Recruiting and roster building have helped the 2022 Arkansas Razorbacks assemble one …
Southwest Classic teams familiar to adversity
Texas A&M wide receiver Evan Stewart (1) is stopped after a catch by Appalachian State linebacker Andrew Parker (15), Ethan Johnson (19) and Kaleb Dawson (1) during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Sam Craft)
FAYETTEVILLE — Two teams salvaging their seasons in non-conference games at home last Saturday jump start their SEC season Saturday at a neutral site.
The nationally 10th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks and the 23rd-ranked Texas A&M Aggies play their annual Southwest Classic game at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN at the Jerry Jones-owned Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
It marks Arkansas’ first 2022 trip away from Reynolds Razorback Stadium and the Aggies’ first venture away from Kyle Field.
Coach Sam Pittman’s Razorbacks and Coach Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies both arrive in the Dallas Metroplex ranked, but recently feeling more rank than ranked.
After a swaggering summer headlined war of words with Alabama Coach Nick Saban, Fisher was silenced by Appalachian State. The Mountaineers upset his Aggies 17-14 two Saturdays ago.
Responding to the supposedly inexplicable, the Aggies last Saturday defeated the then-13th-ranked Miami Hurricanes 17-9.
Meanwhile Pittman’s 3-0 overall and 1-0 in the SEC Razorbacks, initially defeating a strong then-23rd-ranked Cincinnati team and impressively beating SEC foe South Carolina, variously trailed down a division FCS member Missouri State 17-0, and 27-17 before rescuing a 38-27 triumph last Saturday.
Given how an overtime upset administered by Louisiana-Monroe in Little Rock in 2012 defined John L. Smith’s 4-8 Razorbacks, and massive upsets by North Texas, San Jose State and Western Kentucky in 2018 and 2019 defined the consecutively abysmal 2-10, 2-10 Chad Morris era, Pittman’s Hogs faced an ominous precedent had they lost at home to a 26-point underdog.
Whereas the Morris teams folded like an accordion, 44-17 and 45-19 upon trailing North Texas and Western Kentucky early, Pittman’s Razorbacks rallied and prevailed.
Upon retrospect, Appalachian State and Missouri State both were far more than oddsmakers projected.
Appalachian State first burst into national prominence as the 2007 FCS David upsetting the Big Ten Goliath Michigan Wolverines in the Big House at Ann Arbor.
The Mountaineers have grown to FBS status in the Group of Five, too often disrespected, yet without a doubt emerging Sun Belt Conference. They nearly upset Miami last year, and opened this season battling ACC power North Carolina to the 63-61 wire in Chapel Hill, N.C., before upending the Aggies.
The Mountaineers may well be better than Miami, still in the Top 25 but recently living more off past prowess than consistent performance.
Nevertheless, the Hurricanes ranked 13th when A&M showed its mettle rebounding from its fall to the Mountaineers.
Missouri State, nationally sixth in the FCS, coached by former Arkansas offensive wizard Bobby Petrino and loaded with plenty of talented former Division I players via the transfer portal, also vastly exceeded oddsmakers reputations.
Overcoming three devastating turnovers to prevail proved a gut check the Hogs passed admirably.
Both teams come to Jerry World already overcoming unanticipated adversity.
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