The matchup of elite running backs was one of the first few things that stood out about the Arkansas-Texas A&M game before the season began.
Knile Davis has rushed for 208 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Arkansas had junior Knile Davis, the preseason first-team All-SEC pick who was being mentioned as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
Texas A&M had senior Christine Michael, a preseason third-team all-conference pick who ran for 230 yards and three touchdowns vs. the Razorbacks in 2011.
And as we head into Saturday’s matchup between the Razorbacks (1-3, 0-1 SEC) and Aggies (2-1, 0-1) in College Station, neither has produced much for their respective teams.
Davis has rushed for 208 yards through four games, averaging 3.25 yards per carry.
Michael has done even less, playing in two of the three games and gaining a total of 59 yards. He’s averaged 2.95 yards per carry.
Davis does, at least, lead the Hogs in rushing. Texas A&M’s top rusher is its quarterback, redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel.
As we know, Davis doesn’t appear to be the same guy he was in 2010 after missing all of last season with an ankle injury.
Christine Michael has been suspended for one game and was the No. 3 back last week.
On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Paul Petrino pointed to explosion, quickness and cuts as the biggest difference between Davis and backup running back Dennis Johnson, who’s averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
A day earlier, Davis’ quarterback discussed the issue.
“His breakout year in 2010 he didn’t really crank it up until the back six games,” senior All-SEC quarterback Tyler Wilson said of Davis. “We’ll see how it goes and maybe we’ll figure something out to get him going.”
Wilson said Davis has been in a pretty mental good state despite his struggles on the field.
“Knile’s Knile,” Wilson said, later adding that “he’s a good, strong kid.
“It’s’ not how you draw it up. Now how maybe it should have been or could have been. … It’s what it is and we’ve just got to keep going.”
Meanwhile, in College Station, Michael has been suspended for one game (vs. SMU), and in last week’s 70-14 win over South Carolina State, he was the No. 3 back. He didn’t get into the game until the second half.
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said Michael doesn’t have any lingering off-the-field issues, but that junior Ben Malena will again be the starter Saturday against Arkansas. Malena has 22 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns this season. True freshman Trey Williams is also expected to play.
“We’ve got three good backs,” Sumlin said. “It’s kind of interesting to me because I’ve said from Day 1 of two-a-days all three of them were going to play. In my estimation, for two reasons. No. 1 , Christine hasn’t made it through a full season in the last three years. He needs the other three backs to play. We need it from a team standpoint because of his injury issues in the past and the development of the other backs."
During fall camp, Sumlin reportedly said he knew how tough Michael was because of what he did against the Razorbacks in 2011. But on Tuesday, Sumlin said he hasn’t really looked at that game.
“That has no bearing on this game this year,” Sumlin said. “So we’ve approached every game this year that way. This game is no different.”
Maybe not, but the running backs have certainly been different than what we thought they would be.