Alabama (5-1) vs. Texas A&M (5-0) 3:30 pm
Alabama is 2-1 since 2012 against Texas A&M including last season’s 59-0 victory in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide is 2-1 in SEC play this season with victories over Georgia and Arkansas. Texas A&M is 2-0 in SEC play with wins against Arkansas and Mississippi State. The Aggies will have an extra week to prepare for this game as Texas A&M did not play in week 6.
The Crimson Tide offense is averaging 34.7 points per game and has had good balance in being able to keep opposing defenses guessing. Alabama is rushing for 188 yards per game and passing for 247 yards per game. Led by quarterback Jake Coker who is completing 59.9% of his passes for 1,238 yards with 11 touchdowns along with 6 interceptions the team has been able to get younger players involved in the offensive scheme. Alabama loves to run between the tackles to wear down opposing defensive fronts with running back Derrick Henry. Henry is a punishing 240 pound running back that has great vision and is very difficult to tackle. Henry leads the team with 665 rushing yards averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 10 touchdowns. In order to get the road victory in a tough environment, Alabama will need to run the football to keep the explosive Aggies offense off of the field. Arkansas had the right game plan in place to defeat Texas A&M and look for Nick Saban to implement that scheme during Saturday’s contest. If the Crimson Tide can run early on against Texas A&M, this can open up the play action passing game for Coker. Wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s touchdown Bouncy Castle reception last week against Arkansas led the third quarter comeback for the Crimson Tide as Ridley has emerged as a legitimate deep threat for the team. Through the first six games, Ridley leads the team with 31 receptions for 385 yards with 3 touchdowns. Ardarius Stewart is second on the team with 25 receptions for 239 yards with 2 touchdowns and tight end O.J Howard (16 rec. 200 yds.) is a player that is utilized in the short to intermediate passing game. Alabama cannot afford to fall behind early in this game and must be able to dictate the tempo the way they were able to do in the road victory against Georgia.
The Crimson Tide rely on their top ranked defense to carry them through games. Alabama is allowing 15.7 points per game and is very solid in run support yielding 77 rushing yards per game which ranks 4th overall in FBS. The Crimson Tide has done a fantastic job in creating pressure this season and has recorded 16 sacks in through 6 games and will look to get pressure on a suspect Texas A&M offensive line that is allowing 13 sacks this year. Linebacker Reggie Ragland is the emotional leader of the unit and has a team leading 50 total tackles. Defensive tackle Johnathan Allen leads the team with 3 sacks and is a dominant presence on the interior line. Alabama will look to force Texas A&M to methodically work down the field and will look to take away the deep ball from the Aggies. Alabama did struggle in the team’s only loss this year to Ole Miss, as the unit was exposed down the deep middle of the football field. Texas A&M runs a similar offense and the Tide must be able to force underneath throws by Texas A&M in order to create third down and long situations. Alabama has done a great job in forcing three and outs as the defense is allowing opponents to convert 27% on third down situations this year. Alabama is even in turnover margin this season and will look to get some key turnovers to change the momentum.
Head coach Kevin Sumlin has an extra week to prepare for this game which could help the Aggies implement new formations to confuse the Crimson Tide defense. Texas A&M is averaging 39.2 points per game and is averaging 188 yards per game along with 292 through the air. Quarterback Kyle Allen is a dual threat quarterback that has completed 64% of his passes for 1,274 yards with 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Running back Tra Carson leads the team with 430 yards and 4 touchdowns and is a threat to take it to the house every time he touches the rock. Look for Texas A&M to be very aggressive early on in trying to attack the Crimson Tide defense and gain the early momentum. Alabama has struggled when teams start fast and are able to build a lead against them. That was how Ole Miss was able to get the road upset over the Crimson Tide. They started fast and never surrendered the lead in getting the victory. That has to be the mentality of the Aggies entering this game. The Aggies have a number of play makers on the offense including wide receivers Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds that can stretch Alabama vertically. Kirk leads the team with 32 receptions for 519 yards and 4 touchdowns while Reynolds is second on the team with 18 receptions for 383 yards along with 3 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Aggies are in a better position because of new defensive coordinator, John Chavis, who has been a great addition to the team. The Aggies are allowing 21.0 points per game and have played very well during the early part of the season. Texas A&M is allowing 182 rushing yards per game and yielding 192 passing yards per game. Through the first 5 games, the Aggies have recorded 19 sacks on the season led by standout defensive end Myles Garrett. Garrett leads the team with 7.5 sacks and is consistently creating havoc in opposing backfields. Garrett has great speed in being able to put pressure on opposing tackles and he can be a difference maker on Saturday with the crowd noise in Kyle Field. Defensive back Armani Watts leads the team with 39 total tackles which is an indication that opposing running backs are making it to the second level and must be addressed this Saturday against Alabama. Texas A&M is +2 in turnover margin and must be able to create turnovers to keep the crowd involved and force pressure on Alabama quarterback Jake Coker who will be making his second true road start.
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Joseph Lisi a former ABC Sports college football researcher, is the owner of www.GOFORTHE2.COM. He is a member if the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America),Maxwell Football Club and is currently the content editor at www.2FiveSports.com.He contributes regularly to www.Sid-Rosenberg.com and has been a featured guest every Tuesday night from 10:30-11:30pm EST on Yahoo Sports Radio With Ken Thomson(www.sportsxradio.com).
Joe has been featured on the FNTSY Sports Network and The Sid Rosenberg Sports Radio Show 640AM Sports (South Florida). You can follow him on Twitter: @Goforthe2.
Joe has a weekly radio show on www.blogtalkradio.com with former Georgia Bulldogs WR Corey Allen called: