The Alabama Crimson Tide’s game with LSU last week was the toughest pure matchup of the season, but the best offense the Crimson Tide will face in the regular season and possibly all year will come on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium against Texas A&M.
First year head coach Kevin Sumlin has installed the Air-Raid offense to the Aggies in their first year in the SEC with offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury working wonders for the A&M offense.
The Aggies rank 5th in the nation in total offense, 19th in passing, 10th in rushing, and 4th in scoring offense. They are racking up over 44 points per game this year behind just under 560 yards per game.
Alabama’s defense is giving up less than half that per game, but they did allow LSU to gain over 400 yards last week, and Texas A&M boasts a better and more explosive offense.
Only twice this season has Texas A&M been held to under 30 points, and not surprisingly, those were both of their losses. They scored 17 points in their loss to Florida and 19 in their loss to LSU.
They managed only 334 yards against the Gators, but they did get 410 yards against the Bayou Bengals.
Their big undoing against LSU was five turnovers, which may be Alabama’s best weapon in stopping the potent Aggie offense. The Crimson Tide has forced 23 turnovers in 2012.
The engine behind the high powered Texas A&M attack is freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, AKA Johnny Football. The hotshot freshman quarterback has been sensational leading Sumlin’s air-raid offense in 2012, and he is not a guy I look forward to having to face for years to come.
Manziel leads the team in passing and rushing this year. He has completed 67% of his passes for 2527 yards and 16 touchdowns to 6 interceptions. He has 922 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground with an average of 6.7 yards per carry. No disrespect to Denard Robinson, but Alabama simply hasn’t faced this dangerous of a dual-threat quarterback since the 2010 Iron Bowl against Cam Newton and Auburn.
Manziel is a wizard in the pocket, with the ability to escape sure-sacks like few I have seen. It’s like Kliff Kingsbury is sitting the press box controlling his every move via an XBox controller. Nick Saban’s comparison of Doug Flutie is probably the closest I’ve seen to his ability.
Texas A&M will spread Alabama out all game long with a fast paced, no-huddle offense that will test the Alabama defense like no other has. Manziel has a bevy of talented receivers to get the ball to, led by fellow freshman sensation Mike Evans. The 6-foot-5 Evans figures to cause serious matchup issues against Alabama’s secondary. He has 802 receiving yards on 56 receptions and 2 touchdowns.
Senior Ryan Swope got off to a slow start in 2012, but he has picked up the pace the last few weeks. He has 641 yards and 5 touchdowns with back-to-back 100 yard receiving games. Senior Uzoma Nwachukwu and freshman Thomas Johnson will see plenty of action with A&M in four wide receiver sets.
On the ground, Texas A&M has three capable running backs to go along with Manziel. Junior Ben Malena leads the way with 637 yards and 6 touchdowns. Senior Christine Michael has 321 yards and 8 touchdowns. Michael is the bruiser compared to Malena and freshman Trey Williams. He’ll be the back Texas A&M puts into the game in goal line and short yardage situations.
Trey Williams has 240 yards and 3 touchdowns, and he should see a few carries as well.
The Texas A&M offensive line has made it all possible for the Aggies led by veteran tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews. They have given up 17 sacks, but some of those have come from Manziel hanging on to the ball for too long, which he usually gets away with due to the aforementioned wizardry in the pocket.
Alabama’s defense has to play much better on Saturday afternoon if they want to prevent this game from turning into a track meet. Texas A&M’s offense is good enough to put points on the board against any defense they face, but the Crimson Tide will hopefully hold them to around 21 or so.
One way for Alabama to stop the Aggie offense will be by forcing turnovers, something the Crimson Tide defense has done very well this year. Whether it be by intercepting Manziel and forcing fumbles on ball carriers, Alabama will need to generate some takeaways.
The best way for Alabama to slow down Texas A&M’s offense may be by keeping Manziel on the sideline with long sustained drives. Look for Alabama’s offense to look to win the battle up front and run the ball time and time again to keep that high powered A&M offense on the sideline for long periods of time. Manziel can’t beat you if he’s holding his helmet in his hand.
Don’t be surprised to see Texas A&M have success and gain some yards against the Crimson Tide’s defense, but also don’t be surprised if Alabama is able to force some turnovers and make some key stops.
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