Guess what day it is! Guess…What..Day…It… Is!!!! It’s CHUMP DAY!!!!! CHUMP DAAAY!
The majority of the entire world is ready to tune in to see if the Alabama defense can finally shut up that chump, Johnny Manziel and it’s finally time to get down to the business of doing just that. We all know what’s at stake here. Win this game and you can likely make those December 7th reservations in Atlanta (though LSU is certainly intriguing this season). Lose, and you can say goodbye to a three peat, the SEC Championship and all your hopes and dreams for this season. Sorry guys but this is anything other than “just another game.”
While the majority of the country will be watching specifically to see the battle royale between Nick Saban’s defense and Johnny Football’s abilities on offense, you, the educated reader, will know to watch the game differently.
A&M will score. They will likely score more than you want them to. The question is, can Alabama score with them? After the debacle last week on offense against Virginia Tech, the answer to this question will be THE determining factor of the game. Bama must dominate a Texas A&M defense that has given up more real estate than the French military. Will we dominate them? Here’s what to watch for on offense….
Alabama on Offense
The Virginia Tech game should have served as an eye opener to everyone who watched the game. Without a very solid, cohesive offensive line, all of the sexy wide receivers, running backs and tight ends are practically worthless. The line must open lanes for the backs and it must protect AJ McCarron infinitely better so that he can get the ball out to his talented receiving corps.
The good news is that the A&M defense is certainly not anything close to what we saw against Virginia Tech. Tech’s group was a veteran crew with a unique style that we will not likely see the rest of this season. They were also bigger and stronger than the A&M group. The Aggie defensive line weighs 255, 310, 280 and 255. Their linebackers only weigh 220, 220 and 230, and against Rice they were like little backpacks simply riding along on the backs of the Rice backfield. They were brutalized. Sam Houston’s running back ran for 170 yards by himself on only 19 carries. Yeesh.
Texas A&M utilizes blitz packages and multiple zone blitz looks to make up for their lack of sheer size. They’ll move around a ton prior to the snap. They’ll show a blitz and then back out of it but they’ll also show blitz and then bring it. There appears to be a couple of tells with their safeties so look for AJ to bark out a fake snap count or two to get the A&M safeties to declare their blitzes.
If you read the blog after the Virginia Tech game, you know that the offensive line wasn’t solely to blame for the blocking issues. The backs and the tight ends missed numerous blocks and were equally (if not more so) responsible for Bama’s blocking woes. We look for the Aggies to crowd the line of scrimmage just as the Hokies did so it will be of paramount importance for the Bama backs and tight ends to help protect AJ in the passing game.
Here’s what to watch for on offense, along with a few predictions:
- Last year, Alabama seemed to abandon a very solid running game and they went to the no huddle, hurry up offense on the first couple of drives against A&M. This year, we look for the Tide to establish the running game early to begin wearing down the Aggie defense. Additionally, it’s going to be way hot on Saturday so ball control will be necessary to help the defense, as well.
- With Rice rushing for over 300 yards and Sam Houston rushing for 240, we look for Alabama to crease the A&M blitz numerous times and the result will be a rushing offense that gains more than 200 yards.
- Yeldon will go for 150 yards.
- AJ will be sacked at least three times. Texas A&M has seen the Virginia Tech tape and they will attempt to deploy the same schemes. Unfortunately for A&M, they don’t have the athletes or the experience to pull this off and it should result in numerous big plays down the field.
- Last year, Alabama hit on three bombs of over 30 yards. When the Aggies’ blitzes are picked up, they simply don’t have the talent to stay with our receivers down the field. I believe you’ll see at least three passes over 20 yards.
- A&M refuses to cover the backs or the tight ends so we think Yeldon and Howard will receive quite a few catches. Between the two, we think the duo will catch at least six passes. Against Va Tech, they combined for zero, btw.
- A&M will show multiple looks and will blitz frequently. Alabama will be able to crease the blitz several times and gain large chunks of yardage on the ground.
- AJ will throw another pick in this game. A&M disguises their coverages very well and with the zone blitzes you’ve really got to know where to go with the football. He’ll likely be in a big hurry since he probably doesn’t quite trust his protection just yet and we think that will result in an interception.
- Pay particular attention to the way AJ throws the football on Saturday. While everyone is tired of talking about his toe, it appeared that he chose not to step into his throws and plant firmly on his right foot. Nearly every pass he threw was off his back foot, fading away from the line of scrimmage – even when he had plenty of time in the pocket. This is very troubling.
- Alabama’s two-minute drill should be highly effective once again. Last year, A&M rushed four and sat back in a zone – this allowed AJ to pick the apart easily. Look for Alabama to have success in the two-minute drill this week.
The Texas A&M defense is not nearly as good as the Virginia Tech defense and that fact alone will yield better results for the Tide’s offense. We also look for Alabama to tighten up their blitz pickups and line calls as you know that was an emphasis this week. After watching the Rice tape, the Sam Houston tape and the tape of the Alabama v A&M game last season, it’s clear that Alabama should be able to run the football at will on Saturday. With high temperatures on the field, Alabama should use the running game to grind A&M’s defense to a pulp and also allow their own defense to rest up for the inevitable pursuit of Manziel.
The game will be won and lost on along the Alabama offensive line. It’s that simple. And, judging by A&M’s other games, this should be very, very, very doable. If we can’t do this, it will be a long Saturday in the Texas heat for the defense.