When the Aggies run
Texas A&M tweaked things during the bye week after being held under 100 yards rushing for the third time this season. Quarterback Kellen Mond had success last year and should again running against an Alabama defense that’s given up more than 100 yards in four games, including 279 yards to Ole Miss. Mond needs to show off his legs in honor of Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner who beat Alabama and was in town this week.
When the Aggies pass
Behind true freshman Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns featuring an up-tempo attack — something Mond and his receivers are good at. The secondary is the strength of Alabama’s defense, and Mond is susceptible to turnovers. A&M has thrown nine interceptions in its current six-game losing streak to Alabama.
EDGE: TEXAS A&M
When the Crimson Tide run
Najee Harris is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and should find open lanes in an inexperienced front seven that will be worried about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s throwing ability. Junior center Chris Owens is doubtful to play, which could affect the ground game. A&M’s run defense has allowed 291 yards in the last two games.
When the Crimson Tide pass
Tagovailoa leads a lethal attack with wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III combining for 86 catches for 1,386 yards and 18 TDs. Tagovailoa is completing 76.4% of his passes and hasn’t thrown an interception. A&M’s secondary is better than last year, but so is Tagovailoa, and he threw for 387 yards and four TDs with no interceptions last year.
All-American punter Braden Mann gives A&M a huge edge in this arena, but Alabama has punted only 11 times. If Mann is on the field often, the Aggies are in trouble. A&M also has the edge at place-kicker but can’t settle for field goals. Alabama does have the game’s best punt returner in Jaylen Waddle, and A&M ranks 113th in defending punts.
EDGE: TEXAS A&M
Both teams are coming off byes. A&M has lost SEC games the last four seasons coming off byes, including twice to Alabama. The bye week should help Alabama’s young defense, which gave up 459 yards to South Carolina and 476 yards to Ole Miss. A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU from 2000-04 under Alabama’s Nick Saban but is 0-2 against his former boss.
Tua Tagovailoa is completing 76.4% of his passes, and A&M has a tough time putting pressure on the quarterback. That’s a recipe for Crimson Tide success.
Get to Kellen Mond
Arkansas had four sacks against A&M. Alabama should be able to top that.
Don’t get greedy
Teams have had success running the ball against A&M, so don’t abandon the run.
TEXAS A&M MUST
Protect the ball
Alabama is too good to be given extra possessions.
Auburn scored on the game’s fourth play and A&M never recovered. The Aggies can’t afford to get sucker-punched like that.
Limit big plays
Alabama has 34 passes of 20 or more yards, 26 of them going for touchdowns, and 11 TD drives of four or less plays.