It's easy to get caught up in narratives in college football, or any other sport. One of the things that the human brain does well, for whatever reason, is make connections between the past and present. And right now, the narrative for Texas A&M is looking very much like a connection between the past and present.
To wit: In 2014, Texas A&M opened the season by beating a team seen as a Power 5 division contender (South Carolina), then smashed a series of cupcakes before needing overtime to beat an Arkansas team destined to finish at the bottom of the SEC West. That ran the Aggies' record to 5-0; but after that game, Texas A&M would win just one game in conference and would finish the year 8-5 after their bowl victory.
In 2015, Texas A&M opened the season by beating a team seen as a Power 5 division contender (Arizona State), then smashed a couple of cupcakes before needing overtime to beat an Arkansas team that seems destined to finish at or near the bottom of the SEC West. It's not clear who first said, "History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme" -- but it's a quote that seems apropos for the Aggies right now.
No team should ever feel bad after an SEC win, but the A&M faithful could be forgiven if they feel a little shaky tonight. Arkansas churned out 457 yards on 67 plays, an average of 6.8 yards a snap. Arkansas' rushing attack churned out 232 of those yards on 42 carries, and Razorbacks quarterback Brandon Allen also did well, going 20-of-25 for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Without the heroics of Christian Kirk, who caught eight passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, Texas A&M might not even have been in the game late.
But they were in it late, when Arkansas led 21-13 and was milking the clock on the kind of grinding drive that the Aggies had been unable to stop throughout the second half. The Arkansas drive faltered, though, and A&M got the ball back with about four minutes left on the clock. On the third play of the resulting drive, there was confusion and a coverage breakdown that sprung Josh Reynolds for a 63-yard reception to set up 1st-and-goal. Four plays later, the Aggies had scored a touchdown and a two-point conversion to tie things.
It was in overtime, though, where Arkansas seemed to really lose the game. After A&M scored quickly in their first overtime -- much like in 2014 -- the Hogs overcame an early false-start penalty to set up 3rd-and-4 at the A&M 19-yard line. And a team whose coach has made his name on smashmouth football promptly tried two passes in the same situation. Both fell to the ground. Game over.
Once again, a narrow win against Arkansas has exposed Texas A&M's weak spots. They struggle to run the ball with any degree of consistency; even when sacks are taken out of the equation, the Aggies managed just 78 rushing yards on 18 carries. That's not terrible, but it's also not enough to truly scare anyone. (And more than half of those yards came on three plays.) The A&M defense did manage to tag Arkansas with the first and second sacks the Razorbacks have allowed this season, but otherwise struggled to stop the Arkansas attack. The SEC schedule is probably more forgiving in 2015 than it was last year, but the conference spent all of Saturday showing that it's unpredictable and penciling in any game as a win is dangerous.
At least the Aggies won, though. For Arkansas and Bret Bielema -- whose seat has quickly warmed up with three straight losses -- there is no such comfort. It would be something of an accomplishment now for the Razorbacks to simply finish the season with the same record they had last year. If there's anything worse than repeating the past, especially in the high-pressure SEC West, it's failing to do even that much.