#1 Alabama Prepares for Match-up at #24 Texas A&M
There are two things that shouldn’t fool anyone concerning #24 Texas A&M Aggies (3-2) and #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0). The first is that the Aggies’ two losses make them a less dangerous team. Their two losses were at home to #12 Auburn and at #1 Clemson. The second is that Alabama’s number one ranking ahead of Clemson makes them more stable than any other team. Last season, the Tide were the most dominant team in the nation until star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa suffered a series of small injuries. Head coach Nick Saban says that the Aggies are the best team, by far, the Tide has played this year. This is true considering that this is the first ranked opponent the Tide has played this season, as Alabama prepares for away match-up against ranked Texas A&M.
Mix up the passing targets
The Crimson Tide are ranked third in the nation in points per game (51.8), total yards per game (555), and passing yards per game (380.6). Tagovailoa continues to pass at a high velocity by passing for 1,718 yards, 23 touchdowns, and no interceptions on 113 completions (out of 148 attempts). The other side of the high-power passing game can be complementary to their elite wide receiver corps. Last week against Ole Miss, wide receiver DeVonta Smith caught 11 receptions for 274 yards and five touchdowns. Due to his performance, Smith was added to the Fred Biletnikoff Award Watch List. This was the award that wide receiver Jerry Jeudy won last season. Smith, Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, and Jaylen Waddle have all contributed to the passing game. It can be very easy for Tagovailoa to succeed very well in an offense that circulates around his passing ability.
The Tide will be playing a more established defense in Texas A&M than Alabama’s previous opponents in Duke, South Carolina, and Ole Miss. The Aggies’ defense ranks 20th in points allowed per game (17.8), 23rd in total yards allowed per game (300), 31st in passing yards allowed per game (191.4), and 29th in rushing yards allowed per game (108.4). Despite being ranked within or near the top-25 in major defensive statistics, the Aggies rank 47th in defensive efficiency (59.6). Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian can create heavy momentum by mixing up the passing schemes to throw off the Aggies. Creating multiple screen scenarios to Smith, Jeudy, and Ruggs will cause a quick start. The Tide mixed their alignment early in the season by putting Jeudy (normally an outside receiver) as a slot receiver. Jeudy still often ran deep routes as a slot receiver.
Protect Tua from the pass rush
Another part of Tagovailoa being the center of the Tide’s offense is the liability his absence will bring. Last year, the Tide’s offensive performance suffered due to the knee injury he suffered a little over halfway through the season. The Tide’s offensive line has given up 10 sacks in five games this season. Even though the Aggies defense has only accounted for eight sacks this season, they are efficient in getting to and pressuring the quarterback. The Tide’s offensive line has shuffled some players around due to injuries. One of them is center Chris Owens, who is questionable to play against the Aggies due to a knee injury. Players to potentially replace Owens as the starting center is Landon Dickerson, who is the starting right guard.
The defense needs to terrorize and contain Kellen Monday
An effective dual-threat quarterback has been kryptonite to Alabama’s defense for as long as Saban has been the head coach. Last game, the Tide encountered a few problems trying to stop Ole Miss quarterback John Rhys Plumlee in a surprising start. Alabama’s defense will be more prepared to stop junior quarterback Kellen Mond. Last season, Mond passed for 196 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 16 completions (out of 33 attempts). He was the team’s rushing leader with 98 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. Alabama’s pass rushers will need to be more efficient and smart dealing with a more experienced and more determined Mond. Tide outside linebacker Anfernee Jennings has accounted for 29 total tackles, five tackles for loss, and three sacks. He is the main contributor in reading main keys during a play such as a quarterback scrambling.
Senior defensive end Raekwon Davis’ role has been defined as the main run-stopper for the Tide’s defense. This includes being double-teamed often allowing an extra defender to be free to stop the key offensive player. Davis is fourth on the Tide’s defense in total tackles accounted for with 25 because of his stout ability to penetrate the backfield. Linebackers Shane Lee and Christian Harris will be the main signal callers on defense as they will watch out for key plays to indicate on RPO (run-pass-option) plays. Safety Xavier McKinney is the main leader on the defense and is the defender who reacts the quickest. He leads the defense in total tackles accounted (41) and solo tackles (26).
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