We’re beautifully close to football season, and even though last year was the worst year of all time, there’s actually some reason to be hopeful. For that reason, we’re breaking down each game we’ll play this year, and exploring a little bit about each opponent. Ultimately we’ll make some levels of predictions about our chances, for better or for worse. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ArkansasFight to keep up with all the latest posts, and don’t forget to sign up to be a pollster for our site!
Week 5 - Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
The House That Jerry Built in Arlington, Texas
Jimbo Fisher, who is truly the Joe Flacco of college coaches. He has a title and a good record, but is he really elite? Texas A&M thought so when they gave him a 10-year, $75-million deal to bring them to glory.
Fisher managed to succeed in a hard-to-win spot: following up the legendary Bobby Bowden. He went 83-23 in Tallahassee, winning the final BCS championship game in 2013. Sure, you could argue that Jameis Winston’s 27-1 career record helped inflate Fisher’s, but hey, Fisher recruited Winston to do just that. Sure, you could also argue that most of Fisher’s success came while Miami was (is) in a historically-bad stretch, Clemson was mostly down, and Virginia Tech was on the tail end of Frank Beamer’s career. And sure, you could also argue the speed in which Dabo Swinney and Clemson absolutely subjugated Florida State starting in 2015 is a bit of a red flag. But it’s hard to argue with a guy who won 83 games and reached three New Year’s Six/BCS bowls in eight years.
Our Record Against Them:
It’s still good, but getting worse. Seven straight losses have allowed the Aggies to pull the all-time series to within 41-31-3. Most recent games have been close: the 2014, 2015, and 2017 games all went into overtime, while last year’s game was decided by just seven points. Even the blowouts have been weird: Arkansas’ 58-10 loss in 2012 is one of just two FBS games in the last decade where a team gained 500 yards of offense but failed to score 14 points (the other: Toledo 16, Arkansas 12 in 2015. Not kidding.)
Quarterback Kellen Mond is the engine that makes the Aggies go. All should be thankful that he beat out Nick Starkel, driving him to Fayetteville. Mond has phenomenal talent but is very up-and-down. He threw for 430 yards in a 28-26 loss to Clemson, but he played very poorly against Arkansas (17/26, 201 yards, 2 interceptions) and Kentucky (18/29, 226 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception). His 32.8 adjusted QBR against Arkansas was his worst of the year, so he may be looking for a bit of redemption.
On defense, I’ll go with cornerback Myles Jones. The Aggies were weird on defense in 2018, with a very good run defense (+2.9 PAN per game, tied for 4th) combined with a very bad pass defense (8.4 ANY/A last year, worse than Arkansas!) (Read about what these numbers mean here). The Aggies lost almost all of their front seven, but they had good depth, so the secondary remains their biggest concern.
A Very Short Recap of Last Year:
Against a ferocious schedule that included Alabama and Clemson, the Aggies managed to go 9-4, ending the season with a Gator Bowl win. A&M isn’t paying Fisher to lose four games - they could just keep Kevin Sumlin for that - but it was respectable considering the schedule. Other losses were against Mississippi State and Auburn.
How We Feel About Our Chances:
It’s hard to feel good about any conference opponent other than Ole Miss (and even then...), but the Hogs have played the Aggies close for several years and just haven’t gotten the breaks. You have think this one will be fairly close, and it’s easy to pull for a Starkel and Rakeem Boyd redemption show.
Thanks for checking out the fifth part of our series on Arkansas’ 2019 Football Season, be sure to sign up for our SB Nation poll, and follow @ArkansasFight on Twitter. For Razorback stats and pithy observations, follow @AdamFord92.