FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — No. 17 Arkansas and No. 10 Texas A&M will play Saturday night in what has turned into a crucial SEC West showdown.
As has become the annual tradition, the teams will meet at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
And now, as has become a weekly tradition here at SEC Country, we break down five key things to watch in the upcoming Arkansas football game.
5. Austin Allen vs. Trevor Knight
Both quarterbacks are new starters at their respective programs, but Knight has loads more experience playing big-time college football. He threw for 3,424 yards and 25 touchdowns during three years at Oklahoma but lost his job to Baker Mayfield before the 2015 season. Most SEC fans probably know Knight best for his Sugar Bowl MVP performance against Alabama nearly three years ago.
Allen, meanwhile, is seeing his first significant college action. He has been efficient in the last two weeks and helped lead Arkansas to a thrilling, double-overtime victory earlier this month at TCU.
The winner of this game could come down to quarterback play.
4. Defensive backs
Despite some early injuries, Arkansas’ defensive backs have played well. Sophomore cornerback Ryan Pulley and junior nickelback Henre’ Toliver have been impressive. Kevin Richardson II’s Week 1 injury thrust both into new roles. Texas A&M’s wide receivers present the biggest challenge — by far — for the Arkansas secondary yet this season.
If it seems like I include linebackers in this post every week, it’s because I do. The reason for that is we are unclear about who is capable of filling in for starters Brooks Ellis and Dre Greenlaw.
Junior linebacker Khalia Hackett no longer is part of the travel roster. That only muddies things more. True freshman De’Jon Harris and junior Dwayne Eugene are being counted on to play in relief of Ellis and Greenlaw. Considering how little Harris and Eugene have played on defense, how confident are the coaches?
We might find out the answer to that on Saturday.
2. Cole Hedlund
Another regular on this list, Hedlund still needs to prove that he’s capable of being a clutch field-goal kicker. In the only clutch situation this season, he missed a short attempt that caused things to unravel for Arkansas at TCU before the comeback.
1. Offensive line
Arkansas’ offensive line has been shuffled. Jake Raulerson and Frank Ragnow have switched places. Colton Jackson apparently has lost his starting spot.
It looks like Brian Wallace will start this week in Jackson’s place at right tackle. The biggest question about Arkansas’ offensive line centers around this: Can it keep Allen off his back? Texas A&M’s defensive line — headlined by All-American Myles Garrett — will be an enormous challenge for this group.
If the Arkansas O-line can’t handle Garrett & Co., Saturday night could be a long one for the Hogs.