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Analyzing Vegas odds on UA, Ags

OPINION by Bob Wisener | September 23, 2022 at 4:02 a.m.
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman reacts after a score during the first quarter of Arkansas' 24-10 win in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1, 2022.

Las Vegas has spoken, prompting a question from someone who looks at betting lines out of curiosity and not for supplementing income.

Why is Texas A&M favored over Arkansas?

A&M minus 2 points (give or take a half-point either way) is an interesting proposition in a game significant regionally and nationally. The Southwest Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, Saturday night marks the second Southeastern Conference game this season for Arkansas and the league debut for A&M. They play on a neutral site largely at the behest of Dallas Cowboys owner and stadium funder Jerry Jones, who contributes large sums to the University of Arkansas, his alma mater.

Both are nationally ranked, Arkansas No. 10 and Texas A&M No. 20 (coaches) and No. 23 (media). The Hogs are 3-0, beating South Carolina in the SEC opener after getting some national attention in Week One against Cincinnati. In what shaped up as a trap game, they fell behind 17-0 against Bobby Petrino's Missouri State Bears before prevailing 38-27 over the former Razorback head coach's team.

After a no-sweat opener with Sam Houston State, the Aggies rose to No. 6 in the polls before a 17-14 Kyle Field shocker against Appalachian State, thus ramping up the heat on A&M coach Jimbo Fisher. A 17-9 home victory over No. 13 Miami somewhat eased the tension, although Aggie faithful expect more from a team (especially a recruiting class rounded up largely through the Name, Image and Likeness rewards now available to college athletes) that beat Alabama last year.

A&M was ranked seventh and the Hogs 16th last year when Arkansas snapped a nine-game series losing streak to the Aggies, 20-10.

One key player returning is Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson, who passed for 212 yards (two touchdowns) and ran for 50 against the Aggies. In a conference with Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young (Alabama), Jefferson is likely never to be truly appreciated nationally. A developing passer, he is strong enough on the ground to demand "spying" from the defense each play.

A&M, it says here, has not adequately replaced quarterback Kellen Mond, who directed four straight wins over Arkansas. The first-game starter last year was hurt early and Zach Calzada, now at LSU, had a killer interception in the loss to Arkansas, which had success defensively with a three-man rush.

To believe in A&M Saturday night, one must feel that Haynes King, lost early in the 2021 season, or LSU transfer Max Johnson will play exceptionally well or that Jefferson, with nine touchdowns (six through the air), will be off form.

That is entirely possible for A&M against a defense ranked last in the SEC in yards allowed per game (353) and per pass (8.5).

Another scenario has Arkansas controlling the clock with Jefferson posing a dual threat behind a veteran offensive line. Whether defensive overseer Barry Odom uses the three-man rush or not, expect the Razorbacks to get a bad play or two out of the Aggies. Linebacker Drew Sanders leads the league with 27 tackles and he and lineman Zach Williams have totaled eight sacks in an SEC team category that Arkansas leads.

A&M hopes to slow an offense averaging 500 yards and keep the final score within limits, as against Miami.

Associated Press picker Ralph D. Russo, against a 2 1/2-point spread, calls it A&M 26-21.

That A&M is favored might reflect national unease about Arkansas before the first off-campus game for both teams. Though last year was different, Arkansas hasn't won enough of these toss-ups in recent years to inspire blind confidence nationally.

Consider how that might change with consecutive wins over A&M and Alabama. But if the Razorbacks slip at all Saturday, we could be talking about an "Alabama minus 20" point spread next week.

Print Headline: Analyzing Vegas odds on UA, Ags

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