COLLEGE STATION, Texas —
Dealing With a Dangerous Passing Attack
The Alabama offense has been a machine through the opening five games of 2019 to the tune of over 51 points per game. The days of Alabama just grounding and pounding people are over. Make no mistake. The Tide can still run the football, but quarterback Tua Tagovailoa continues to dominate through the air. The numbers are staggering. The junior has 23 touchdown passes with zero picks on the season, and he eclipsed 400 passing yards in Alabama's first two SEC games against Ole Miss and South Carolina.
The Aggies have faced good offenses this season, with the likes of Clemson and Auburn coming to mind. Saturday will be a step up, as Alabama's receiving corps might be the most dangerous group in the country. DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III and Jaylen Waddle all have impressive numbers and incredible speed. All four have over 1,000 career receiving yards. Their speed and route running ability paired with Tagovailoa's accuracy (completing over 76 percent of his passes in 2019) will put a lot of pressure on the A&M secondary. It can't all be on the defensive backs, however, for the Aggies. Can the front pressure Tagovailoa? Can the Aggies limit the run and make Alabama one dimensional?
Coach Fisher Quote: "They're (secondary) going to have their hands full. I think they're looking forward to the challenge. Those guys have done a really nice job with their length and size, learning how to use their bodies to not just be athletes but to be football players. You've got to challenge and mix it up and maybe you can bat some balls, get great coverage and turn guys loose and get some hits on the quarterback. Because I don't care who you are, when you get hit, you get affected in everything you do. But he's (Tagovailoa) as good as there is in college football, an outstanding player."
How Will the A&M Rushing Attack Respond
Texas A&M has struggled on the ground in three of the five games this year. Well over 200 yards against Texas State and Lamar was fine, but lack of balance against Clemson (53 rushing yards), Auburn (56 rushing yards) and Arkansas (89 rushing yards) proved difficult to overcome. The road doesn't get any easier on Saturday against a team that has forced 11 turnovers. As usual, Alabama is talented up front. The Crimson Tide defense has 30 tackles for loss while allowing just one rushing touchdown in 2019.
Coach Fisher Quote: "You've got to have balance, but you've got to move the football. In establishing a running game, you may throw to run or you may run to throw, but you've got to have balance. You've got to be able to do both where they can't lay their ears back. But you've got to be able to move the football. Creativity in what you're trying to do, different blocking schemes or how you do it, would be good. We ran the ball last year, mainly last year we got it on quarterback runs. We actually didn't run it very well with the back. We had about 160-170 yards in the game rushing, but it had a lot to do with the quarterback. Had some scrambles, too, but we had some planned quarterback runs, and we always have those. But we have to establish the running back runs in different ways to move the football, no doubt."
Big Plays the Key
Alabama already has 31 plays of over 20 yards through the opening five games of the season, including 11 plays of 33 yards or more. The Tide is coming off a performance against Ole Miss in which they totaled 11 explosive plays. It's way easier said than done, but can the Aggies keep things in front of them on Saturday? Alabama will score points, but Texas A&M needs to try to at least force them into long scoring drives.
Offensively, Texas A&M has again done a nice job in controlling the clock. The Aggies have had the ball for over 31 minutes in every game this season. Can the Aggies mix in some big plays of their own?
Fast Start & Electric Atmosphere
When times have been tough in 2019, the Aggies have continued to fight. Moral victories are not acceptable, but A&M showed plenty of fight and toughness, even in the losses to Clemson and Auburn. Slow starts proved costly, however, and that simply cannot happen against the top-ranked Crimson Tide. Texas A&M went back to basics during the bye week, including going back to fall camp style practices. Coach Fisher seemed very pleased with the effort and execution during that bye week. The Aggies have been here before. After all, they're facing the top ranked team in the country for the second time in 2019. Saturday should be another electric atmosphere at Kyle Field. Can the Aggies do their part to keep the 12th Man fully engaged and give themselves a chance in the fourth quarter?
Coach Fisher Quote: "You have an opportunity. You've been in that environment once, now you get to do it at home. Hopefully you'll learn from those situations and learn that those No. 1 teams are No. 1 for a reason. It'd be great to get off to a great start, because this crowd and the people here are phenomenal to play in front of. It's a great atmosphere and a great environment, like I've said, it's as good as I've been a part of. The key to that is we need to play well, and that makes them even happier and louder."