Arkansas – Sept. 29
Aggie fans may not have to remember Wilson, because his performance against the Aggies last year is impossible to forget.
A season ago…
Arkansas might have been one of the most under-the-radar teams from a season ago in terms of the publicity they got compared to their win total. The Razorbacks started the year ranked 15th in the nation, and after their Sept. 24th loss at Alabama they dropped to number 18. At halftime of the game against Texas A&M on October 1st, it looked like Arkansas’ season could be heading south. But a monumental comeback in the second kicked off a seven game win streak for the Razorbacks that included a 44-28 bashing of top ten South Carolina.
Arkansas made it all the way to a number three ranking heading into the final week of the regular season, but LSU was too much to handle and the Razorbacks fell in Baton Rouge 41-17. Their season was capped off by a 29-16 win over the 11th ranked Wildcats of Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl.
For a team that lost its most noteworthy player heading into the season it was a huge year for Bobby Petrino and the “Hawgs.” But it wasn’t the football itself that drew headlines for Arkansas last year. A motorcycle accident and a resulting athletic department scandal resulted in the firing of Petrino, and the hiring of former Arkansas assistant John L. Smith.
Names to Remember
Tyler Wilson – Wilson may not belong on the names to remember list because I doubt that any Aggie has forgotten him. Wilson’s performance against the Aggies last season really kick started his year. Wilson bombed the Aggies for 510 yards through the air, breaking the Arkansas record for single-game yards. It was the first 500 yard passing game by an SEC quarterback since 2001, and only the fifth all time. A redshirt junior, Wilson heads into this season as a preseason All-SEC first team selection by the media after leading Arkansas to just their third 11 win season in school history.
Knile Davis – Another junior, Davis missed all of the 2011 season with a leg injury suffered during fall practice. However, he started all 13 games the season prior and rushed for over 1,300 yards, becoming just the 10th player in Arkansas history to rush for over 1,000 yards in a season. The Missouri City, Texas product has been selected to numerous preseason watch lists, and is a first team preseason All-SEC selection.
Cobi Hamilton – A product of Texas High in Texarkana, Hamilton has been one of the most productive receivers in the history of Arkansas football. At 6-3, he’s a tough physical matchup for any corner. With Jarius Wright and Joe Adams gone from last year’s team (both had over 40 receptions and 500 yards in 2011), Hamilton and tight end Chris Gragg will be called on to be the consistent playmakers for the Razorback offense.
Knile Davis returns to action after missing all of 2011 with a leg injury.
Alonzo Highsmith – Highsmith had 80 tackles a season ago, including a team-high 12.5 tackles for loss. A product of Elkins H.S. in Missouri City (by way of Phoenix College), the senior linebacker is a second team preseason All-SEC selection going into this season. Highsmith started all 13 games in 2011.
Why Texas A&M can win this game
This will likely be the first game of the season where the Aggies are true underdogs, so we’re going to look at this one from the A&M side. It’s possible they will be against Florida, but I doubt that spread is more than a few points either direction. Arkansas has defeated the Aggies all three times in the “Southwest Classic” at Cowboys stadium, but playing in College Station could prove to be a different story.
First off, this is a best-case scenario for A&M. There’s absolutely no debate that Arkansas is clearly a better team than A&M headed into the season, and by any real metric should have little trouble with A&M. And it's not like the Aggies can take them by surprise after not facing any real competition, Arkansas hosts Alabama two weeks before this game.
But there is a way that A&M wins this game. First, the young players in the secondary have to play the best game of their lives. A&M has a lot of bodies at the safety position, but not a lot of players with track records of success. Whether by blitzing Wilson, or just playing above their heads for a game, the A&M secondary has to find a way to limit Arkansas’ ability to make big plays down the field. If they can’t, Arkansas won’t even have to bother with the run game and can just start bombing away down the field.
Another reason the Aggies can win is that they’re an absolute wildcard on offense. You can break down all the film from Houston you want, but with the offensive line the Aggies have and with Christine Michael (who ran for over 200 yards against Arkansas last year) in the backfield, it’s almost guaranteed that the offense is going to have a very different look from what Sumlin and Kingsbury were running with the Cougars. That makes A&M one of the tougher teams to prepare for in the SEC.
The only reason A&M lost to Arkansas last year was the absolute abandonment of what got them the lead, a few ridiculous turnovers, and Arkansas being able to score quickly in the second half. It was truly a special meltdown to see in person.
A&M has the talent to put the pressure on the quarterback, to slow down the run game, and to put points on the board. But if A&M is going to win this game, it will take a herculean effort from the secondary.