Outlook bleak for Razorbacks against Aggies

Photo: ArkansasRazorbacks.com

It was reported that a small two-seater airplane crashed in a cemetery near the Texas A&M campus in College Station early this morning. So far, the Aggie fire department has recovered 300 bodies, and they’re still digging. Further developments will be posted.

Sorry for the Aggie joke, but in light of the current state of the Razorback football program, I thought we could all use a chuckle.

Based on the first four games of the season, there probably won’t be a lot of laughs at the Aggies’ expense Saturday when they play Arkansas (2-2, 0-1 SEC) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Southwest Classic held at AT&T Stadium at Arlington, Texas.

Next up for the Razorbacks

Opponent: vs. Texas A&M
When: 11 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 28
Where: AT&T Stadium – Arlington, Texas

Remaining schedule

Oct. 12 – at Kentucky
Oct. 19 – Auburn
Oct. 26 – at Alabama
Nov. 2 – Mississippi State
Nov. 9 – Western Kentucky
Nov. 23 – at LSU
Nov. 29 – Missouri

Texas A&M (2-2, 0-1 SEC) may have the same record as the Razorbacks, but not all schedules are made the same. The No. 23 Aggies lost 24-10 to No. 1 Clemson and 28-20 to No. 7 Auburn, while the Hogs have dropped games to Ole Miss, 31-17, and San Jose State, 31-24.

Maybe the Aggies should be making Piggie jokes instead.

While Arkansas leads the series 41-31-3 thanks to dominating the series in the old Southwest Conference days, the Aggies have turned the table since joining the SEC, winning seven consecutive games, including three overtime games in the last five years.

This year’s game isn’t expected to be close with oddsmakers making the Hogs a 23.5-point underdog early in the week.

The Aggies boast a brutal defense ranked 18th in the nation, allowing just 276 yards a game in despite already facing two top-10 opponents. Arkansas’ defense is ranked 82nd in the nation, allowing 410 yards against Ole Miss, two Mountain West schools, and Portland State.

A&M’s offense has struggled a bit this season, but that’s to be expected when you’ve played a tough schedule against the like of Clemson with the No. 7 defense and Auburn with the No. 35 defense.

Aggie quarterback Kellen Mond has faced some scrutiny early this season in the face of tough defenses, but his stats are solid with him completing 64 percent of his passes (94 of 146 for 1,082 yards and 7 TDs) against just three interceptions.

Saturday is probably being viewed as a get right day for the Aggies within and around their program for the offense that has struggled at times up front with an inexperienced offensive line.

San Jose State dominated Arkansas in the trenches on both sides of the ball last week, and nothing the Razorbacks have done in their first four games would make anyone believe the story will be different against the Aggies.

The Razorbacks have been inconsistent all season which is one of the marks of a team counting on relatively inexperienced offensive and defensive linemen.

Even Arkansas’ seniors have struggled. Colorado State’s 75-yard touchdown run came right up the gut on the second play of the game with defensive tackle McTelvin Agim being wiped out by a double team and senior linebacker De’Jon Harris cut off from the tackle after being sucked in by counter action the backfield.

It’s just one play, but it shows how even the Razorbacks’ senior leaders have struggled early this season.

A key “storyline” for Saturday’s game is the ties the Razorbacks have to the Aggie program. Head coach Chad Morris is an A&M alum. Quarterback Nick Starkel and running back Rakeem Boyd started their careers in College Station before making their way to Arkansas. Defensive coordinator John Chavis and safety coach Ron Cooper were on staff at A&M just two years ago.

All of that is interesting to note, but how much will it actually play into Saturday’s game? It’s hard to say. No doubt, there is some extra incentive there, but one has to wonder if there is anything that will fire up a team that sleepwalked through last week’s loss to San Jose State.

That loss is being framed by many as a failure by the players to compete because of their overconfidence. Certainly, that was part of it. I could fully buy that explanation if the Razorbacks had played consistently well this season up to that game.

However, the Razorbacks have played poorly in every game this season, giving up heaps of yardage on defense and stumbling on offense more often than not.

Starkel may not throw five interceptions like he stubbornly did last week, but unless there is marked improvement by his offensive line, he won’t have much time or space to work in the pocket. Starkel hasn’t shown the ability to buy time with his feet, which leads me to believe Saturday will be the first several tough days for him during the final two-thirds of the season.

If Arkansas is not able to pass effectively, their offensive line is likely get overwhelmed with more defenders in the box than they can block in the running game.

Though Arkansas might have a solid plan defensively, I foresee the Hogs having difficulty containing Mond, and if tackling issues persist, it could be a long day for the Razorbacks as the defense wears down and out.

It’s a bleak forecast, for sure. Hopefully, I’m way off. I would enjoy nothing more than witnessing a Razorback uprising with the Aggies reverting back to their underachieving form of yesteryear when the Hogs routinely whipped overrated A&M teams.

But just like the Southwest Conference, those days are gone.

Hog fans now have to settle for postgame apologies, motivational catchphrases, and the hope of seeing improvement amidst lackluster performance after lackluster performance.

One good thing about the 11 a.m. start is if the game does go south, there will be plenty of time to work off the frustration before bedtime.

And if by chance, the Razorbacks do pull off an upset, there will be plenty of time for Hog fans to celebrate.