The 10th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies go in search of their first SEC win of the season, as they pay a visit to the Arkansas Razorbacks on Saturday night.
Both teams enter the fray sporting identical 3-1 records, and while neither has a win over the kind of team that makes the SEC the toughest conference in the country, the Aggies came close to doing so as they took No. 1 Alabama to the limit in what wound up being a 49-42 setback.
Texas A&M's three wins have come over Rice, Sam Houston State and SMU, and the Aggies have scored no fewer than 42 points in any game this season.
Arkansas topped the likes of Louisiana, Samford and Southern Miss in the first three weeks of the campaign, but came up just short in last week's trip to Rutgers, falling to the Scarlet Knights in a 28-24 final.
Bret Bielema is in his first season with the Razorbacks, and the former head coach at Wisconsin owns an impressive 47-5 record in home games during his career, which includes a 3-0 mark this year.
Despite last week's setback, Bielema is excited about the challenge that lies ahead.
"From our standpoint as coaches, we want to make it a big game," Bielema said. "Texas A&M has got a loss. We've got a loss. They're a top-10 team and have the returning Heisman Trophy candidate. With a sold-out crowd, I've never seen Donald W. Reynolds (Razorback Stadium) completely packed, so it's going to be exciting and hopefully a very, very loud atmosphere."
These two teams were charter members of the old Southwest Conference, facing each other regularly from 1915 until Arkansas left for the SEC in 1992. The Hogs hold a 41-25-3 edge in the all-time series, and this is A&M's first trip to Fayetteville since posting a 20-16 win back in 1990.
Led by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, the Aggies are putting up more than 50 ppg in amassing 602.2 ypg -- both stats ranking the team in the top-6 nationally. Manziel has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,228 yards, 12 TDs and four interceptions, hitting Mike Evans 22 times for 575 yards and three scores, and Malcome Kennedy 19 times for 218 yards and four TDs.
Also a threat with his legs, Manizel currently ranks second on the team with 255 rushing yards and three TDs. Ben Malena paces the club with 263 yards and five scores, while Tra Carson has found the end zone on four occasions.
On defense, the Aggies haven't been as dominant, allowing 31 points to Rice, 28 to Sam Houston State and of course 49 to the Crimson Tide. Foes average 475.2 ypg against them, with similar production coming from both the run (218.2 ypc) and the pass (257 ypg). The unit has come up with eight turnovers and has 21 TFL, but only four sacks. Howard Matthews spearheads A&M's defensive effort with 31 tackles.
In last week's 42-13 win over SMU, the Aggies rolled up 581 yards of total offense, with 265 coming on the ground and 316 through the air. Manziel went 14-of-21 for 244 yards with a TD and an interception, while also rushing for 102 yards and two scores. Malena hit pay dirt twice in tallying 71 yards on 13 carries. Kennedy led the receivers with six grabs for 83 yards and a TD.
Tramain Jacobs was high man on the TAMU defense with 10 tackles, and the unit came up with three takeaways, but only two TFL and a single sack. The Mustangs were held to 93 rushing yards, but generated 341 through the air on 41 completions.
Arkansas had a 24-7 late in the third quarter of last week's game against Rutgers, but the Scarlet Knights scored 21 unanswered points to earn the four- point victory. The Razorbacks amassed just 282 yards of total offense, but they did not turn the ball over, and allowed only one sack. Unfortunately, they were just 3-of-14 on third-down conversion attempts and only made one trip to the red zone.
AJ Derby took the majority of the snaps, completing 14-of-26 passes for 137 yards and a TD, while Alex Collins served as the team's primary ball carrier with 63 yards on 16 carries.
The UA defense did an exceptional job against the run (54 yards, no TDs), but with Rutgers needing big plays in a hurry, allowed 346 yards and three TDs through the air.
Eric Bennett led the Hogs with 11 tackles, Jarrett Lake had 10, and the unit as a whole registered three takeaways and five sacks. Darius Philon had two sacks, the first ones of his career, and now ranks third on the team in that department behind Trey Flowers (3) and Chris Smith (5.5). Lake leads the way with 30 total stops.
Arkansas averages 28.2 ppg while permitting 16.5 ppg, and the club owns more than a 107 ypg advantage in total offense. Foes have scored a total of only seven points in the first quarter this season.
Neither Derby nor Brandon Allen have done much to strike fear into the hearts of opposing defenses, combining to throw for just 561 yards. They have however, been efficient with regard to TD-to-INT ratio (6-1). The UA ground assault has been on point early on, generating 246 ypg, with Collins and Jonathan Williams rushing for a combined 899 yards and five TDs. Javontee Herndon (12 rec., 200 yards, four TDs) is the only Razorback with double-digit catches.