2011 Predictions & Game Story
Week 5 - Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
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Oct. 1 Arkansas 42 … Texas A&M 38
CFN Analysis: So Arkansas can't stop the run. So there's little running game to count on. So it took an epic comeback after getting down big. The Hogs showed that they really can crank out yards like last year as Tyler Wilson was red hot from the start and didn't stop with a 30-of-51, 510-yard, three touchdown day, while Jarius Wright just moved up a round in the NFL Draft with 13 catches for 281 yards and a score. Texas A&M is great and has tremendous weapons, but still, this is the second straight week the Hogs weren't even close against the run. This week, though, unlike the Alabama game, Arkansas came up with some nice plays late to turn the tide. With Auburn up next, the Hog offense should continue to roll, but the run defense will be in for another long day if the front four doesn't hold up better and if the linebackers can't come up with more big stops.
It's gut check time for the Aggies after a second straight second half collapse. The secondary hasn't even been close over the last two weeks with Tyler Wilson bombing away for Arkansas a week after Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden went ballistic. The running game was terrific with Christine Michael coming up with a special 230-yard, three touchdown performance, and Ryan Tannehill was excellent, but this was a total team fold in the second half with just a field goal over the final 30:09. With Texas Tech's passing game up next and Baylor to follow, the secondary needs to get better safety play and tighter coverage in a hurry. The pass rush is there, but the defensive back play isn't.
(AP) ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tyler Wilson, Jarius Wright and the No. 18 Arkansas Razorbacks gave No. 14 Texas A&M a rude preview of what to expect in the SEC next season.
Wilson threw for a school-record 510 yards, Wright caught 13 passes for a school-record 281 yards and the Razorbacks turned an 18-point halftime deficit into a 42-38 victory on Saturday.
Broderick Green ran 3 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 1:41 left, putting Arkansas (4-1) ahead for the first time -- and sending the Aggies (2-2) to a second straight agonizing defeat. Just a week before, they gave up a 17-point halftime lead at home.
A&M's Christine Michael ran for 230 yards and three touchdowns, but was stuffed for no gain on a fourth-and-2 on what turned into the Aggies' final play. The Razorbacks celebrated on the field and on the sideline, as did their half of the 69,838 fans at Cowboys Stadium, including Cowboys owner and proud Arkansas alum Jerry Jones. Soon, many of the Hogs faithful were chanting "S-E-C! S-E-C!"
The Aggies fell to 0-7 against the SEC since 1995, encompassing their entire tenure in the Big 12. They recently made it official that they're switching from the Big 12 to the SEC next season.
Wilson was 30 of 51 with three touchdowns, and ran for a 2-point conversion that tied the game 35-35. The school passing record had been 409 by Ryan Mallett against Vanderbilt last season.
Wright broke the school receiving record of 204 yards by halftime. He wound up also tying the record for catches. And, get this -- in a single game, he got more than a quarter of the yardage needed for the single-season record of 1,004. With at least seven games left, he's already at 478.
But his greatest play wasn't even a catch. It was a head's up recovery of a loose ball rolling into the end zone for the touchdown capped by Wilson's conversion.
A&M scored five touchdowns in the first half, all on the ground against a defense that had allowed only a single rushing touchdown over four previous games. The Razorbacks snapped back to form in the second half, yielding only a field goal -- albeit one that put the Aggies up 38-35 with 4:22 left.
But that was all they could muster. A&M went from gaining 404 yards in the first half to 224 in the second half.
Cyrus Gray ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill ran for 56 yards. Tannehill also was 25 of 35 for 247 yards and an interception.
The Aggies fell to 0-4 at Cowboys Stadium. They are 0-3 against Arkansas and lost the Cotton Bowl in January to another SEC school, LSU.
Texas A&M (2-1) at Arkansas (3-1) in Arlington Oct. 1, 12:00, ESPN/ESPN3
Here's The Deal … This was almost a really big game, and next year, it will be.
The potential was there for this to be a big piece in the national title puzzle, or at the very least, a possible elimination game in the hunt for an at-large BCS bid, but after each team collapsed in the second half of their respective games last week, now it's just a nice-looking non-conference battle getting pushed to undercard status.
Of course, the story of the game has nothing to do with the game itself. This is a look into the future as Texas A&M joins the SEC in July of 2012, and then this will be a terrific battle in the already-stacked West instead of a fun exhibition. Will Mike Sherman be the Texas A&M head coach when all the fun starts?
Lost in the terrific run over the second half of last year was how mediocre Texas A&M was before Ryan Tannehill stepped in and saved Sherman's job. The Aggies were coming off a 6-7 2009 season and lost three straight games to Oklahoma State, Arkansas, and Missouri for a 3-3 start. With Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Texas still to go, it looked like yet a typical Texas A&M season, and then the magic happened, the expectations went through the roof, and the hopes and rankings were high.
And Brandon Weeden and Oklahoma State popped the balloon.
Just when it looked like the Aggies were going to make a huge statement, getting out 20-3 on the Cowboys, they couldn't move the ball in the second half, couldn't stop Weeden and the OSU passing game, and despite a late scramble, lost 30-29 to all but end any Big 12 title dreams. Sherman and the Aggies can pull up in a hurry with a win over the Hogs, but a loss, with a trip to Texas Tech to follow, and with road dates at Oklahoma and Kansas State ahead to go along with home games against Baylor, Missouri and Texas, could be disastrous. A&M wants to come in to the SEC as a hot, rising program, and 8-4 might not cut it.
Arkansas also came into the season fired up and ready to go, but a slew of injuries in the backfield, and a few early struggles with the consistency in the passing game, were all exposed last week against Alabama. The Tide defense shut down the Hog ground attack, kept the big pass plays to a minimum, and rolled after a good first quarter. With Auburn up next and South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi State, and at LSU down still to deal with, Arkansas could use a quick turnaround win just as much as A&M.
Why Texas A&M Might Win: There's still a big question mark about whether or not the Arkansas offense actually works. The stats might be there and the points were flowing against Missouri State and New Mexico, but the offense bogged down too much against Troy two weeks ago and was shut down cold at times by Alabama. The Tide doesn't have much of a pass rush, but it has no problems getting into the backfield and was great at stopping the Hog plays before they could get starts. A&M should be able to blow into the backfield on a regular basis, too.
A&M might have been picked clean by Brandon Weeden, but the defensive front got its shots in with three sacks and several pressures. The OSU line is a wee bit better than the Hog offensive front, and if Sean Porter, who's picking up the slack for the loss of Von Miller, can get off to a hot start, the deep passes for the Arkansas offense won't be there.
A&M has more offensive weapons. The running game might have gone bye-bye last week, but Ryan Tannehill is already being talked about as the best senior pro quarterback prospect, Cyrus Gray will likely by one of the first five running backs taken off the board, and Jeff Fuller will likely be one of the top five wide receivers taken. The complementary players like WR Ryan Swope and RB Christine Michael add depth, options, and big plays to the mix, while Arkansas still has to prove that there's life for the running game without Knile Davis.
Why Arkansas Might Win: Some teams just have a knack for beating a program. These two teams have been relatively even talent-wise over the last several years, and they've each been in the same boat in their respective conferences, being overshadowed by other programs, but Arkansas has won the last two meetings. Texas A&M hasn't beaten Arkansas since the two were in the Southwest Conference.
Arkansas has to win the turnover battle and has to take advantage of Aggie mistakes. As disruptive as the A&M defense might be, it's only come up with one fumble and the two interceptions came in the opener against SMU. Part of the last week's meltdown came when the turnovers started to flow, finishing with four giveaways including three Tannehill interceptions. The backs – particularly Michael – will put the ball on the ground, while there might be an urge to press a little bit with almost all the pressure in the game on A&M.
In the end, this will probably come down to who's hottest in the shootout. A&M gave up yards in bunches to Oklahoma State, and if Tyler Wilson can find a similar groove, and if he can spread the ball around like he did against Alabama, the first downs and the yards will come. A&M might have more experienced and more talented front-line skill players, but Arkansas has weapons, too.
What To Watch Out For: A&M junior linebacker Sean Porter isn't just a safety playing linebacker anymore, he's a 6-2, 220-pound guided missile on the outside. Last year he came up with 74 stops with six broken up passes and a pick, but this year he's turning into a more dominant all-around playmaker with 3.5 sacks, seven tackles for loss, and 23 tackles in the first three games. He'll be sent into the backfield early and often to bother Wilson.
This is the moment for Wilson to show he can come through with a big performance in a big game. The hope and the thought was that he'd be able to step in for Ryan Mallett and be a lock for 300 yards a game, but he struggled to get to 185 yards last week against Bama. He threw for 303 yards against Troy, but getting the job done and living up to Mallett's production is a lot to ask. Last year, mallet threw for 310 yards and three scores, and two years ago he threw for 271 yards and four touchdowns in a blowout. The only stat that matters, though, is that Mallett was 2-0 against the Aggies.
What Will Happen: It'll be a bounceback game for Texas A&M. The mistakes won't flow like they did against Oklahoma State, and Wilson won't pull a Weeden and go off for huge numbers against the Aggie secondary. A&M will be balanced, efficient, and effective, and Arkansas won't be able to keep up the pace for a full four quarters.
CFN Prediction: Texas A&M 38 … Arkansas 34
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