Ok, I’ve spoken about the A&M offense, and the A&M defense. So what’ll actually happen when the Tide and the Aggies meet in College Station? In short, I think Alabama is going to obliterate A&M on Saturday.
Why do I say that? Let’s go in two parts, the Bama O vs A&M D, and the Bama D vs A&M O. Special teams are a push, or a slight Bama advantage depending on how much stock you put in Christion Jones.
Bama offense versus A&M defense. Fans have heard that the Bama offensive line was awful against Virginia Tech. They weren’t wrong, but VT will be a top 15 defense before all is said and done this year, and Bud Foster, the Virginia Tech defensive coordinator, is solidly among the top 5 defensive coordinators in the country.
The key is A&M’s defense is terrible compared to Virginia Tech’s. The defensive line does not have strong, developed depth yet and players that were going to be leaned over by defensive coordinator Mark Snyder haven’t shown that they can carry the load. A&M does have several big bodies to throw at Alabama in the form of nose guard Kirby Ennis and defensive tackle Alonzo Harris, but Alabama’s linemen are just as big. A&M cannot expect to out-physical the Tide. If that’s the game they choose to play? They lose.
If A&M’s defensive line is to be disruptive to the Alabama offense, expect the linemen to slant a lot. Virginia Tech did it all night. A slant is when a defensive lineman slides toward one of the sides of an offensive lineman as opposed to taking them head on. It is a very effective technique for getting penetration, and a well-called slant will generally result in a tackle for loss. The unfortunate truth is that if the offense calls a trap, or a slant, the slanting defensive line plays right into the offense’s hands. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier will have to be on-point with his playcalling to take advantage of A&M’s tendencies and adjustments.
It is a very legitimate point that A&M has not had their full defense in any game they have played thus far due to suspensions. Unfortunately, the first true reps these players will be getting this year will be against Alabama.
Looking into the A&M secondary, the Aggies don’t have corners on the level of the Fuller brothers at VT. Expect Desheazor Everett to draw Amari Cooper frequently in coverage and he will probably have safety help. The loss of Floyd Raven to a collarbone injury means a back up will be sliding into that position. Raven was one of the highest regarded members of the A&M secondary though, so his replacement will be a step back.
The lack of skill and experience in the A&M secondary will only be compounded if the Aggies stack the box to stop Alabama’s run game. Aggie cornerbacks, aside from Everett, have not shown shut down ability to the point where it’s a comfortable proposition for Snyder to leave them on a 1-on-1 island while throwing eight or nine in the box to stop Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon and his cohorts.
Alabama’s offense will score on the Aggie defense. Now can Alabama stop Johnny Manziel, or at least slow him down? Alabama does have the athletes to do it, but the how is very complex.
One way the defense can contain him is through a spy. A spy is a defensive player, probably CJ Mosley, assigned to shadow Manziel on a given play. It ties down one of Bama’s best defenders, and can lead to holes in coverage, but expect to see a spy deployed against Manziel a few times in Saturday’s game.
The biggest thing is how disciplined the defensive line is. Instead of trying to get to Manziel, they need to play containment football. If Manziel begins to run out of the pocket, an end or linebacker would be tasked to turn him back towards the pocket and into the pursuing defenders. The ends would essentially be sheep dogs, simply herding Manziel into the teeth of the Alabama defense.
Nick Saban has spoken about eye discipline. Eye discipline is simply keeping an eye on a defensive assignment, and not Manziel. If a play begins to break down and Manziel does what he does, a defensive player needs to only worry with his job, and let the group assigned to chase Manziel chase. It is a simple concept in theory, but during the game, try to not watch the ball for any length of time. It can be difficult.
A&M is going to score. Even with a very athletic secondary, the size of the Aggie wide receivers will prove problematic and A&M’s offensive line is good enough to open up holes for the running game. The thing is, I believe Alabama will score more. The Aggie D versus the Bama O is so much more of a mismatch than the Aggie O than the Bama D.
Final Score: 42-24.