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Arkansas, Texas A&M battle at Jerry World Saturday
By: Staff Writer - StatFox
Published: 9/20/2017  at  12:38:00 PM
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AT&T Stadium Arlington, TX
Kickoff: Saturday, 12:00 p.m. ET
Line: Texas A&M -2.5, Total: 54.5

Kevin Sumlin can begin to redeem himself for a season-opening choke job when the Aggies open SEC play this weekend.

This year's Southwest Classic, the college football rivalry between Texas A&M and Arkansas, will have some extra pageantry involved: The game will be played at Jerry Jones' enormous AT&T Stadium in Arlington, and the Razorbacks will honor one of their most prominent alumni with uniforms that resemble those of his Dallas Cowboys. For the two teams' head coaches, though, there's a cloud hanging over the matchup: The loser could find himself without a job at the end of the season or, in the case of A&M's Kevin Sumlin, at the end of this week. The Aggies were sent reeling by a Week 1 defeat at UCLA, a game they led by 34 points before losing 45-44 (A&M +6.5). With only uninspiring wins over Nicholls State (24-14, NSU +37.5) and Louisiana-Lafayette (45-21, A&M -24) since, Sumlin may have the hottest seat in college football. Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, meanwhile, is 1-1 this year (0-2 ATS) and 10-22 in SEC games in his tenure with the Razorbacks. Since the beginning of last season, A&M is 0-8 ATS when coming off a loss against the spread. Since 1992, Arkansas is 18-5 Under the total in neutral field games. Texas A&M RB Trayveon Williams missed the Aggies' game last week, but is considered probably to play on Saturday.

Strictly speaking, the season got off to an excellent start for Texas A&M, as the Aggies led UCLA 38-10 at halftime and still held a 44-17 advantage after three full quarters. Of course, what happened after that is now in the history books. A&M entered the season with questions at the quarterback position, and have only created more questions for themselves three games into the year. True freshman QB Kellen Mond (50.0 CMP%, 433 yards, 4 TDs, INT) will get his third career start when the Aggies head to Jerry World. Redshirt freshman QB Nick Starkel started the opener against UCLA, but only made it thirteen passes into the game before breaking his ankle. He may be out for the season. Senior QB Jake Hubenak has started for the Aggies in the past and has seen action this season (12-for-15 passing, 93 yards against Nicholls), but Sumlin seems to prefer Mond for now. Mond looked the best he has all season in the second half against UL-Lafayette, as the Aggies outscored the Cajuns 31-0 in that frame. He has one of the nation's best receivers in WR Christian Kirk (14 catches, 101 yards, 2 TDs; 3 carries, 27 yards) at his disposal, and freshman WR Jhamon Ausbon (10 catches, 108 yards, TD) has been a strong second fiddle this season. A&M's real strength, though, is on the ground, where Williams (33 carries, 256 yards, 3 TDs) destroyed UCLA for 203 yards. RB Kendall Bussey (32 carries, 204 yards, TD) has been effective in filling in while Williams sat with minor injuries.

The Razorbacks opened their season with a 49-7 win against Florida A&M in Fayetteville (FAMU +46.5), but then put up an offensive dud at home the next week in a 28-7 loss to TCU (TCU -2.5). Senior QB Austin Allen (54.8 CMP%, 273 yards, 2 TDs, INT) was startlingly ineffective against the Horned Frogs, posting one of the worst lines of his career in completing 9 of 23 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. The defense was stout for most of the game, but ultimately wore down thanks largely to the offense's inability to stay on the field or win the field position battle. He spread the ball around in the opener, completing a pass to nine different receivers and at least two passes to six of them. But only WR Jonathan Nance (6 catches, 100 yards, TD) posted much of a line against TCU, catching three balls for 75 yards and a score. The Razorbacks lost six of their eight leading receivers from 2016 entering this season, and the fact that senior WR Jared Cornelius (2 catches, 8 yards), one of the team's best from last year, has been near-invisible hasn't helped matters. Star back Rawleigh Williams III is gone, as well, but the run game situation in Fayetteville appears to be more solidified. Sophomore RB Devwah Whaley (23 carries, 92 yards, TD) hasn't quite lived up to expectations yet, but the season is still young. Senior RB David Williams (17 carries, 88 yards, 2 TDs; 2 catches, 48 yards) was the best thing the offense had going for it against TCU, as he carried the ball 10 times for 65 yards on the afternoon. Freshman RB Chase Hayden (16 carries, 121 yards, TD) was a pleasant surprise with 120 yards and a touchdown in the opener, but he managed only a yard on two carries against TCU.

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