Alabama vs. Texas A&M: What Johnny Manziel Must Focus on to Pull off Win

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Alabama vs. Texas A&M: What Johnny Manziel Must Focus on to Pull off Win
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest game of the week, and perhaps the year, will be the Texas A&M Aggies going up against the Alabama Crimson Tide this Saturday, and Johnny Manziel is going to have to focus on a number of things if he wants to pull out a win.

There's a lot on the line for both teams heading into this game.  Alabama is looking to win its third straight national championship this year, and it will be an uphill battle if the team falls this week to the Aggies. 

For Texas A&M, the Aggies had to deal with all of the controversy surrounding Johnny Football.  They are looking to prove that they are national championship contenders, and Manziel is looking to keep his Heisman hopes alive despite all of the controversy surrounding him.

Everyone watching will be paying attention to Manziel, and he's going to be the most important player in regards to deciding the game.  He's going to need to focus on several aspects of the game if he wants to pull off the upset again in this highly anticipated rematch.

 

Make Plays Outside of the Pocket

Alabama is going to focus on finding ways to contain Manziel, and that will likely mean finding ways to make sure he stays in the pocket.  

Manziel seems to be an even better player when he gets out of the pocket.  He ran for 1,410 yards and 21 touchdowns last season, but he hasn't taken off and ran much to start this season.  Through the first two games, Manziel had just ran the ball 13 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.

He may not be running as much through two games, but he still does a great job making plays through the air while on the move.  According to a report by ESPN Stats & Info, Manziel did a great job of this against Alabama last year.  He was 6-of-6 through the air while on the run, putting up 78 passing yards and 94 yards on the ground.  For the 2012 season, he had eight scores and 26 first downs when scrambling.

Chances are that Alabama will have a different strategy for Manziel this season.  Johnny Football struggled last season to make plays in the team's two losses, and a lot of that came when teams brought four or fewer pass-rushers, as you can see here.

Manziel vs. 4 or Fewer Pass-rushers in Two Losses
1st Half 2nd Half
% Dropbacks 65% 84%
Yds 217 117
Yds Outside Pocket 122 38
TD-Int 0-1 0-2

ESPN Stats & Info

Manziel will need to find ways to get out of the pocket and be the exciting player we saw in 2012 or else things could get ugly for the Aggies.

 

Don't Force Throws

Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

The Tide's offense may not have looked that good against Virginia Tech, but their defense still looks like one of the best in college football.

The defense for Alabama allowed just 212 total yards of offense in its first game and just 59 yards passing.  Logan Thomas, a respectable college quarterback, finished the day going 5-of-26 with 59 yards and an interception that went for a touchdown.

There are a number of NFL prospects on this defense for Alabama.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has been an impressive safety, while C.J. Mosley is looking to be a top-10 pick next April.

Manziel is going to have to make smart decisions in this game.  He was able to make some absolutely incredible plays against this team last season, but he must still be careful or he could wind up making a critical error that decides the game.

 

Trust the Backfield

Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

All of the attention goes to Manziel on offense, but he has two top-tier running backs behind him who could take a lot of the pressure off of him and keep Alabama guessing on defense.

Ben Malena did a great job for the Aggies last season, and now he's looking to cap off his college career with a successful senior season.  He ran for 808 yards and eight touchdowns last year while averaging 5.9 yards per carry, but it looks like he's on pace to do even better this year.  He currently has 173 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 7.9 yards per carry.

Along with Malena is Tra Carson, the exciting sophomore who is getting his first game time in 2013.  He's done fantastic so far, running for 127 yards and four touchdowns.  He's a much bigger back than Malena and provides a good change of pace.

Manziel is naturally going to want to take over the game, but he will have to understand that there are some real weapons directly behind him.  If him, Malena and Carson can all get involved early, this offense could be unstoppable, even against Alabama.

 

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