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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Battalion sports staff makes predictions for Week 4 against Arkansas

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Photo by Photo by Ryan Hartfiel

A&M football has won nine consecutive matches against Arkansas.

Texas A&M football is scheduled to kick off Southeastern Conference play against No. 16 Arkansas at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 25. In addition to acting as the SEC opener, Saturday’s matchup also marks No. 7 A&M’s first match against a ranked opponent this season.
Here are The Battalion sports staff’s predictions for the Southwest Classic:
Casey Stavenhagen, co-sports editor
@CStavenhagen
For a 3-0 team, A&M has been exposed to major problems. The only true shining factor from the Aggies has been their team defense, which has furthered last season’s precedent of excellence. The maroon and white have allowed the fewest points per game in the country at 5.7, and a continuation of that defensive strength will be a significant factor against a hungry Arkansas team. Offensively, A&M must develop a level of consistency outside of its backfield with sophomore Devon Achane and junior Isaiah Spiller. Redshirt sophomore Zach Calzada’s measly 51.4 completion percentage won’t cut it against the Razorbacks’ secondary that has allowed the second fewest passing yards per game in the SEC. Calzada needs to take a step forward in his play if the Aggies want to draw their win streak over the Hogs into double digits.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 31, Arkansas: 27
Jennifer Streeter, co-sports editor
@jennystreeter3
Here’s the deal, people are scared for A&M to play this game. Why? I don’t know. Yes, Arkansas is strong at defending the receiving game. Yes, this is A&M’s first SEC-contest of the 2021 season. No, these facts do not have me shaking in my boots. Between quarterback Calzada finding his composure and stride against New Mexico, A&M’s top-rated defense, junior running back Spiller and dual-threat Ainias Smith, there is simply no reason to fear. I will further summarize my evidence in one tweet.
Additionally, I have full faith the Aggies will allow me to further relish in the christening of my Aggie Ring this weekend, and the only football game I have not covered in the past year and a half, with a win. Gigs.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 28, Arkansas: 17
Ryan Faulkner, assistant sports editor
@ryanfaulk03
In collegiate football, momentum can make or break a team’s success in must-win matchups like A&M-Arkansas. And to be frank, A&M doesn’t have that right now. The Aggies didn’t look impressive against Kent State, Colorado or New Mexico — three teams the maroon and white should have easily blown out by five touchdowns. Heck, even though it’s undefeated, A&M has actually fallen in the AP rankings. On the other hand, Arkansas is ranked for the first time since 2016, and with a decisive blowout over then-No. 15 Texas, the Razorbacks are hungry to make something happen. A&M has won every game between the two teams since joining the SEC, but almost all of those competitions have been decided in overtime or within one score. If there was ever a year for Arkansas to win, this is it. To win, A&M must capitalize on its recently successful passing game while locking down on Arkansas’ runs, giving the Aggies a slight edge. Arkansas can do the same by dividing carries between its four different running backs and heavily emphasizing on third downs. Either way, this is going to be a close, low-scoring game.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 17, Arkansas: 13
Bradley Bennett, sports reporter
@Brad_Bennett13
For Arkansas, one of its strengths has been its running game. Luckily, A&M has one of the best defensive lines in the country, and it has been bolstered by the returns of sophomore defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson and senior defensive lineman Michael Clemons. If A&M can force Arkansas into throwing the football and are able to establish the running game for its own offense, the Aggies can escape the matchup with a victory. However, the game may come down to whether Calzada can make the throws he has yet to consistently make since he stepped in for injured freshman quarterback Haynes King. Expect A&M to pull out a victory, but not a decisive one.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 28, Arkansas: 24
Jordan Epp, sports reporter
@j_epp22
A&M’s bend-don’t-break style of defense has been effective in keeping teams out of the end zone and off the scoreboard across its first three games. The question is how long this can be sustained. The key to an A&M victory is scoring quickly and getting pressure along the defensive line on early downs; live and die by forcing Arkansas’ Jefferson into must-pass situations against an A&M defense that has only allowed about 77 passing yards per game. This allows A&M to play its run-first style of football and control the game’s pace. Likewise, Arkansas’ key to success is almost the same blueprint. With how similarly built these two teams are, the matchup will be sluggish and down to the wire. Ultimately, the dynamic playmakers on A&M’s offense will make the difference.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 24, Arkansas: 21
Grant Gaspard, sports reporter
@grant_gaspard
I have A&M winning this game, but not by a large margin. This game is going to come down to which offense can convert more on third-downs and which team wins the run game. So far, Arkansas has held their last three opponents to a 28.3 percent conversion rate on 3rd down. If Calzada can get junior tight end Jalen Wydermyer going early, converting on third-down won’t be an issue. The Aggies have a strong run game in Achane and Spiller, however, the Razorbacks have a run game of their own with redshirt sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson and junior transfer Trelon Smith. The Razorbacks have already totaled 847 rushing yards through their first three games of the season. With both teams having a strong run game and an even tougher defense, this game should go down to the wire.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 28, Arkansas: 24
Michael Horton, sports reporter
@mhhort
Despite A&M’s nine straight wins against Arkansas, the rivalry has been surprisingly close since A&M’s return, with three overtime games in four years between 2014 and 2017. Since King went down against Colorado, I’ve seen a growing sentiment that the Aggies have no shot to win this game, and I am not buying it. Call me biased, but the Razorbacks’ resume is not nearly as impressive as people think. They have one notable win against a Texas team that has yet to prove that it is any good this year, sandwiched between a 21-point win over Rice and a 35-point win over Georgia Southern. Ultimately, I think this game leans on two questions: “Can Arkansas run the ball?” and “Can A&M stop the run?” I am not convinced that sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson can throw this offense down the field if the run game isn’t established, and it’s no secret that the Aggies have more offensive firepower than the Razorbacks. Expect a lot of field goals.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 29, Arkansas: 26
Kay Naegeli, sports reporter
@kaynaegeli
Going into this game, No. 16 Arkansas has been surrounded with way too much hype. Sure, they may have a couple standout athletes like Jefferson that can make plays, but their highly mentioned win over Texas was not a good test of talent. In a perfect performance, the Aggies would put the ball on the ground and run with their monster running back core or let Calzada launch it downfield. However, a flawless game against a fellow SEC opponent is an infeasible task. Arkansas has the opportunity to do some damage in the matchup by challenging A&M’s No. 86 run defense and could turn the football game in Arlington into a track meet. Regardless, A&M’s maintained composure and multiple field goals will push them over the edge in this close battle.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 30, Arkansas: 27
Ryne Ryskoski, sports reporter
@rusty_ryskoski_
The Aggies have their hands full with No. 16 Arkansas and its first-year starting quarterback, a wealth of talented rushers and junior receiver Treylon Burks, who has 11 catches and two scores in the last two Southwest Classics. Jefferson’s size combined with his scrambling ability pairs very well with a rotation of four running backs who have all ran for at least 100 yards and each scored once. Junior defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal and senior defensive lineman Jayden Peevy will have to remain disciplined with their gaps and assignments on the line of scrimmage so Arkansas can’t get in a rhythm on the ground. Texas allowed them to get hot, and they proceeded to run for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. Stop their run game and let them try to go after A&M’s secondary through the air. That’ll slow the game clock down so Calzada doesn’t feel pressured and can properly execute head coach Jimbo Fisher’s offensive game plan.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 28, Arkansas: 27
Luke White, sports reporter
@lukewhite03
Why not ten in a row? This year’s Southwest Classic is arguably the most anticipated matchup between Texas A&M and Arkansas of the past decade, as both teams enter the game ranked. After several years of struggling mightily in the SEC, Arkansas seems to have finally found its groove with head coach Sam Pittman and quarterback Jefferson. As they showed against that team from Austin, the Razorbacks can use their dynamic rushing attack to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. However, the Hogs haven’t yet faced a defense like A&M’s, led by Leal and Peevy up front. While Calzada is still growing into the starting quarterback role, the Aggies’ rushing trio of Spiller, Achane and Smith will carry a heavy workload to help the maroon and white eke out a win at Jerry World.
Prediction ⁠— Texas A&M: 24, Arkansas: 21

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