Texas A&M vs. Alabama: Why This SEC Showdown Will Be Closer Than Most Think
Alabama came within two minutes of a loss this past Saturday against LSU in Baton Rouge. This week they return home to face Texas A&M in what will be a closer SEC showdown than most think heading into the weekend.
The Crimson Tide are looking to be a two touchdown favorite over the Aggies, but there are a number of factors that this Texas A&M squad will bring to the game that should keep it much closer.
This will be a big SEC West showdown for the second week in a row that should capture the attention of the college football world on Saturday. Expect these five factors to lead to a tough game and close finish in Tuscaloosa.
LSU Exposed Alabama Secondary
The LSU offense lit up the stat sheet against Alabama this past Saturday gaining 435 yards of offense. Zach Mettenberger was responsible for 296 of those yards in what was his best performance of the season.
At times it was a simple pitch-and-catch for the LSU offense with the Alabama secondary struggling to cover the middle of the field against the Tigers' talented skill players. The corners also gave up yards while in man coverage by getting outplayed by the LSU receivers.
Texas A&M has very talented skill players led by Ryan Swope and Mike Evans. Johnny Manziel has been able to connect with those two targets 101 times so far this season. Evans is a huge target standing at 6’5” and has a four inch height advantage over the largest starting defensive back for Alabama.
Watching how the Crimson Tide handles this passing threat will be the key to this game. If Manziel finds targets as easily as Mettenberger, this explosive Aggies offense will shred Alabama through the air and create a lot of issues for the Tide.
Pressure on McCarron Could Cause Issues
The Texas A&M Aggies have been dangerous for opposing quarterbacks, ranking No. 11 in sacks and No. 33 in tackles for loss this season. Alabama has one of the best offensive lines in the country, but they have struggled in pass protection ranking No. 69 in sacks allowed.
A.J. McCarron has been very consistent from the pocket and is one of the more elite quarterbacks in the country this season. McCarron has yet to throw an interception in 204 passes this year, but that could change with pressure this coming Saturday.
The Aggies have nothing to lose in this game outside of pride, so they will throw everything they have at the Crimson Tide this weekend. If Texas A&M finds pass rush lanes this will be a much closer game than anyone expects.
Speed Meets Pursuit
Alabama is a very talented and disciplined defense, but against fast attacking offensive units this defense has struggled. The size of the Crimson Tide linebackers is a big part of their success against the run, but when faced with elite speed on the perimeter it causes issues.
Don’t misunderstand—this Alabama defense is as good as they come and has a lot of speed, but 250-pound linebackers won’t catch a slot receiver from behind.
The Aggies are full of talented skill players that will challenge the ability of this Alabama defense to stay disciplined in pursuit angles. The Aggies have the ability to spread the ball to a number of players in creative ways that will cause a lot of mismatches for the Tide defense.
Ryan Swope and Mike Evans Are Rolling
The Aggies knew they had an elite receiver in Ryan Swope entering the year, but Mike Evans has been a pleasant surprise as a redshirt freshman for the Aggies offense.
Evans leads the Aggies in catches and receiving yards, snagging 56 receptions and 802 yards so far this year. At 6’5”, 218 pounds he is a force on the outside for this Texas A&M team. He will be a force for the Aggies against Alabama and will create a major mismatch for the Tide secondary.
Ryan Swope is as sure-handed a target as they come in college football and is finishing his senior season in all-star fashion. Swope has 45 receptions and 641 yards so far this year. He has also added five touchdown receptions.
This tandem of explosive receivers could mimic what Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry did this past Saturday.
Emotional Wins Lead to Letdowns
Football is a game that is played with emotion. At times those emotions carry over and lead to letdowns after big wins or losses. Alabama is set up for a major letdown against Texas A&M if it isn't careful.
The LSU win came on the road in one of the most hostile environments in sports. It isn’t easy to walk out of Death Valley with a win—especially in the final seconds of the game.
This Alabama team is well disciplined and Nick Saban keeps them focused, but there have been letdowns in the past and it could happen again.
This Tide team also showed a susceptibility to big plays this past weekend. There have been other teams that have found explosive plays this year, but LSU did it with consistency.
Couple big plays with high emotions, and this game could be a struggle for the Tide to survive.