Alabama vs. Texas A&M Aggies: Keys to Victory


Saturday afternoon the No. 7 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1) heads back home after two tough weeks on the road to meet the Texas A&M Aggies (5-2).

Over the past two years the Aggies have become one of the more exciting new rivals for the Crimson Tide, primarily on the back of Heisman winner Johnny Manziel. Johnny Football is notlonger in town, but his successor Kenny “Trill” Hill will be at the reigns of the A&M offense.

Texas A&M is coming off disappointing losses in back-to-back weeks against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, while Alabama went 1-1 in the last two games, playing poorly in both. Alabama will need to eliminate big time mistakes if they hope to beat the high-powered Aggies, and there are several keys to winning this one.

Establish the Run

Last week Alabama put up a putrid 2.1 yards per carry and just 66 yards on the ground against Arkansas. That is about as far away from Alabama football as things can get.

The offensive line was just flat out whipped during the game and on several plays running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry were hit in the backfield. New center Bradley Bozeman struggled mightily in the game, but there wasn’t really anyone across the line that played well at all. That must change against Texas A&M.

The Aggies have allowed over 200 yards rushing in three games this year, including 285 yards to Arkansas and 280 to Mississippi State. They even gave up over 200 yards to Rice. A&M has had big problems against mobile quarterbacks this year and this is where Blake Sims can come into play.

Alabama has not really used the read option or any QB designed runs much at all this year, but it could be a good way to get the running game going, especially with the offensive line struggling and banged up. Speedy back Tyren Jones is back from injury this week, and could add a little burst to the backfield in those read option packages. Mixing up the power running game with the read option could be just the combination the Alabama running game is looking for.

Blake Sims Bouncing Back

Sims looked like an All American against Florida, but looked very average against Ole Miss and Arkansas. Lack of execution and mistakes caused the offense to stutter and never really get going fully in either game.

It wasn’t all Sims’ fault by any means, but he made several poor decisions and poor throws in both games. He will need some help, but Sims will also need to continue to be the leader of this offense and make plays on his own when things aren’t looking good.

In 2009 Greg McElroy hit a mid-season slump much like the one Sims is currently in. In fact McElroy’s was a bit worse, but he won all of the games he struggled in. Much of that came down to Alabama’s dominating defense and running game. Sims will need some help from his buddies to keep going while he tries to bounce back, but make no mistake; he will need to make plays himself.

During McElroy’s struggles in 2009, All American Julio Jones became almost nonexistent in the passing game because of the QB’s struggles. As a result, offensive coordinator Jim McElwain drew up end-arounds and reverse runs to get Julio the ball more often, which is something that will need to happen with Amari Cooper if Sims continues to struggle in the passing game.

The secondary must step up, defense has to pressure Hill

Alabama’s secondary got torched in the second half against Ole Miss, and allowed several big pass plays against a run-oriented Arkansas offense.

There’s no mystery to what Texas A&M will be coming to do in Tuscaloosa. Kenny Hill is going to throw the ball all over the field and they are going to use up-tempo offense to keep the Alabama defense on their heels. Hill has thrown for over 2,500 yards and 23 touchdowns already this season, and has a wealth of weapons to choose from in the passing game.

Despite Hill’s production, he has also turned the ball over, which is something the Alabama defense hasn’t really done a great job of forcing this year. Putting pressure on Hill without having to blitz a lot would be very beneficial for the Alabama defense and forcing Hill into bad throws would give Landon Collins and company more shots at making plays on the ball.

Ricky Seals-Jones is a massive receiver. Like former Aggies Mike Evans, he’s the type who has given the Tide corners fits in recent years. Cornerback Eddie Jackson will likely be called upon to get physical with some of the bigger receivers, but Cyrus Jones and Tony Brown will need to be able to step up as well.

Jones has been the most consistent and healthy corner on the roster this year, while Brown has looked excellent at times and like the true freshman he is at other times. If the Alabama secondary can’t hold up and the line can’t get pressure on Hill, it will be a long night for the Alabama defense.

Eliminate mistakes

All of the penalties, bonehead decisions, and turnovers must stop now. If the Alabama defense can’t stop Hill and the A&M defense, then the offense will be forced to turn the game into a shootout like the past two games between the schools. If that is the case mistakes can and will decide the game.

Things like getting called for a false start or hold after a big pass play can kill a drive and take away precious points. The Alabama players never gave up against Arkansas despite playing horribly for much of the game, and a leader in safety Landon Collins made a big play to seal the game. This is a positive that I don’t think has been talked about enough and it is the leaders that need to set the tone in eliminating all of the mistakes.

Alabama plays Texas A&M at 2:30 PM on CBS. Keep coming back here, and follow us on Twitter for complete coverage of the game if you can’t watch it this weekend.