The No. 7 Texas A&M Aggies (3-0) cruise over the “Jerry’s World” to meet SEC co-tenant no. 16 Arkansas Razorbacks (3-0) Saturday for each teams’ SEC opener. This will be the 77th meeting between these programs. The Texas A&M-Arkansas series resumes at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, where it was held from 2014-19 but was played at the Aggies’ home field in 2020 due to the pandemic.
Texas A&M only covered in two of its wins, both 30-plus-point blowouts, but the Aggies allow the fewest points per game in college football. Their covers have come against Kent State on September 4 and New Mexico on September 18. However, Texas A&M eked out a 10-7 win at the Colorado Buffaloes on September 11 as 17-point road favorites.
Arkansas has looked even more impressive, covering all three of its victories and putting college football on notice by thumping then-no. 15 Texas 41-20 as 5.5-point home underdogs in Week 2. The Razorbacks have been trampling foes. Arkansas averages the eighth-most rushing yards per game in the country and the 11th-most rushing yards per carry.
Since Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman took over the program in 2020, the Razorbacks are 8-3 against the spread (ATS) as an underdog and 7-3 ATS vs. other SEC teams. Also, Arkansas is 4-6 O/U and 5-6 O/U as an underdog over that span. On the other hand, Texas A&M is 2-4 ATS in neutral site games (2-4 O/U) and 13-12 ATS in conference play (9-16 O/U) since hiring head coach Jimbo Fisher in 2018.
Arkansas has become a sharp and public play. Both sides of the market have bet Texas A&M down from a 5.5-point favorite on the opener to the Aggies now laying -4.5. According to Pregame.com, roughly 70% of the handle and nearly two-thirds of the cash is on the Razorbacks.
The only reasons I can think of that would make Texas A&M -4.5 on a neutral field vs. Arkansas based on how each team has played thus far are that the Aggies are ranked higher in the AP Poll and by the ESPN Bill Connelly’s and Football Outsiders of the world. Granted, the advanced college football gurus know more than I do, but, even using their data, it feels like the wrong team is favored.
According to Football Outsiders, Arkansas has a higher net drive efficiency, net points per drive, and net points per play. Keep in mind, Arkansas has played a more difficult strength of schedule through three weeks. Furthermore, Arkansas returned 20 starters this season (the most in the SEC). In comparison, Texas A&M ranked 99th in returning production, according to ESPN’s Bill Connelly.
On top of that, Texas A&M lost starting redshirt freshman QB Haynes King will be out multiple weeks after suffering a fracture in his left leg on September 11 against Colorado. King’s replacement—sophomore QB Zach Calzada—is completing just 51.4% of his passes with 6.4 passing yards per attempt (King averages 8.6 passing yards per attempt) and a 117.6 QB Rating (King has a 136.6 QB Rating). Calzada struggled in relief duty for King against Colorado. He completed 47.4% of his passes on a Colorado defense that’s ranks 41st in efficiency (according to Football Outsiders). Calzada bounced back with a better outing in Texas A&M’s next game, but against a New Mexico team that ranks 112th in defensive efficiency (according to Football Outsiders).
I have a hunch that Calzada could be in over his head vs. an Arkansas defense. The Razorbacks rank ninth across all Power 5 football programs in non-garbage time predicted points added (PPA). In fact, Arkansas’ sneaky-good defense combined with Texas A&M’s top-tier defense is why I like the Over here. However, the Razorbacks’ 14th-ranked offensive PPA is far superior to Texas A&M’s 44th-ranked offensive PPA. Ultimately, this is the difference in the game.
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