Before the season began, it was reasonable to think this night game at Texas A&M might be Alabama’s biggest challenge in the SEC West, and the toughest test for the Tide before a possible SEC Championship Game against Georgia.
By Matt Zemek
As it turned out, the road trip to the Swamp became very difficult for Nick Saban and his team, but even then, A&M seemed to be one of the more interesting opponents on the slate when we looked at the schedule grid back in August.
It has not turned out that way.
A&M is in free-fall as Alabama comes to College Station. The Aggies didn’t just lose to Arkansas; they followed that disappointing performance with a home-field loss to Mississippi State. Texas A&M is out of ideas and inspiration. This team lacks resources and solutions, and it isn’t finding ways to work around its limitations at quarterback, with Zach Calzada replacing an injured Haynes King. There’s a very real chance A&M could land in the SEC West cellar by season’s end. The Aggies are already at the bottom of the division and are trying to get out, but it won’t be easy.
This is not what anyone envisioned, but it’s reality. So: What are the keys for Alabama this weekend?
1 – Take A&M seriously
We really don’t have to make this any more complicated than it absolutely needs to be. Alabama just needs to treat this as a business trip, take the opponent seriously, and be completely locked in on each task, playing with speed, force and passion. Just do the job, and let everyone else lament what a dumpster fire A&M has become. The athletes can’t worry about those peripheral elements. They just need to do what they are trained to do, and what they love doing: playing quality football. Don’t overthink it.
2 – Assignment football
The A&M offense is very limited, but you know Jimbo Fisher will try to cook up something special here, giving Alabama looks it might not have seen before. The Aggies don’t have dynamic deep threats in their receiving corps, so the only way Bama will give up a big play is by not tending to the basic details and being caught out of position. Staying on task is the simple point of focus for the Alabama defense.
3 – Start horizontal, become vertical
In a road night game before a loud crowd, Alabama needs to give Bryce Young high-percentage plays at the start and force A&M to back off on defense so that the Aggies can’t get strip-sacks or other transformative plays from their pass rush. Once the A&M pass rush has been neutralized, the Tide can then focus more on hitting downfield plays and using the full measure of their offensive weapons.