If you like college football, then you will want to be near a TV this weekend that is for sure. This Saturday, many exciting games will take place throughout the nation, and one of the most intriguing matchups of the weekend is #10 Alabama (5-1) vs. #9 Texas A&M (5-0). The Tide rebounded from an early season loss and head into College Station, Texas, with the belief that they can run the table and once again reach the CFB Playoff. The Aggies are undefeated thanks to a high-powered offense and an improved defense under John Chavis. Last season, Alabama embarrassed Texas A&M, 59-0, in Tuscaloosa. This is a new year, and the Aggies have this game circled.
Saban's troops come into College Station, Texas, with an early season heart-breaking loss to Ole Miss at home. The Tide then rebounded two weeks later with a resounding, 38-10, win at then #8 Georgia. As I have previously said, Alabama has the best front seven on defense in all of college football with guys like tackle Jonathan Allen, end A'Shawn Robinson, and linebacker Reggie Ragland terrorizing opposing offenses. Their defensive line is big and nasty. It is extremely difficult to run up the middle against the Crimson Tide.
Just ask Nick Chubb and Georgia. Granted, Chubb had over a hundred yards but got most of his yards in garbage time. It was impressive. Last week, Alabama held a physical Arkansas team to only forty-four yards on the ground despite the Razorbacks being known for its strong rushing attack and having a massive offensive line. It is really hard to win games in the SEC being one-dimensional on offense, and that is what Kirby Smart's unit forces many teams to do. The secondary is not to be overlooked as it appears to be a solid unit as well this season.
On offense, running the football is the bread-and-butter of this Crimson Tide team and has been a big reason they have been so successful over the years. Derrick Henry is an animal and one of the biggest and most powerful running backs in the country. Kenyan Drake is his backup and can be used in multiple ways including at running back, at slot receiver, and on special teams. Drake is fast and explosive and probably the best overall weapon on this offense. Calvin Ridley has definitely made an impact in his freshman year with the Tide as he has led them in receiving thus far in 2015. Other viable receiving options are wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, WR Richard Mullaney, and TE O.J. Howard, who finally seems to be living up to his potential.
Derrick Henry Is The Focal Point of the Bama "O"
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Quarterback was a big question mark for Alabama in the offseason and continued to be a position of concern in the regular season. Jake Coker is definitely the starter and has played extremely well at times but has also been inconsistent. As always in football, the quarterback position is so important, and Jake Coker cannot have a bad day. He does not have to make all the plays. He just needs to limit his mistakes and put it in the hands of his playmakers. In other words, he is not the ship; he is just the captain.
Texas A&M could provide some big problems for Alabama on Saturday afternoon. For one thing, Kyle Field has always been loud and crazy, and the 12th Man truly makes this one of the best atmospheres in the nation. Add to that it was just renovated to hold more people, and you got one of the most intimidating places to play in college football. But make no mistake, the team on the field is REALLY good too.
Most people did not know exactly what to expect from Texas A&M in 2015. Everyone knew the offense would be very good, but the main weak link for this Aggie team has been their defense, which has been awful the last several years. Sumlin made the right call and hired John Chavis from LSU to take over this defense. He has done an outstanding job in such a short time in College Station and showed why he is one of the premier defensive coaches in the country. He has made the defense respectable and even really good at times, which is a huge improvement over last season.
Chavis' best weapon on this defense happens to be the best defensive end in the SEC and probably the country in Myles Garrett. Garrett is a nightmare for offensive lines off the edge, as he possesses huge size and quickness. He broke Jadeveon Clowney's Freshman SEC Sack record last year and is not looking back. In fact, he leads the conference with eight sacks this season. It is just not fair for opposing offensive lines. Combine that with opposite end Daeshon Hall having a very good 2015 as well as other critical players contributing, this Aggie defense finally has some bite to it.
Garrett Is a Freak of Nature
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
But what truly makes this team dangerous is their offense. The unit has been stellar, and Kyle Allen has built on his potential as a freshman and become one of the top passers in the SEC. He has got a very strong arm and has already thrown for over 1200 yards. He is also a very accurate passer and seems to be smart with the football.
The biggest strength of this team is the receiving corps, which has to make Allen happy. It might be the best group of pass-catchers in college football. Their leader is surprisingly a first-year player in the electrifying Christian Kirk. Kirk is developing into one of the best offensive playmakers in the SEC. But Alabama cannot afford just to focus on him, as A&M also has on its roster last year's leading receiver Josh Reynolds, Ricky Seals-Jones, Speedy Noil, and Damion Ratley. The Alabama secondary is going to have a tall order of covering these guys, and I certainly do not envy them.
Running the football has been a weakness for Texas A&M the last several years, and everyone knows that if any team wants to have consistent success in the SEC, they have to be able to run the ball. The Aggies have sought to do that this year and Tra Carson has provided that spark. Do not be deceived though, the passing attack is still the hallmark of this offense.
This Texas A&M offense is hard to stop, but if anyone is capable of doing it, it has to be Alabama. The keys for a victory by the Crimson Tide are to establish the run with Derrick Henry and keep pounding it. This will take pressure off Coker. Coker and Alabama cannot turn the ball over, as they have been known to do this year. This offense will make the opposing team pay. On defense, the Tide have to have a balance of continuing to stop the run but also cover the talented Texas A&M receivers. They cannot give up the big play.
For Texas A&M, they need to try to run the ball on Alabama. Running it up the middle can be a tall task, so the Aggies should throw in sweeps and other outside runs to try to keep their offense from solely relying on Allen's arm to move the chains. The biggest advantage against Alabama is the Aggies' superior passing game and spread attack. A good spread offense tends to give Alabama problems, and Kyle Allen is the perfect guy to run it. He has got to spread the field and hit his many different receivers and keep the Tide defenders on their toes. Chavis' defense needs to dial up the pressure on Coker and hopefully force him to make mistakes. The defense also needs to get penetration to try and stop Henry.
Overall, this game should be a dandy. This game has been circled by Texas A&M since last year's stinging loss, and Nick Saban will have his Alabama team ready. This game will have significant implications in the SEC and nationwide, and we should all have a much clearer picture of the state of these two teams after Saturday's showdown.