Week 8 Preview: Alabama vs. Texas A&M

Coming off of their worst offensive performance since 2010, the Alabama Crimson Tide will try to bounce back this Saturday as they face off against the Texas A&M Aggies at home in Tuscaloosa.

Since the Aggies have joined the SEC, this match up has given us two exciting games. Both games featured “Johnny Football”, but he will be missing this year as he is now a member of the Cleveland Browns.

The first time these two teams met as members of the same conference in 2012, the fifteenth ranked Aggies traveled to Tuscaloosa and knocked off the number one ranked Crimson Tide, 29-24. In their second meeting last season, the Tide traveled to Kyle Field and defeated the Aggies at home in an offensive showdown, resulting in a 49-42 win.

This weekend, Alabama will look to extend Texas A&M’s losing streak to three games. The Aggies last two games have resulted in losses thanks to the state of Mississippi, losing to Mississippi State in week six and Ole Miss in week seven.

Aside from Alabama squeaking out a victory against Arkansas last weekend, these two teams have struggled in their last two games. Texas A&M was averaging 51.2 points per game in their first five games, but just 25.2 in their last two. Similarly, Alabama was averaging 33.6 in their first five games but that total fell to 18.5 in their last two contests.

Alabama appeared to be still recovering from their loss to Ole Miss last weekend when they faced off against the Razorbacks, barely getting by with a 14-13 win. Alabama head coach Nick Saban was not pleased to hear criticism from fans and analysts who were unhappy with a one point win. He addressed the media on Monday, and had a lot to say to the critics:

“Everybody’s got such a high expectation for what our team should be,” Saban said. “It really sorta, if you want to know the truth about it, (ticks) me off when I talk to people that have this expectation like they’re disappointed that we only won the game, 14-13, and in the way we played.”

Keys for an Alabama Victory:

Alabama has a few areas that have been concerning the last two games. First, the offense needs to find a rhythm, and secondly, Alabama’s special teams needs to cut down the mistakes. In order to get a much needed win, they must step up in those two categories.

Last week Amari Cooper, the Tide’s leading wide receiver, was held to only two catches for 22 yards. Their rushing tandem, T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry, were held to a combined 70 yards. This would explain why Alabama totaled only 227 yards on offense, the fifth worst total in the Saban era.

Aside from their offensive woes, Alabama had four fumbles on special teams, with Arkansas recovering two. Those mistakes are especially out of character for Alabama in recent years, as they typically are very strong on special teams and protecting the football.

Alabama will have to cut down on the amount of errors and be able to convert on third-downs, an area they did not do very well in last week.

Defense has been Alabama’s strongest unit thus far, and will definitely need a strong performance this Saturday against an offense that has posted huge performances this season. Alabama is currently ranked third in the country, allowing only 277.2 yards per game.

Keys for a Texas A&M Victory:

Texas A&M will have to be precise on offense and channel back to their first five performances of the season, where quarterback Kenny Hill had a 175.9 quarterback rating. Hill has since regressed, throwing five interceptions in his last two games (one being a pick-six). He also lost a fumble last weekend which was scooped up for a touchdown.

The offense has also struggled to convert on third-downs in the last two games, connecting on 12-of-35 attempts against Ole Miss and Mississippi State. However, we know what this offense is capable of, as they are ranked fourth in the country with 564.9 yards per game.

If Texas A&M’s defense can stop Alabama on third-down opportunities, this will allow their high-performing offense more chances on the field. Myles Garrett, the Aggie’s standout defensive end who has recorded seven sacks this season, could give the Tide’s offensive line problems. Garrett could be a difference maker for this defense, and is very capable of making big stops to keep Alabama out of rhythm.

This is just the third time these two teams have played each other since 1988. Historically, Alabama leads the series 4-2 and will look to extend that lead this Saturday in Tuscaloosa.

Fun Fact: There are only two programs that are featured in the top four of ESPN’s recruiting classes for both 2014 and 2015, those teams are Alabama and Texas A&M.

Here’s everything you need to know:

When: Saturday October 18, 2014
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium – Tuscaloosa, AL
Time: 3:30 EST on CBS
Spread: Alabama by 12 (Oddshark.com)

 

*Section Photo credit to Matthew Stockman, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Matthew Emmons, USA Today Sports

Week 8 Preview: (2) Florida State vs. (5) Notre Dame