Texas A&M's 29-24 victory over the then No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide sent shockwaves through the college football world. It changed the national championship picture and in a lot of ways changed the way people are viewing the Southeastern Conference.
After the win for the Aggies, the same people who were predicting that A&M would get killed in the SEC are now claiming that any spread team could win against the Tide and in the SEC.
This is the same kind of group-think that led to the pundits predicting that A&M would never win in the SEC. Instead of considering the multiple factors involved in a particular game, the mainstream media makes gross generalizations based on said game.
This is a look at why the A&M offense was able to beat the Tide, and what that means for other spread teams across the country.
Everyone who thinks that any old spread offense team could be successful in the SEC is ignoring the fact that the Aggies are successful because their offensive line is great.
The Aggies have arguably the best offensive line in the country. They certainly have the most talented one. Offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews will be first-round draft picks in the NFL.
Center Patrick Lewis will likely be picked during the 2013 draft, and guards Cedric Ogbuehi and Jarvis Harrison will both be drafted in the years to come. How many other teams in the country start five offense linemen who will play in the NFL, with two who will be first-round draft picks?
Joeckel, Matthews and Ogbuehi will all play their natural position of left tackle in the NFL. Does anyone else in the nation have an OL with three NFL left tackles on it?
The Aggies are able to run their version of the spread so successfully in the SEC because they are so strong at the point of attack. They are leading the SEC in rushing.
The Ags were able to beat Alabama because the A&M OL opened up enough holes and gave Johnny Manziel enough time to execute the offense.
The vast majority of team in the country cannot hold up against the fierce pass rush from SEC defenses. Just because A&M has this season does not mean that everyone can do it.
Texas A&M beat Alabama because they have Johnny "Football" Manziel taking the snaps at quarterback. Alabama did a lot of things right on defense, but Manziel is such a dynamic playmaker that he was still able to make plays.
On Manziel's defining "Heisman moment" during the first quarter, he avoided to Tide rush, snagged a fumble out of the air, rolled to the left and then found senior receiver Ryan Swope in the back of the end zone.
The vast majority of quarterbacks in college football would have been sacked on that play. The Alabama defensive line did a good job of getting pressure on Manziel; he just improvised and made a great play.
That was a play that the Aggies could not have made earlier in the season. The receivers have adjusted to Manziel's scrambling style, and know they have to find open spots in the defense when he starts to run around. Earlier in the season the receivers were just watching Manziel scramble like everyone else in the season. Alabama was just unlucky to get the Aggies late in the season.
Manziel runs the 40 in under 4.4 seconds, is elusive, has great visions and is accurate throwing on the run. No other team in the nation has a quarterback with all those skills combined into one player. Manziel needed every bit of talent that he possessed to beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
To infer that any spread team would have success against the Tide is an insult to Manziel and to the Alabama defense.
The Ags did not have to play the Tide until their tenth game of the season. Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury have had plenty of time to install their offense and learn the strength and weaknesses of their team.
During the first game of the season against Florida, the Aggie coaches did not know what they had with Manziel or any of their offensive players. That was a big reason that the Gators were able to shut down the A&M offense in the second half.
Alabama played a very physical, emotional game against LSU one week ago. It is hard for a team to get up emotionally two weeks in a row. The Ags benefited from playing the Tide the week after they had an emotional win over LSU.
Before the Alabama game, A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder decided to move senior defensive tackle Spencer Nealy over to nose tackle to take advantage of his quickness.
Snyder was convinced that Nealy's quickness could give Alabama's center Barrett Jones trouble. Jones won the Outland Trophy in 2011 as the nation's top lineman. He is a multiple All-American and is one of the best offensive linemen in college.
Snyder's move proved brilliant, as Nealy gave Jones trouble all game long. Jones and Alabama's interior OL typically dominate opponents and grind them down as the game goes along.
Nealy was able to consistently beat Jones and disrupt the Alabama offense. With Nealy playing nose tackle, junior nose tackle Kirby Ennis moved over to defensive tackle and had the best game of his career.
Ennis' seven tackles led the Aggies against the Tide. He also had a sack. One simple move by Snyder created a disruption in the Tide offense. The Alabama interior offensive line was supposed to be a huge mismatch over the Aggies' interior defensive line. Snyder changed all that by flipping his defensive tackles around.
There was some luck involved in the win for the Aggies. The ball definitely bounced the Aggies' way against Alabama.
Texas A&M safety Howard Matthews hit Alabama receiver Kenny Bell right when the ball arrived, causing it to pop up into the air and into the arms of linebacker Sean Porter. If the Aggies had not made that interception, they probably would not have won the game.
In the second half the Tide was driving, and Aggie senior safety Steven Terrell stripped the ball from T.J. Yeldon. The ball hit the ground and bounced right up into the arms of Aggie senior cornerback Dustin Harris.
Alabama is such a good football team that the Aggies needed the ball to bounce their way in order to have a chance to win the game.
The hurry-up spread offense is hard to prepare for on a week's notice. The Aggies benefited from the fact that the majority of the teams in the SEC do not run spread offenses. The A&M offense is different and hard to adjust to, with only five practices to prepare for it.
In the 2003 BCS title game, Nick Saban shut down the Oklahoma spread offense by blitzing Jason White from all directions. Saban literally left some of the Oklahoma receivers uncovered while he blitzed multiple defensive backs.
Saban bet that he could get to Jason White before White figured out where the open man was, and that gamble paid off. Saban had a month to prepare to stop the OU spread. He only had a week to prepare for the Aggies' spread offense.
It took a combination of great talent, some phenomenal individual performances, a favorable schedule, luck and a lack of preparation time for the Aggies to beat Alabama.
The Tide had a tremendous football team. If you give Nick Saban and his staff a month to prepare for any team in the bowl game, they will find a way to beat them.
The Aggies' win over Alabama did not signal a change in the way the SEC plays football. It means that a lot of factors aligned correctly on a specific say for the Ags to get a win.
It does not mean that Conference USA teams and Big 12 teams that run the spread offense will be successful against SEC teams. The SEC's record in bowl games over the past five years should have told anyone that.
The Aggies had the right coach, ran the right system, had the right quarterback, and played at the right time to beat Alabama. Unless all of those factors come together again, do not expect Alabama to lose to Oregon, Kansas State or any other team this season.