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Arkansas Fight Panel Discussion: Prepping For Texas A&M

Gathering our contributor's thoughts on the topics of the week.

Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports

1. Bielema asked after the Northern Illinois game, "How 'bout that passing game?" So, how 'bout that passing game? What did you think? Is it SEC ready?

Josh: Well it was effective, took some big shots downfield, and converted on 3rd down at a high rate. After the last couple of seasons I have to pace myself before they get into SEC play. It is improved over last season, but will they still be able to convert against more talented teams?

Trent: I think the second half of Auburn showed that it is not SEC ready if Arkansas is going to run it six times a half.  Is the passing game capable of being a viable option for moving the chains on third down and presenting a play-action threat that creates a few chunk yardage plays and fewer defenders in the box for the running game? I would have to say I'm becoming more and more optimistic.

Tyler: The passing was really pretty efficient against Northern Illinois. I don't think the Hogs will just air it out all over the place, but I think they can throw the ball when needed.

Mitchell: Passing game was definitely the best we've seen thus far. As far as being SEC ready, I really don't know. That touchdown pass BA throws scrambling down the sideline gets picked in the SEC 8 times out of 10. In reality, the passing doesn't have to be SEC ready, just enough to keep the defense honest.

Adam F: It's hard to argue with 18th in the NCAA in passer rating (that's where Brandon Allen is). Allen had two bad throws, an early one to Keon Hatcher, and a duck to Jonathan Williams in the third quarter that a better team may pick off. Other than that, he looked sharp. The Hogs used a variety of hitches and out routes where the defense can't give help since they have to focus on the run. Texas A&M's pass defense is very suspect, so I think Allen should have a good game on Saturday.

Adam P: It's hard to say we're SEC ready until we get into the meat of the SEC schedule. The Auburn game doesn't give us much knowledge, because of all the variables involved. However, I do feel A LOT better going to Jerry's World with the "best kept secret in Fayetteville" than I did in previous years.

Jamie: It was implemented and almost (intentionally I think) perfectly balanced with the run against NIU, but it wasn't quite polished.  We missed a few opportunities.  I think the key was to practice it live and build some confidence with key guys (Keon) and that was important.  We won't know if it's SEC ready until we see it vs. SEC opponents.

Robert: Listen. We threw for 282 yards last season against Texas A&M and lost by two scores. I really don't need to see us sling it around a bunch. I just don't want to see turnovers.

Drew: I guess it was okay, but I've been pretty vocal about how much I dislike passing, when you can run. It's kind of like ordering a chicken sandwich for dinner because you had pizza for lunch.  I get it, it makes sense, but pizza is still the superior food.  Personally, I could eat pizza all day.

Scottie: I think the passing is much improved, and it's actually been a pleasant surprise for me. Arkansas threw the ball well on the Aggies last year, and I expect them to do the same Saturday. But I'm still not sure how effective it'll be against the Alabama's of the world. Saturday's game will tell me a lot.

Mark: It seems like we've improved since Auburn. Allen is placing the ball well, in spots where defenders can't make a play. And receivers are holding onto the ball, which is always helpful. But mainly, we've got confidence in the pass game now and that usually translates to improvement and other good things.

Devan: I really thought it was ready against Auburn. Brandon Allen has showed me enough to make me think he can get it done this year.

Ryan: I wish I knew for sure, but it looks as ready as it is going to be.

Doc: That's basically how I feel. It's not going to be elite this season. It can be effective when used the right way but it's not going to be special or anything.

2. The last three games have gone so beautifully that it seems wrong to nitpick, but what have you seen that concerns you as we re-enter SEC play? Or is there anything you haven't seen that you wish you had?

Mark: Our open field tackling has improved, but it'll be tested by A&M perhaps even more than it was at Auburn. When A&M receivers catch the ball in space, and they will, can we contain them?

Josh: Secondary play is still a big unknown going in to the Texas A&M and Alabama games. They have shown that there has been changes in communication and scheme this year, but Im still unsure that against those WRs they can make plays.

Tyler: Quick hitting passes to receivers straight from the snap sometimes give our corners problems. NIU had some success with that in the first half, and it's a huge part of A&M's offense.

Trent: We don't seem to be very good at defending the screen pass.  Thank goodness spread teams don't really utilize that play, right?

Mitchell: Depth is my main concern at this point. Injuries will happen. Our backups haven't instilled a lot of faith in me yet, and this SEC grind is going to call on them to step up at times. Will they be able to?

Adam P: I'm just waiting for a big injury to sink the ship of positivity. It's hard to not see improvement in all facets of the Razorback's game, which is all I can ask for after the previous years. I'm just hoping the injury bug stays far, far away this year.

Adam F: I'm still worried about the safeties. They were badly exploited last year and against Auburn, but they've looked better the last couple of games. There have been some schematic changes, but I'm worried that it's been the level of competition. Everyone in JerryWorld will know that Texas A&M will target them - especially Rohan Gaines - and I'm just not sure they're ready. Other than that, dropped passes in big games could be a factor.

Robert: Pass defense. I would really love to see our corners use press coverage to throw off the timing of opposing offenses, but we are too afraid of giving up the big pass play.

Jamie:  I'm honestly very happy with where we are vs. where I thought (dreaded) we might be at this stage in the season.  I wish we were further along in the open field tackling phase of the game and that those seam routes weren't wide open as often as they are.

Scottie: I would have liked to see more pressure on the quarterback from the front four. It seemed like Arkansas hardly ever got pressure on Davis Webb (didn't record a sack in the game), but they did do a nice job roughing up Drew Hare, so I can't really even complain there.

Devan: Obviously the defense still has work to do but they are getting better. One thing that has stuck out to me this season is the kicking game. Arkansas has punted well inside of the 40 yard line a few times this season and last week missed a fairly short field goal. That is going to catch up with Arkansas at some point.

Drew: We still have major tackling issues.  But the defense as a whole seems much improved.  Still, this is a team that's going to have to rely on turnovers to upset opponents

Ryan: I hope the teams isn't over confident going to Dallas. Sure they have accomplished a lot in the last 3 weeks, but remember the Auburn game. They still have a ways to go.

3. A&M of course had the huge opening night win at South Carolina that made a big impression with the entire country, but that's been nearly a month ago. After seeing them and South Carolina for three weeks since, is that performance still as intimidating as it was in the days after?

Adam P: Without a doubt, because we thought A&M was going to be nothing short of a trash fire without Manziel. However, seeing South Carolina makes one think that maybe it was more how bad (or not as good as we thought, as well) they were and not how good A&M was. Hopefully Jerry will send some strippers to Texas A&M's sideline and keep them distracted.

Ryan: I'm scared of Kenny Hill. I think his numbers may be NSFW, so I will have to read all the post game wrap ups on my phone.

Robert: I don't think a week one win over South Carolina giving only 6 carries to Mike Davis is nearly as scary as it once was.

Adam F: No, not at all. South Carolina has the lethal combination of no pass rush and a porous pass defense. Vanderbilt, led by a quarterback named Wade Freeback, threw for 223 yards and two touchdowns against them last Saturday. South Carolina's defense hasn't come close to a good game yet.

Tyler: I would give a slight no to that. I'm still impressed with A&M's team, and SC did somehow beat Georgia, but I think the Gamecocks were vastly overrated. Don't get me wrong, Texas A&M is one heck of a squad, but the shock and awe of that opening upset has lessened for me.

Devan: Nope. USC is not as good as advertised and it is not even close. It is still an impressive win on A&M's side, but that USC team hasn't been impressive yet, and should've lost to Georgia.

Mark: It still represents a very good win. It's apparent South Carolina isn't that strong defensively, so it's hard to tell just how impressive it was. But the Aggies haven't missed a beat on offense so far. Is it possible our defense will be the best it's seen this year? How crazy am I for even suggesting that?

Trent: Watching the A&M game against South Carolina is pretty terrifying as an Arkansas fan, but I have tried to remind myself that Kenny Hill is still a freshman, and that Sumlin had the entire offseason to work on that game plan.  Texas Tech's offense is NOT the Aggies' offense, but we got our hands on a LOT of Davis Webb's passes two weeks ago.  I feel marginally better than I did immediately following that Thursday night game.

Josh: Any time a team can come out and play that well on offense in an opener it is impressive. This year in the SEC it's hard to tell if A&M just caught S. Carolina before they really had it all together (Spurrier and the 3/4 defense) or if they just are not as good. I'm of the opinion that A&M is really that good, granted S. Carolina made mistakes, but those years of top recruiting classes by Texas A&M have piled up.

Scottie: It's not as intimidating now, in my opinion. I don't think Spurrier knew exactly how to prepare for A&M and probably underestimated them. A&M's big wins over the Sisters of the Poor since then don't impress me.

Mitchell: It definitely appears to be a case of first game rust for SCAR. They've looked up and down at times this year, so I really am having a hard time defining Spurrier's team. A&M has looked good in games. Arkansas would too if we had the kind of classes they've been pulling lately. Fact is, they're still young, haven't had to face much adversity in games, and I thought the Rice game was harder than expected for them.

Jamie: The ability to throw well to very talented and athletic WRs like A&M does scares me a bit.  The combination of their performance vs. South Carolina and our performance vs. Auburn in week 1 can raise some concern.  The hope is that we've improved in those areas and they aren't worth the hype.

Drew: I think A&M is what they are. They have talent across the board and can beat anyone in the country in any given week.

Doc: It seems pretty clear that both South Carolina was overrated and A&M was underrated. It doesn't scare me as much as it did, but that's as much because of how well Arkansas has been playing too. Still scared though.

4. Looking at season stats is foolish at this point considering the opposition for both teams the last few weeks compared to what's about to happen, but the Aggies are allowing 3.18 yards per rush so far. How effective do you expect Arkansas' rushing offense to be on Saturday?

Adam F: Somewhere between Texas Tech and Auburn. All of the offseason transfers and dismissals will catch up to Texas A&M's defense at some point this season. I don't think A&M is quite at Auburn's run defense level - in coaching, talent, or experience - but they won't be a pushover like Tech was.

Devan: Other than USC, They've played Lamar, SMU, and Rice. I'm not sure if Texas A&M should be proud of giving up that many yards per carry against those teams. Arkansas' not going to get that gaudy 9 yards per carry this game, but running on them shouldn't be a problem.

Scottie: I'm not buying the Aggies as a team that can shut down a team's run game, especially not Arkansas'. I expect them to run the ball about as effective as they did against NIU. I see Arkansas winding up with around 200 rushing yards.

Ryan: I expect Arkansas to average 5.0 yards a carry. I don't expect any big runs, but that the Hogs can chop away at the Aggie defense.

Mark: In catch-up mode all night, Spurrier abandoned the run in the A&M game. So again, hard to tell what to think of an Aggie run D that hasn't really been tested. I expect something similar to NIU, hard-earned but plentiful yards on the ground to loosen up the Aggie D a little. Perhaps that's more hope than expectation...

Josh: I think they will be able to run the ball effectively. It will take more scheme like in the opener against Auburn where they used the wham/trap early, Chaney/ Bielema will have something that will pick up some yards. The next question will be what will happen after A&M adjusts, will Arkansas be able to gain 3-4 yds per carry in base plays? S Carolina had a tough time  running on A&M so it may be slow going with a couple break out long gains here and there.

Trent: An 80-yard play action touchdown pass as opposed to an 80-yard run can mean the difference between 4 yards per carry and 6 yards per carry, but does one make the running game any more or less effective?  I expect the rushing offense to be effective and efficient against Texas A&M, even if the yards per carry statistics goes down slightly.

Drew: I think it will be effective, but I think Arkansas will probably have to get more involved in the passing game. I still think Hunter Henry is an X factor that isn't absorbing the targets he should be.

Jamie: I honestly believe that we can run against anyone in the nation right now and teams like A&M who have struggled in that area a bit are even more susceptible to our power game.  I would like to see us use that run success to open up "safe" passing options to TEs and the occasional and calculated deep target.

Tyler: While 3.18 rushing ypc isn't a big number, the Hogs rushing attack is just too potent to be stopped completely. A&M's run defense hasn't really been tested either because their opponents have gotten so far behind, they've had to throw every play.

Mitchell: Not quite the stats as we've been showcasing, but effective in the sense that I expect to pound the ball and burn the clock all game. Few teams are going to have the answers for this rushing attack, and a young defense like TAMU's will make some mistakes.

Adam P: That's the million-dollar question, because I believe this game rides on our running game. I think it will be higher than that, maybe at 4-4.5 yards per carry.

Robert: A lot has been made over Rice rushing for 240 yards, but many people fail to note it was on 55 attempts. It would be nice to see the Hogs go for 60+ attempts as they did in the Texas Tech game, but the Aggies still have an SEC defensive line. Arkansas will be unlikely to find as many holes in the Aggie front 7 as A&M found against the South Carolina secondary.

5. What do you think are the chances Arkansas wins at least one of the next three games? Which opponent do you think is most vulnerable?

Josh: 60% chance. They will catch one of A&M, Alabama, or Georgia on an off night. How it will play out, who knows but one of those three will give up some key turnover and give Arkansas an opportunity. I have to lean toward Alabama being the one that is the most vulnerable.

Drew: I don't know.  I think that Arkansas has the type of team that can really surprise people.  Teams that don't make many mistakes, can hold the ball, and have a physical offensive line don't grow on trees. The fact that the physical style of play is actually an against the grain type of philosophy actually interest me a great deal.  My gut says A&M. But its as tough a stretch as you'llf find in the country.

Trent: I would put their odds at about 40%, with Georgia in Little Rock being their best opportunity.  I am so close to fully buying in, but I am just not there yet.

Tyler: I believe Arkansas has a pretty decent chance to pull at least one upset in the next three weeks. While I don't necessarily think A&M is the worst of the three, I think it's the best opportunity for Arkansas to win. A&M is riding high right now in confidence and a nice punch in the mouth by Arkansas' physicality might shock the Aggies. Also, A&M has Mississippi State on the schedule the week after. Could they be looking ahead? Arkansas has head great success against A&M in JerryWorld. I look for that trend to continue.

Mitchell: The chances look very good. TAMU looks better than expected, but not unbeatable. Despite Blake Sims emerging at QB, I feel like this Alabama team is weaker than the Hogs have faced at home in a couple visits. Georgia on the other hand looks weak at this point in the season. Sure they drubbed Troy 66-0, but they lost to SCAR after a bye. They haven't clicked on offense aside from Gurley plowing away. I'd say we have a 50% chance of winning 1 of these 3 games, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Hogs came out with 2 wins.

Adam F: I'll go with around 40 percent chance to win at least one. Georgia and Texas A&M are both very vulnerable on defense. Plus, Alabama and Georgia are at home, and the Hogs are outscoring opponents 125-21 when the team runs out of the Hog Pen to start the game. Let's bring it down to Arlington with the team this weekend.

Adam P: I say we've got a 65% chance to win one of the next three games. The SEC West (rankings wise) is the best it's ever been. However, I think this is also because how bad the other top conferences have done thus far. I see holes in Texas A&M, Alabama, and Georgia's overall games that we could possibly take advatage of. The question is, will we?

Jamie: I'll put it in the 60-70% range with the most likely option being this weekend in Dallas.  Again, I'm just very pleased that I can be this optimistic about those odds after week 4, I'd imagine I'd have given us a 20-30% chance of stealing one of the next 3 pre-season.

Robert: Georgia is probably still the most vulnerable. Georgia is almost as bad as us at passing and almost as good as us at rushing. I think the Hogs win the battle of strength vs. strength.

Scottie: I think Arkansas has between a 50-60 percent chance to win one of the next three games. I don't think Alabama is a winnable game yet, but the other two intrigue me. Georgia and A&M are winnable games that I believe will come down to the Arkansas defense. If they can get enough stops, I think Arkansas' offense is good enough to steal one of them.

Ryan: Probably this weekend in Dallas, because if they lose this weekend, I don't know what their confidence will be like going into the next few games.

Mark: [Puts down plastic cup now only half full of Kool Aid] I'm gonna say a 66 percent chance we win at least one. Most vulnerable is a toss-up between A&M and Georgia, but I'll go with UGA.

Devan: I think Arkansas wins at least one of the next three games. Each team has it's weaknesses. None of them, not even Alabama, look invincible this year. On top of all of that, Arkansas doesn't play a single one of them on the road. Somethings got to give at some point.

Doc: I just have a feeling like this team is about to pop. Kind of like the Alabama game in 1998 or the Auburn game in 2006. Not sure when it will happen, but if the starters stay healthy enough, I feel like it's coming.