson, who rushed for 72 yards and a score on just five carries. Arkansas again imposed it’s will, rushing for 285 yards and three scores. Up front, Ricky Stromberg earned SEC Lineman of the week honors and Pro Football Focus grades Stromberg as the SEC’s top center, earning an offensive grade of 77.3.
Now, all the attention turns to a tilt in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas for the Southwest Classic against the no.7 Texas A&M Aggies. It will be the first time that both teams enter the game ranked since 2016, when Arkansas was ranked 16, the same as this season. Could this be the year that Arkansas finally breaks the 9 game losing streak to the Aggies? Here are my keys to the game.
The Arkansas defense must frustrate Zach Calzada:
While Calzada looked improved against Kent State, he failed to do much against a Colorado defense who was blasted by Minnesota and their backup running back. This Razorback defense has paved the way for the turn around of a program that was in shambles only two years ago. Expect Barry Odom to throw a lot of different looks at the Aggie offense and to bring more pressure than we have seen through the first three games. Redshirt Sophomore Defensive Back Jalen Catalon will shine under the lights in this one.
This game is expected to be close, and history has shown us that even when Arkansas was a major underdog, the games were close. This one is likely to come down to who makes the least mistakes. In the opener against Rice, the Hogs were sloppy and committed too many penalties, including 2 calls for targeting. Since then, they have cleaned up their play and remained focused.
Arkansas run vs Aggies defense:
Nobody expects Arkansas to come in and continue the pace of over 240 yards on the ground. They do, however, need to establish the running game with KJ Jefferson and the stable of running backs that have been the focal point this far. Texas A & M will be the strongest defense Arkansas has faced, and with two offensive linemen working back from injuries, including Stromberg, the Hogs must establish a physical presence early.
This game should contrast with the previous close games in the series which were all high scoring affairs. This one should come down to which quarterback can make the most plays against a tough defense. I think the spread (A&M -5.5) and the over/under (47.5) are too high for a game with two teams that like to amass first downs and control the time of possession.
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