The most famous guarantees in sports have usually been made by a player or coach for one of the teams involved -- think of Joe Namath's vow that the New York Jets would winIII. In the case of this week's game between Texas A&M and Arkansas, though, the guarantee has come from outside of the two teams and outside of the conference.
It might be a bit too strong to call what Kliff Kingsbury said a guarantee, but it was pretty close. "He just got his a-- kicked twice in a row and probably next week by A&M as well." There is a "probably" there. Kingsbury's hedging a little bit.
And the betting class hasn't made the Aggies overwhelming favorites in this game -- just favorites. The line is somewhere around a touchdown, depending on which book you use. That puts it about 20 points below the line for Vanderbilt-Ole Miss, for comparison's sake. Few people join Kingsbury in his apparent belief that Texas A&M is going to hammer Arkansas in Jerry Jones' Death Star. But Bret Bielema has probably made his team aware of the quote nonetheless. Not that, after the last two losses, the Razorbacks should need any more motivation than simple pride.
1Clash of Styles? One of the reasons for Kingsbury's rant against Bielema appears to stem from the Arkansas coach's comments about playing style. The Razorbacks prefer hard-nosed running while the Red Raiders (and the Aggies) are more in the mold of Air Raid teams. So the squad coming into this game that has run the ball the most would naturally be -- Texas A&M. The Aggies have run on about 57.3 percent of their plays, compared to 53.5 percent for the Hogs. The difference is that Texas A&M has won all of its games going away, the closest one being last week's 17-point victory against Nevada, while Arkansas is 1-2. Expect to see two different brands of football at first. Whether Texas A&M keeps throwing the ball might depend on whether Kevin Sumlin took as much offense at Bielema's comments at a high-school coaching convention as Kingsbury did. (Sumlin dodged the question at his weekly press conference.)
2Reality Check. In retrospect, this game was the first sign last year that the Aggies' early-season rise in the polls might have been an illusion. After crushing South Carolina in Columbia and blasting three mid-major outfits, Texas A&M got pushed to overtime by an Arkansas team that was clearly improved but probably shouldn't have made things that difficult for a Top 10 team. The Aggies would go 2-5 the rest of the way during the regular season. It's a bit early to say whether the good feelings produced by this year's season-opening win over currently unranked Arizona State could prove to be just as illusory as those generated by last year's victory over South Carolina, but this game could once again be an early test of how good the Aggies are.
3Save Our Season. Meanwhile, no one needs a reminder that Arkansas is in a world of hurt right now. The Razorbacks have lost to Toledo and Texas Tech in back-to-back weeks and face the very real prospect of missing a bowl game if things keep going this way. The easy part of the schedule is over; seven of the remaining eight teams on the schedule are from the SEC, and with the exception of Auburn and maybe Mississippi State, all of those conference opponents have at least a chance of being ranked when the Razorbacks play them. This might be a must-win game for Bielema's team, but even if it isn't, it's a must-play-well game. If things go poorly in Arlington, it's more likely than not that the wheels come completely off the season.
Nelson Chenault -- USA Today Sports
4Southwest Classic. This game is sort of an antique and sort of an innovation all wrapped into one. Arkansas is by a pretty fair margin the SEC team that A&M has played the most, with the two teams squaring off 71 times. The LSU-Texas A&M series is next on the list with 53 games. And there was a time when it wasn't uncommon for rivals (or even just conference opponents) to square off on neutral fields. The World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party and the Red River Shootout are among the few holdouts from that era. The new feel of the game comes from the fact that it's held in a professional football stadium and that there was an 18-year hiatus between games before it returned as a nonconference game in 2009. And then there's the fact that it's only been an SEC game for three years.
5Look Out, Quarterbacks. One of the few things that Arkansas has done well this year is to keep Brandon Allen from getting sacked. Of course, the Razorbacks haven't faced a pass rush quite like the one that Texas A&M has. The Aggies have already gotten to the quarterback 15 times this season, which leads the NCAA. Caveat: Nine of those sacks came in the opener against Arizona State. In any case, the flip side of Texas A&M sack success is that opponents have gotten to the A&M quarterback 10 times, which is tied for 115th in the nation. Arkansas, for the record, is tied for last in the country with a single sack. It's not that often you see a game where both teams have a legitimate shot at having either seven sacks or none.
THREE TO WATCH
, QB, Arkansas: For all the problems that Arkansas has had this year -- and they've had many, many problems -- Allen has been one of the bright spots. His passer efficiency rating of 168.20 is fourth-best in the SEC despite his having thrown more than was probably the plan when the season began. Allen is 62-of-92 passing for a 67.4 percent completion percentage, 916 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. Yes, Bret Bielema's quarterback is on pace to throw the ball 368 times for more than 3,600 yards. Seven Razorbacks are averaging more than one reception a game. The problem for Arkansas hasn't been Allen throwing the ball; it's been when and in what situations he's been forced to throw it. If he can have similar success without needing it, the Hogs might have a chance in this game.
Kyle Allen, QB, Texas A&M: I'm not going to lie and say that the fact that both quarterbacks having the last name of "Allen" was completely irrelevant to their both being on this list. But it would also be defensible on other grounds. Remember how is fourth in the SEC in passing efficiency? Well, Kyle Allen ranks third, at 169.43. The Texas A&M starter is 43-of-70 -- he's shared time with Kyler Murray -- for 594 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions. Allen has a variety of weapons, including Christian Kirk (269 receiving yards, 16.8 average) and Josh Reynolds (136 receiving yards, 17.0 average). When Kyle Allen is asked to throw the ball, he can do it well.
Myles Garrett, DE, Texas A&M: After setting a freshman record for sacks in a season last year with 11.5, Garrett has continued to plague offensive line coaches in 2015. He's already picked up 5.5 sacks this year, which you can probably guess leads the SEC, and is the only Aggie defender with a sack in more than one game this year. He's also credited with five quarterback hurries; the only other A&M players who have any are tied for second with one. There are plenty of good players on the Texas A&M defense this year, but Garrett is quickly developing into one of the best defensive player in the SEC.
Thomas Shea -- USA Today Sports
The one tricky thing about this game is that the Razorbacks are already in desperation mode, and they're a dangerous team even when they're not. And there's always that nagging sense with Texas A&M that this is a replay of 2014, and maybe they're just not as good as they've looked early on. But those are dangerous things on which to base a prediction. Based on what we've seen so far, it's safe to say that A&M is better than Arkansas. It might not be a blowout, but it should be a healthy win. Texas A&M 43, Arkansas 29