Orange Bowl

Game of the Week Preview: Texas A&M at Alabama

 
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Johnny Manziel, a.k.a. Johnny Football, will try his best to sour the taste of Bama's big win against LSU last week.
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Ryan Trapp | Staff Writer
OrangeBowl.org

This weekend, Alabama has a chance to clinch a spot in the SEC title game with a win over Johnny “Football” Manziel and the high-flying Texas A&M offense, while the Aggies hope to stay perfect on the road in their inaugural SEC season. One of the nation’s best defenses hosts one of the football’s top offenses in a showdown of divisional opponents for this week’s Orange Bowl Game of the Week.

Alabama’s defense surrendered season-high 435 yards last week against an LSU offense that averaged just 386 yards per contest coming into the game, and suddenly the football community sees Nick Saban’s team as beatable. However, last week’s thriller in the bayou took place in one of college football’s most hostile environments, which had claimed the hopes of 22 straight teams before Alabama squeaked by with the win. Quarterback A.J. McCarron had been an efficient game-manager all season long, but had a defining moment last week when the junior led his team on a last-minute, 72-yard touchdown drive to secure a comeback win over the fifth-ranked Tigers. McCarron’s confidence only adds another wrinkle to an Alabama offense which has grown more dynamic from week to week, and he’ll have a chance to keep the ball rolling back in Tuscaloosa. Behind their big-time offensive line led by Chance Warmack and Barrett Jones, McCarron and company will have plenty of opportunities to extend drives and keep Johnny Football off the field. While their defense looked vulnerable for this first time all year in last week’s performance, any unit anchored by the likes of Nico Johnson and Dee Milliner is still unquestionably among the nation’s best.

Any conversation about the Aggies has to begin with their superb offense, where quarterback Johnny Manziel has been other-worldly for the SEC newcomers. The freshman has averaged 383.2 yards of offense per game, while amassing 31 touchdowns and leading the conference in rushing, scoring, and total offense. On a per game basis, Manziel’s accounted for more offensive production by himself than Alabama has allowed to entire opposing teams.  The rest of A&M’s offense is loaded with talent as well. Wide receiver Ryan Swope and running backs Ben Malena and Christine Michael lend significant talent to the skill positions, while Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, a pair of NFL-bound tackles, have had phenomenal seasons. The Aggies won’t field the same kind of talent on defense that the Crimson Tide can boast, junior defensive end Damontre Moore anchors a front that limited a poignant Mississippi State offense to just 13 points and 98 yards rushing last week.

Ten years ago this week, Texas A&M defeated the No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners in one of the biggest upsets of the 2002 college football season. It’s hoping to duplicate some of that success this week a decade later. The Aggies have shown they can compete with the nation’s best, losing to a pair of top ten teams (Florida and LSU) by a combined eight points and actually leading by double-digits in both contests. They’ll try and put together a complete game in Tuscaloosa, but against the nation’s number one scoring defense it’s no easy task.

 

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