Week #11 CFB Preview:
Game #1: #15 Texas A&M at #1 Alabama (Nov. 10)
Another marquee showdown in the SEC, who wouldda thunk it? This week Texas A&M and Johnny Football invade Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide fresh off of their dramatic 21-17 win last Saturday night in Death Valley. What will they have in the tank? How will they fare trying to contain the best freshman in the SEC? Who is the best QB in the SEC…Manziel or McCarron? All of these questions will be answered Saturday afternoon.
Manziel, perhaps the most electrifying offensive player in the SEC, will go up against the #2 overall defense, and great dual-threat quarterback schemer in Nick Saban. on paper, Alabama is the better team, but will they have a letdown from last week’s “game of the century” (Part 3). If Manziel can lead the upset, he can punch his ticket to New York and the Heisman ceremony.
This is the first time that these two teams will meet, both as members of the SEC. The last time Texas A&M and Alabama squared off was in 1988 when the Crimson Tide won 30-10. Overall, Alabama leads the head-to-head series 3-1.
Texas A&M Will Win If:
quite simply, Johnny Manziel can continue to be “Johnny Football,” and the Aggies offense can continue to roll.
The all-everything quarterback has been as close to a one-man show for the Aggies as possible. Certainly the surrounding cast has done well, players like WR Ryan Swope and RB Ben Malena are integral parts of the offense, but realistically, they are the statistical by-products of what Manziel brings to the table. Both Swope and Malema were on the Aggies squad last year, and they were no where near as proficient as they are this year. Why is that…because of Johnny Football.
For Texas A&M to win this game, they need Manziel to be the best offensive player on the field. He has been able to be that player for a half against teams like Florida and LSU, but he hasn’t been able to sustain it for an entire game. Last week against an over-matched Mississippi State team, Manziel carved them up from the opening whistle. The Aggies offensive line were able to open holes for Manziel and Malema to run, as well as give him time to find the open receiver. The Bulldogs literally had no answer for what Texas A&M was able to do offensively.
What Aggies head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kinsbury are doing on offense, makes opposing defenses look plain, old silly! The Aggies are wracking up 559 yards of offense and scoring 44.7 points per game in what many consider a defensive-minded league. However, against two of the best defenses they have faced – LSU and Florida – Manziel and the offense were limited to 17 and 19 points respectively.
For Texas A&M, the running game, outside of Manziel, has been coming on strong of late. Ben Malena and Christine Michael have really found their running shoes. Malena has rushed for 637 yards and 6 TDs while Michael has rushed for 321 yards and 8 scores.
Mike Evans and Ryan Swope have provided the outside threats for Texas A&M and Manziel. Evans looks like he has all of the tools to be another good receiver for the Aggies. On the year, Evans has reeled in 56 passes for 802 yards and 2 TDs while Swope has caught 45 passes for 641 yards and 5 scores.
Might Texas A&M be the nation’s best 2-loss team? It’s possible. Other teams like LSU and South Carolina might have something to say about that, but it is hard to argue that Texas A&M has the most explosive offense in the SEC (Georgia would be a close second). Texas A&M is 5-0 on the road this season, can they keep the streak going? To do so they will need all of the offensive firepower they can muster to defeat the best defense they will see all year…and they have seen some very good defenses!
Alabama Will Win If:
they remain balanced offensively and play up to there #2 defensive ranking.
Most people outside of SEC country might be shocked to know that Alabama possesses the second-highest scoring offense in the SEC (38.4 ponts per game), and are 5th in total offense. The Crimson Tide are led by Heisman hopeful QB A.J. McCarron. The offense also has future NFL lineman Barrett Jones, not to mention two workhorses in the backfield (Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon) and emerging playmakers at the receiver position (Amari Cooper and Kevin Norwood, and Kenny Bell).
Last week was the first time the ‘Bama offense was tested, against NFL-caliber players on LSU’s defense, and like the defending champs they are, they counter-punched. Alabama was was outplayed for much of the game last week, but they did what all good teams do: they make plays when they have to and win football games any way possible.
When you think Alabama football, most would tell you that the Crimson Tide annually posses one of the nation’s best defenses and this year is no different. The Tide statistically rank 3rd or better in all major defensive categories. They are holding offenses to under 10 points per game and 228.9 yards of total offense.
Last week, the ‘Bama defense did allow LSU’s Zach Mettenberger to throw for nearly 300 yards and 1 TD. They will no doubt be tested again this week against Manziel. He leads the SEC in rushing, but is second in passing yards (2,527), only trailing Tennessee’s Tyler Bray (2,812 passing yards).
The Crimson Tide are also stingy with their rushing defense. The Tide are only giving up an average of 66.3 ypg on the ground. The defense will once again be tested like they were last week. LSU gouged the Tide for 139 yards including 107 yards by Jeremy Hill. Expect the Aggies, to continue to attack the ‘Bama defensive fronts and the edges with their runs until they can find where they have the most success.
Saturday’s contest for Texas A&M will mark the first time they have played three straight road contests since 1977.
For Texas A&M to beat Alabama, they are going to have to play turnover-free football, while forcing Alabama into multiple turnovers. That is likely to be harder than it sounds. The Crimson Tide twice gave the ball away last week, but LSU was only able to capitalize once. The Aggies have only forced eight turnovers all year. That places them tied for last with Vanderbilt.
Another way to defeat the Tide is to run the ball with success. LSU drew up the blueprint to beat Alabama last week, and they outplayed them for 57 minutes, but couldn’t finish the job. Can the Aggies find success on the ground like LSU did? Manziel is going to have to bring his A-game for Texas AM to win one of the biggest games in the program’s history.
For Alabama, look for them to try and exploit the porous Aggies secondary. The back end of their defense is rated 12th in the SEC pass defense category. I expect McCarron to get WRs Bell and Cooper going early in this game.
Finally, how will Alabama handle the emotional letdown from last week’s game with LSU? How quickly they can bounce back and slow down or stop Manziel will be key to Alabama’s success.
Alabama has one of the best overall teams in the country, and they will be tough to beat at Bryant-Denny Stadium. With that being said, Texas A&M has an exciting, explosive offense that has kept opposing defensive coordinators up at night. So what gives?
Look for Texas A&M to come out and try to set the tempo of the game (quick, hurry-up), but the ‘Bama defense will be up for the challenge. Sure there likely to be an emotional letdown, but coach Saban is a master at getting his team ready to play week-in and week-out. This game will be no different.
By the time the first quarter is over, Alabama will be ahead 14-3. While it won’t be time to panic, the ‘Bama defense will slowly grind down the Aggies running attack forcing Manziel to have to throw the ball more frequently than they might like. While they can make plays doing so, Manziel will eventually be forced into throwing some errant passes which will lead to some short fields for the Crimson Tide.
The second half will be more of the same. The ‘Bama defense will only get stronger as the game wears on. Manziel will be able to score late, but by then the game will already have been decided.
Texas A&M – 17
Alabama (-13.5) - 31