The recipe for a Texas A&M upset against Alabama

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Invincible Alabama actually looked like a football team last week, compared to the well-oiled machine through the first eight games. With the Aggies coming to town, there is no time for a letdown after such an emotional victory against LSU, because the Aggies are just the team to take advantage of a slow start.

The Aggies are the most non-conventional offense in the SEC, one of the fastest starting offenses in the country and feature the most creative player in college football in Johnny Manziel. They line up in so many different formations to create matchups for their players in space on screens, draws and running plays, and they will need to get off to a great start against Alabama on Saturday if there is any chance for an upset.

But can they really pull the upset on the road against the Tide?

We talk about the pace of the offense a lot here on SDS as it applies to the Aggies’ offense. They average over 81 plays per game, and it will be crucial to achieve 85 to 90-plus throughout the game. The Tide’s opponents through nine games have averaged just 61 plays per game.

The fast starts have resulted in boatloads of points, with the Aggies outscoring their opponents 247-74 in the first half. No doubt Kliff Kingsburry and Kevin Sumlin will script plays to start the game off against the Tide in order to boost the offense.

Here are three things that have to happen for a Texas A&M upset:

1. Quick Start: I just continue to believe that Alabama will be emotionally hung over for the first part of the game from a massive win last week, and as is usually the case, teams start to come alive and slow down the Aggies’ offense in the second and third quarter. We saw LSU and Florida do just this. The Aggies must take advantage of a quick start. They got off to the quick 17-7 start against Florida and 12-0 start against LSU to see both of those leads dwindle and result in losses. Now, they just have to finish games. How long will it take Alabama’s defense to adjust like their predecessors? Getting off to a quick start will take momentum away from Alabama and keep the crowd neutralized early.

2. Win Turnover Battle: The Aggies are tied with Vanderbilt for the league’s worst team in forcing turnovers with just eight all year. Very rarely do teams win the turnover battle against Alabama and usually fold once the python squeezes the life out of opponents, but we did see LSU win the battle last Saturday 2-0, thus helping to nearly pull off the upset. The Tigers scored off TJ Yeldon’s fumble but failed to score off the muffed punt because of the personal foul penalty to JC Copeland. The Aggies will have to force a minimum of two turnovers to set up decent field position against the defense. They will need to covert those turnovers into touchdowns, too. An upset bodes well if the Aggies can win the turnover battle in the +2 range.

3. Achieve 85-plus plays: The best chance at beating a great defense is to physically wear them down. Obviously, with snapping so many plays, the Aggies’ offense has to be great on third down moving the sticks and converting third and mediums. LSU ran 86 plays last week, and we could see how it began to take a toll on the defense physically in the second half. It allowed LSU to get back into the football game down 14-3.

Texas A&M’s offense wants to spread teams out, wear teams down and gash them with 40-yard plays when they lose discipline and get tired. Three-yard gains turn into 30-yard gains in a hurry. That’s something that won’t happen much against Alabama, and they will force the Aggies to sustain longer drives. That’s where the running game will have to be cranking with Ben Malena and Christine Michael, because the Tide are going to limit Manziel as much as possible. Other guys are going to have to create plays and get into the act early.

The Aggies’ defense will have to play well, and it’s so tough to beat an Alabama offense that is on schedule with its plays and points. That’s where creating a couple turnovers will be key, because the Tide can control the line of scrimmage with their mammoth offensive line the entire game.

Texas A&M is not LSU, but there are several factors you can take away from their game against the Tide last weekend to exploit Alabama’s stout, athletic defense.

The Ags are still looking for that first big complete game of the season.

Photo Credit: Spruce Derden–US PRESSWIRE

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