Texas A&M at Alabama: 5 Keys to the Brawl in Tuscaloosa
No. 15 Texas A&M travels to Tuscaloosa to play No. 1 Alabama at 2:30 this Saturday on CBS.
Emotions will be running high after both teams won big games on the road and look to continue their impressive seasons.
Let's look at the five keys that will decide who comes out of Bryant-Denny Stadium a winner.
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Tempo will play a huge factor in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies love to hurry up to the line of scrimmage to prevent opponents from making defensive substitutions. Attentive college football fans know Nick Saban and Kirby Smart aren't very fond of that aggressive offensive tactic.
Alabama has excelled all season at keeping their defense fresh by means of substitution. There will be a stylistic clash on that side of the ball in famous Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The catch for the Aggies is they must produce first downs in order for their strategy to be successful, something that has proven extremely difficult for Alabama's opponents.
Don’t be surprised to see a couple "cramps" from the Crimson Tide as a counter attack to the Aggies' quick play.
Containment of Johnny Manziel
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There is little doubt that the key to shutting down the Aggies' potent offense is the containment of redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Both of the Aggies losses have come by teams (Florida and LSU) that found a way to slow Manziel and not allow him to move the chains with his legs. When Johnny Football is contained, he starts to panic and becomes turnover prone.
Look for Alabama to mix up pressure schemes and force the star freshman to stay in the pocket and make plays with his arm. Nick Saban and company know they will control the game if they can control Johnny Manziel.
Alabama Rushing Attack
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Alabama boasts the nation’s most sound rushing offense. They have the best offensive line in the country and two extremely talented ball carriers. Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon have devastated opponents all year with their physical running style.
If one or both of them get going, then it could be a very long day for Texas A&M’s undersized defense.
If the Aggies can grab a quick lead or force Alabama into obvious passing situations, then Damontre Moore could create some havoc for Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron.
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Fatigue may be the biggest factor in Saturday’s showdown. Alabama is coming off a four-quarter battle against LSU, one of the physically toughest teams in the country. The Aggies lost their bye week when Hurricane Isaac hit the first week of the season.
Both teams have future NFL players, but Alabama has NFL talent on their second line. It will take a valiant effort for Texas A&M’s starters to keep up with Alabama in the second half.
The Aggies don’t have the luxury of rotating in blue chip recruits between every snap, which will pose a huge problem for them late in the game.
If Alabama can expose the fatigue of Texas A&M’s defense in the second half, then an upset will be nearly impossible.
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Special teams are always underrated until they win or lose a big game. If the Aggies are going pull off the upset of the year, they will need a miraculous performance from their special teams.
Some would argue freshman placekicker Taylor Bertolet making all of his attempts would be miraculous. He has struggled mightily in recent weeks and Texas A&M's confidence in the kicking game has plummeted.
It would not be surprising to see Texas A&M take some chances on fourth down in common kicking situations to try to mask that glaring issue.
The Crimson Tide, on the other hand, will need to consistently pin Texas A&M deep in their own territory in order to keep points off the board and win the field position battle.
If Alabama does what they do best and executes well, the Aggies will have to play perfect to win in the house that Bear built.