NCAA Football

2011 College Football Big Game Preview: Arkansas vs. Texas A&M

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The next installment of our road to the National Championship takes us into October and a return to Arlington, Texas.

We have already looked at the six games in September that we feel will make the most impact on who will play for the National Championship. In October we only have 3 games to throw the spotlight on, one is an SEC/Big 12 showdown and the other two are Big Ten match-ups. Then the rest of our countdown takes place in November. October 1st has some interesting games on tap.

Wisconsin takes on Nebraska in a Big Ten slugfest, Boise State tries for revenge against Nevada, Alabama goes to Florida, Arizona and USC tussle out west, Auburn and South Carolina re-match from the SEC Championship Game, Clemson goes to Virginia Tech and Dan Mullen and his bulldogs head to Athens. But the game that we have our eye on takes place in the house that Jerry built in Arlington, Texas.

Arkansas Razorbacks vs. Texas A&M Aggies

When: October 1st

Where: Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Rivalries are always fun. They are what college football is built on and they are what makes the games on Saturday so special. This one is called the "Southwest Classic" and it originated way back in 1903. This rivalry was played every year from 1934 to 1991. Arkansas then left to join the SEC and the rivalry was put on hold. In 2009 the series continued when Arkansas and Ryan Mallett routed the Aggies 47-19 in Arlington. Last years game was much more competitive and came down to the wire when Tremain Thomas grabbed a Jerrod Johnson interception to seal the 24-17 victory. So that we don't receive any more hate mail from our Arkansas readers I will mention that Arkansas has the lead in this series 40-24-3.

The Arkansas game was part of a 3-game epiphany for the Aggies last year. It was then that they realized that Jerrod Johnson was not the QB for them and they turned the reigns over to Ryan Tannehill and promptly went on a six game run that included wins over two top ten opponents. One of the most interesting storylines of this game will be QB vs QB. Tannehill versus first-time starter Tyler Wilson, who we featured as one of our SEC Breakout Players for this year.

As intriguing as that storyline is it could come down to the running backs and which team has the biggest game on the ground. Last year both teams ran for under 135 yards and Arkansas dominated the time of possession by about 10 minutes. Arkansas held the Aggies to 112 yards rushing but overall gave up 162 yards per game in 2010. Arkansas only lost 3 games last year but in all of their losses they gave up over 200 yards and over 5 yards per carry in all of those games (on the bright side they probably get that loss to Ohio State taken off the record books). Odds say that if the Aggies can get rolling and control the clock this one could be theirs for the taking.

On the other side of the football the Razorbacks are well-known for their deep WR corps but what teams might take for granted is that they have a really good stable of running backs. Knile Davis broke out last year against Texas A&M as he had a career-high 82 yards on just 10 carries. After the A&M game he went wild running for over 100 yards in 6 of 8 games and was not held below 80 yards for the rest of the season. Besides Davis, the Razorbacks also have Ronnie Wingo (who looks like he could be much improved this year) and Dennis Johnson returns from an injury. All eyes will be on the QBs going into this game but it could be the RBs who steal the show and win the game.

It's entirely possible that both of these teams come into the game with one loss a piece and on the outside looking in when it comes to the National Title. But wouldn't it be fun if Arkansas finds a way to beat Alabama and A&M beats Okie State? With both teams playing big games before this match-up both teams could be riding sky-high coming into this game or they could be up against a wall in a must-win situation. This will be a must-see rivalry game.