Why Alabama's Struggles Against LSU Could Open the Door for Texas A&M

Barrett SalleeSEC Football Lead WriterNovember 5, 2012

Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB Johnny ManzielSpruce Derden-US PRESSWIRE

For the first time all season, the Alabama Crimson Tide looked beatable on Saturday night in the 21-17 win over LSU in Death Valley.

Had it not been for an epic game-winning drive led by AJ McCarron, the Crimson Tide would have lost their first game in almost a full calendar year.

Head coach Nick Saban's typically stout defense allowed LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger to look like a functional SEC quarterback for the first time all season. The junior signal-caller for the Tigers completed 68.6 percent of his passes for a season-high 298 yards.

Keep in mind that this is the same LSU team that played games against North Texas and Idaho this season, both of which rank 80th or worse in passing defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

But it wasn't just Mettenberger. LSU racked up 435 yards of total offense, 153 more than the previous high against the Crimson Tide. With 107 rushing yards, Tigers running back Jeremy Hill became the first running back to top the century mark on Alabama all season long.

The offensive explosion (and by LSU standards, that's precisely what it was) has to be concerning for Alabama, which now gets set to host Texas A&M this week in Tuscaloosa.

The Aggies will roll into Tuscaloosa with the SEC's top offense in tow, averaging 559.6 yards per game. They've put up 400 or more yards in eight of their nine games, have a Heisman candidate at quarterback in Johnny Manziel and—most importantly—have a veteran offensive line led by Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews.

First-year head coach Kevin Sumlin has successfully altered his Air Raid offense to fit his personnel. With Manziel, running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael and wide receivers Mike Evans and Ryan Swope, that personnel can play either the finesse game or straight ahead, smash-mouth football.

Those options will help Sumlin this week against the Crimson Tide, who undoubtedly will be loading up to stop Manziel.

Plus, A&M has the letdown factor on its side.

One of the hallmarks of a Saban-coached team is to give every upcoming opponent undivided attention, but Crimson Tide players and coaches better not dwell on the LSU win for too long, because A&M is rolling and certainly capable of controlling the tempo of the game.

Alabama is a 13.5-point favorite (via VegasInsider.com) for a reason. Talent-wise, there's a big gap between the Tide and Aggies. But Alabama had better not sleep on Sumlin's crew, because they are certainly capable of springing the upset.