There aren't many obstacles left standing between the Alabama Crimson Tide and another shot at a national championship, but the Texas A&M Aggies are one of the few threats left on the table.
The Tide have been the epitome of domination in college football this season. They haven't played a single game where the result was in question in the second half. On offense and defense, they have passed all tests with flying colors.
That being said, A&M provides an intriguing test. The high-octane spread offense that the Aggies bring to the table isn’t like anything else in the SEC, and they are having a great season at 7-2. After Alabama's close call with LSU, there’s an argument to be made that the Aggies will be the Tide's most difficult test of the season.
With the stark contrast in styles, there are many questions surrounding this game. The answers to these questions will shape the ultimate outcome when these two SEC teams square off in one of the biggest games of the week.
What can Johnny Football do against the Tide defense?
Freshman Johnny Manziel is one of the most electrifying playmakers in college football.
The dual-threat quarterback has been one of the biggest surprises of the season and is a huge reason for Texas A&M’s early success in its new conference.
Manziel has rushed for 922 yards and 15 touchdowns while passing for over 2,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. He is basically a one-man offense for the Aggies. However, he’ll be facing his toughest test of the season against Alabama.
The Tide defense is as close to an NFL defense as you can get and has found ways to shut down athletic quarterbacks in the past. Denard Robinson was thoroughly dominated when Alabama played Michigan to open up the season.
While Manziel is probably a better passer than Robinson even as a freshman, he struggled when facing another elite defense in LSU.
Against the Tigers Manziel threw three interceptions and only gained 27 yards on 17 attempts. He’ll need to do a whole lot better than that if the Aggies want a shot at upsetting the No. 1 team in the nation.
Can the Aggies defense stop the Alabama offense?
Much has been made of Alabama’s vaunted defense, and for good reason. The Tide are as good on defense as anyone and have the ability to control a game like no one else.
However, the offense tends to get lost in the shuffle. The Tide are not an offensive juggernaut but they are extremely good at what they do.
A.J. McCarron has improved tremendously as a passer from where he was last season and freshman T.J. Yeldon has been the type of back that can score any time he touches the ball.
The Aggies are known for their offense, but the defense has quietly played really well at times. After giving up 57 points to an underrated Louisiana Tech team, A&M has held LSU to 24, Auburn to 21 and Mississippi State to 13.
Manziel and Co. might be able to put up a few touchdowns against Alabama’s defense, but if it doesn’t get the stops it needs on defense it won’t matter. The Tide offense can’t be underestimated.
Can the Aggies play four quarters?
Last season the Aggies were the worst second half team in the country. Under Mike Sherman the Aggies would routinely jump out to an early lead only to squander it away in the end.
With Kevin Sumlin second half meltdowns are no longer a common occurrence, but the ghost still remains.
In the Aggies' two losses to Florida and LSU, they held a double-digit lead at some point in the first half before allowing the Gators and Tigers to get back in the game and win.
Against the Tide they will need to play consistently throughout the game.
The best way to beat Alabama will be to jump out to an early lead and force them to play from behind, something they haven’t done all season. However, it will take all four quarters of the Aggies best football to pull off the huge upset.
If the Aggies get out to a lead and give it up, there’s no chance they beat a team as good as Alabama. If they can get out to a lead and keep the pressure on? We could be in for an instant classic.