Saturday, September 28, 2013
Five things: Texas A&M-Arkansas
By Sam Khan Jr.
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 10 Texas A&M (3-1, 0-1 SEC) comes to Razorback Stadium to face Arkansas (3-1, 0-0) at 6 p.m. tonight. Both teams are trying to claim their first SEC wins this season, so let's look at five things to watch tonight:
1. Arkansas running game vs. A&M run D: The Razorbacks have the nation's No. 5 and SEC's No. 1 rusher in freshman Alex Collins (481 yards), who became the first freshman in SEC history to begin his career with three consecutive 100-yard rushing games. New Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema is a believer in running the football and they'll look to run right at the Aggies, who rank 103rd nationally in rushing yards allowed per game (218.25). A&M, which allowed more than 200 rushing yards to its first three opponents, allowed just 93 last week, but the Razorbacks run the ball much more than SMU. Rutgers had some success last week against the Razorbacks' rushing attack, holding Collins and sophomore Jonathan Williams to just a combined 3.6 yards per carry. Regardless, this will be the matchup to watch.
2. Razorbacks get their QB back: After missing the loss to Rutgers with a bruised throwing shoulder, Arkansas regains the services of starting quarterback Brandon Allen tonight. Head coach Bret Bielema tweeted the news on Friday night. Allen got hurt Sept. 14 in a 24-3 win over Southern Mississippi and backup A.J. Derby filled in during Allen's absence. Getting Allen back is certainly a positive for Arkansas.
3. A&M kicking game: After holding the starting placekicking job since the start of last season, Taylor Bertolet is now in a battle to keep kicking. He was removed from the Aggies' win over SMU last week for sophomore walk-on Josh Lambo. Bertolet missed back-to-back PAT attempts that prompted the change, and now both coach Kevin Sumlin and special teams coordinator Jeff Banks acknowledge that it's an "ongoing competition" between the two. Lambo came in and connected on a 40-yard field goal and was 1-for-2 on PATs, though his missed kick was the result of a botched snap. It will be interesting to see who takes which kick attempts tonight.
4. Status quo for the O?: The Aggies' high-powered offense has been productive throughout this season as quarterback Johnny Manziel has showed improvement as a passer, Mike Evans has emerged as perhaps one of the nation's best receivers, and the running backs and offensive line have both performed solidly. The Aggies have produced at least 400 offensive yards in 16 straight games dating back to last season and have only once failed to reach that number under Kevin Sumlin.
5. Road success: A Sumlin-coached team hasn't lost a game away from its home stadium since 2010, winning 13 straight. The Aggies were undefeated on the road and won their neutral site bowl game last season, but tonight will be the Aggies' first game on the road this season in what should be a raucous atmosphere at Razorback Stadium. Can the Aggies continue their road success?