Arkansas-Texas A&M Preview
SEC commissioner Mike Slive officially welcomed
The No. 14 Aggies will get a different type of greeting from one of the members of their new league Saturday.
Like Texas A&M, 18th-ranked Arkansas will try to bounce back from its first loss of the season during the Southwest Classic at Cowboys Stadium.
Texas A&M announced its intentions to leave the Big 12 at the end of last month, but its chance to join the SEC was initially delayed when Baylor and other schools threatened legal action. That threat still remains, but Oklahoma's decision to remain in the Big 12 and keep that nine-team conference together, according to Slive, was enough to pave the way for the Aggies to become his league's 13th member Monday.
Coincidentally, Texas A&M (2-1) will get a taste of SEC play this weekend with its third annual game against the Razorbacks (3-1) in Arlington, Texas.
Like their former Southwest Conference rivals, the Aggies are coming off a defeat to a highly ranked opponent, but theirs was more heart-breaking. Texas A&M led then-No. 7 Oklahoma State 20-3 at halftime last Saturday at home but gave up 27 consecutive points en route to a 30-29 loss.
After giving up fewer than 350 yards to each of their first two opponents, the Aggies allowed Cowboys quarterback Brandon Weeden to throw for a school-record 438 yards and two touchdowns.
That defensive breakdown spoiled a second straight 300-yard passing game from quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Ryan Swope caught seven of those passes for 105 yards, but leading rusher Cyrus Gray was held to 35 yards on 13 carries, snapping his nine-game streak with at least 100.
"We gave the game away," safety Trent Hunter said. "We didn't step up and play with the same passion we did in the first half. We weren't going out with that same fire and we weren't ready to fight. Regardless of what they did in the second half ... we just didn't go out and want to win."
The Razorbacks' high-powered offense, meanwhile, was held in check during a 38-14 defeat at No. 3 Alabama. Arkansas had gained more than 450 yards in each of its first three games but was limited to 226 against the Crimson Tide, including 17 on 19 rushing attempts.
"When we tried to run the ball, we didn't do a very good job of doing that," coach Bobby Petrino said. "One of our goals going into the game was to move forward and not have negative plays. That's what hurt us."
The Razorbacks will try to recover from that defeat with a third win in as many years over Texas A&M. Arkansas recorded a 47-19 rout in the inaugural Classic and fended off the upset-minded Aggies 24-17 last season.
The Razorbacks held a 442-324 advantage in yards in that game, but won't have quarterback Ryan Mallett or running back Knile Davis in this matchup. Mallett, who threw for 310 and three touchdowns, is with the New England Patriots. Davis, who rushed for 82 yards on 10 carries, is out for the season with an injured left ankle.
"They made it hard on us last year. We did move the ball well and we did get it into the end zone when we needed to, but they made it hard on us," Petrino said.
In Mallett's place, Tyler Wilson has completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 1,007 yards and seven TDs. He's also helped his offense go 15 for 15 in the red zone with 12 touchdowns.
Wilson, though, will have to face the nation's most sack-hungry team, averaging 4.7 per game. Aggies outside linebacker Sean Porter has led the way with 3 1/2 of his team's 14.
Arkansas, meanwhile, won't have junior defensive end Tenarius Wright in the lineup. He's expected to miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery for a broken arm suffered in the loss to Alabama.
The Razorbacks will try to add to their 12-game non-conference win streak in the regular season and their 40-24-3 lead in the series.