Alabama will be looking to return to the SEC Championship Game with a victory this weekend over Texas A&M at 3:30 PM ET on CBS. The Aggies will look to continue to shock the college football world and pull off the upset in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Whoever ends up winning this contest, the result will likely be decided by Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel. He is only a first-year player, but has quickly become a Heisman candidate, has earned the nickname "Johnny Football" and is the main reason why Texas A&M is in the Top 15 of the BCS rankings.
Manziel has had four games this season of producing over 400 total yards and isn't looking to slow down when he takes his first trip to Tuscaloosa.
Here is how Alabama and that feisty defense will plan to stop the college football phenomenon.
Any time when trying to bottle up a dual-threat quarterback, the defense is always expected to contain the running signal-caller. Stay disciplined, blitz with caution and never, ever let the quarterback get to the outside where he has the ability to run the football and make plays with his feet.
Limiting Manziel from getting to the outside was something Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen tried last weekend, according to the AP, via Fox Sports.
Not only does he execute their offense very well but when you stop their offense he was the ability to go and create and improvise on his own outside of the box. Mullen said. He just starts running around and making things happen and he's got great athleticism, tremendous speed and makes you miss.
He still managed to torch the defense with 129 yards on the ground and two scores.
Manziel is quicker than fast, but has the ability to make defenders miss with a variety of different moves and quick feet.
Losing containment just makes things tougher for the defense, as it will leave many defenders on an island and force them to try and make an open-field tackle on the redshirt freshman. Good luck with that.
Alabama will likely play a ton of zone coverage in this game and keep Manziel in front of them, as all 11 guys must know where he is on the field at all times. They will also show the young quarterback different looks by blitzing defensive backs, which will force him to make a quick decision with the ball or roll out to a side he isn't comfortable with. Nick Saban and company were able to do this in the Week 1 matchup against Denard Robinson, who is similar to Manziel.
The Aggies quarterback is a patient player who isn't looking to run every chance he gets. He does a good job of keeping his eyes downfield and looking for opportunities to throw the ball. But if the pressure gets to him and there is nowhere to run, we will see a completely different quarterback than what we have seen the first several games.
Overall, the No. 1 priorities for Alabama defenders are to play disciplined football, take correct angles and keep Manziel in front of you. As long as the Crimson Tide does a good job of tackling, they should be alright by limiting the big plays.
Getting off the Field on Third Down
One of the main reasons Texas A&M is fourth in the country in scoring is because they are so great at moving the chains on third down. The 54 percent conversion percentage is not only by far the best in the SEC, but it is good for third in all of college football this season.
Manziel has run the ball 18 times on third and 10+ this year and has picked up the first down seven times. Out of the 53 total times he ran the ball on third down, a total of 23 times he was able to pick up the first down. That doesn't even include the 26 first downs he was able to generate with his arm when it was third down.
He has become one of the best players in the country at keeping the chains moving and it has been a key part in why this offense has been so successful. The Aggies as a team have only been held to under 40 percent on third down three times this season and two of those games have resulted in losses.
Alabama has done a great job of getting off the field on third down, as it is holding teams to under a 30 percent conversion rate. However, in the game against LSU last week, the Tigers managed to convert 50 percent of the time, which was the highest since the 2010 meeting against Mississippi State.
Making somebody else make a play on third down will really help this Alabama team earn a victory this Saturday and remain unbeaten.
Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.
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