Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#391 Texas A&M vs.
#392 Arkansas
Saturday, September 25, 2021 at 3:30pm EDT
Written by Jordy

A pivotal SEC clash between the No. 16-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and No. 7-ranked Texas A&M Aggies takes center stage at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Saturday. It’ll be the battle of the unbeatens with Arkansas rumbling their way through Georgia Southern, No. 15 Texas, and Rice, while the Aggies are coming off wins over New Mexico, Colorado, and Kent State. The Aggies are expected to stick with quarterback Zach Calzada against Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson.

Calzada faces a real test

Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada will be making his second start since taking the reins after the Haynes King injury against Colorado. In his first game as a starter, he threw for 275 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception with a 57.6 completion percentage against New Mexico.

But things are going to get significantly more difficult in Saturday’s run-in with Arkansas.

He’ll be facing a top-five defense in the SEC that’s only allowing an average of 16 points per game. The secondary for the Hogs has been all over the field, and they’re allowing 3.23 yards per carry on the ground. This is going to be one of those games where we find out what Calzada is all about right out of the gates.

The Aggies are averaging 185 rushing yards per game with the team leaning on a two-headed rushing monster of their own with running backs Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane. However, if they get stuffed, the team will have to rely on the arm of their young quarterback. Whether he’s ready or not to deliver the goods on this stage remains to be seen.

Texas A&M could be without a key weapon with receiver and shifty return man Ainias Smith on the injury report after suffering a concussion last week. Wideout Caleb Chapman is also confirmed out with an undisclosed injury, while the team remains unsure of the availability of injured offensive lineman Layden Robinson.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Aggies have only let two touchdowns through all season. That’s obviously going to change with them finally being matched against other top competition. KJ Jefferson and that Arkansas offense will cause headaches, but the key will be holding them to field goals instead of touchdowns.

Unlike the Razorbacks, the Texas A&M defense is generating pressure upfront. So don’t sleep on them turning up the heat in the pocket for Jefferson. Of course, they’ll have to keep him contained so he isn’t killing them by making plays on the move.

Can the Hogs keep grounding and pounding?

This Arkansas team is as dangerous as they come on the ground. Not only do they have a dynamic running back in Trelon Smith, but KJ Jefferson’s ability to use his legs at the quarterback position has made for a terrifying two-headed monster out of the gates for the Razorbacks.

Both men rank inside the top-10 rushers in the entire SEC with Smith sitting at No. 7 with 216 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Arkansas feasted on rushing yards against Georgia Southern, but it was their 333-yard performance against Texas that really turned heads.

Can they remain dominant on the ground against a much tougher test against Texas A&M?

The Aggies are far from the best run-stuffing team in the SEC, but they have only allowed two touchdowns and an average of 4.08 yards per carry despite having the third-most rushing attempts against them. It’s going to be a dog fight in the trenches, and the Razorbacks need to scrap their way to victory. Jefferson is capable of throwing the ball as well, but the last thing the team needs is to handicap him by becoming one-dimensional.

Arkansas is the third-worst team in the conference in long passing plays with at least 22 plays being below the 20-yard range. It doesn’t help matters that Texas A&M has the No. 1-ranked passing defense with teams averaging 77.3 yards through the air per game against them.

But Arkansas’ defense is No. 2 in those rankings.

That’s the one thing that makes this game so much fun is the strength of the two defenses involved. The Razorbacks have only allowed one passing touchdown while snatching away at least three interceptions. A turnover or two on Saturday could change the momentum drastically in a game that will be all about field position.

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Ainias Smith potentially missing this game would be crippling for the Aggies. Not only does he provide the team with an explosive return game, but he also leads all receivers with 13 receptions. It would be one less weapon for quarterback Zach Calzada. The team will also be missing Caleb Chapman, who has shown up for the longer scrimmage plays.

KJ Jefferson is proving he’s capable of doing much more than just running the football. That versatility will be troubling for a talented Texas A&M defense. They haven’t seen anything of the sort up until this point.

Arkansas’ pass defense is suffocating, and they’re coming away with takeaways consistently. They’ve forced at least five turnovers in the first three games of the season. Calzada is going to make the crucial mistakes that’ll help keep the Hogs in the fight.

This will be one of those by the skin of their teeth games with both defenses showing up and making it difficult for the other side to move the ball. If you want a defensive slugfest, you’ll get one with these two SEC rivals.

Give me the points on Saturday.

Prediction: Arkansas Razorbacks (+4.5)

Full-Game Total Pick

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This isn’t just the first real test for Zach Calzada as the starting quarterback, but this is the first real test for the entire Texas A&M team. They’ll be facing an Arkansas defense that’s tough against both the run and the pass. Both of these teams combined have only yielded one passing touchdown so far this season. So nothing seems to be working through the air. Considering both teams love to pound the ball on the ground, this is leaning towards being a physical contest that’s all about field position and time of possession. I’m rolling with the under in this one.

Prediction: Under (47)
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Written By Jordy McElroy , "Jordy"

Born in Germany and raised in the beautiful state of Tennessee, Jordy McElroy is a storyteller of sports, a sports betting enthusiast, and a semi-deep thinker. Being a New England Patriots fan means he's a six-time Super Bowl winner as well, which means you'd have to be a fool to ignore his advice. Prior to joining our team here at Winners & Whiners, Jordy’s work appeared on CNN.com, FOX Sports, Bleacher Report, USA TODAY, and BJPenn.com. There are no beaches where he comes from -- just rolling hills, green valleys, and all the Sun Drop you can drink.