What to watch for in the game of the year: Alabama vs. Texas A&M
There is a rematch happening Saturday in College Station, but you already knew that, because we’ve been looking forward to it since last November. Alabama invades College Station and sets their sights on Johnny Manziel and that little word we like to call revenge.
Related: 14 burning questions for week two
The national powers go to work Saturday, and the whole country will be weighing in.
Which team will get caught up in the moment? Which team has the most pressure? As a player, coach and team, you live for moments and games like this.
Here are five things to watch:
Strength vs. Strength: The SEC’s best statistical defense takes on the SEC’s best statistical offense. The Tide have only played one game and allowed 10 points, while Texas A&M’s offense torched Rice and Sam Houston State. Neither is a good measurement for the Aggies, but 1,200 yards of total offense in two weeks is nasty, no matter what teams you played. The Tide are always led by a big and physical defense, and that’s no different in 2013, but we saw that big physical defense look somewhat slow last season with Johnny running around. Will it happen again?
Tempo: Speaking of Johnny running around, Texas A&M’s hurry-up played a major part in the Aggies’ win last year, despite what Gary Danielson babbles about. The Bama players were sucking wind in the first half but settled the game down as they went. I fully expect Kevin Sumlin, Clarence McKinney and Jake Spavital to keep their foot on the pedal against Nick Saban’s defense. The Aggies are averaging 76.5 plays in two games, just under their 78.85 plays per game last season. The Tide faced an average of only 59.79 plays per game in 2012, and in the TAMU game alone, the Aggies ran 78 plays. That’s a formula for success against Saban’s defense.
Bama offense: It’s a question mark entering this game. The Tide had the most balanced offense behind a nasty O-line last season and struggled against Virginia Tech, becoming the SEC’s only team not to rush for 100 yards in the opening week. However, the Aggies’ run defense has been non-existent through two weeks, allowing an average of 273 yards per game. Unless that improves, that’s not part of a championship formula. Teams have to stop the run in order to win big games and championships. Nick Saban, AJ McCarron and TJ Yeldon have to be licking their chops facing this defense, specifically the front seven. Controlling the tempo and keeping Manziel off the field is part of the formula of the Aggies’ demise.
Bama liability: The Tide’s defense is great once again, but they are vulnerable in the secondary. Don’t take VT’s Logan Thomas’ performance seriously – he’s lucky to have a scholarship – but Johnny Manziel turned Peyton Manning last year in the second half and beat the Tide through the air. And Manziel has 6-5 Mike Evans, 6-5 Ricky Seals-Jones and 6-4 JaQuay Williams to go up top over John Fulton, Geno Smith and Deion Blue. Quarterbacks don’t get many passing lanes or opportunities to exploit the secondary, but when the opportunity is there, they have to take advantage of it. Manziel did that this year, and he is more than capable of doing it again.
Turnovers: Turnovers are crucial for beating Alabama, and the Aggies forced three of them last season in helping their 29-24 win. In fact, in Alabama’s seven losses over the last five years, the Tide did not win the turnover margin in any of those. Winning the TO battle Saturday will be crucial. Which team will make the mistake?
Photo Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE