Texas A&M at Alabama Preview
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel
Posted Nov 7, 2012

Week 11 Fearless Prediction – Texas A&M at Alabama


Texas A&M (7-2) at Alabama (9-0) Nov. 10, 3:30, CBS

Here's The Deal: You can look at the Alabama comeback win over LSU in a few ways. Either the Tide showed it could find something deep when everything was going wrong, proving it could handle adversity, or else the team became vulnerable. LSU was able to throw the ball around the yard better than anyone has against a Nick Saban defense in two years, the lines were more physical, and there but for the grace of a few questionable coaching decisions by Les Miles, there would've been a massive shake-up at the top of the polls.

Of course, A.J. McCarron engineered the legendary drive, the Tide survived, and now all they need is a win this week or against Auburn in late November to represent the West and play for the SEC title, meaning all they need is a win his week to go 12-0. But can the defense that couldn't slow down Zach Mettenberger handle Johnny Manziel and the SEC's No. 1 offense?

Texas A&M has proved it could handle itself in the new conference without a problem, with the two losses coming in tight battles with elite Florida and LSU teams in games that could've gone either way. The Aggies are playing just enough defense to get by – one shootout against Louisiana Tech aside – while the offense is putting up numbers in bunches with an efficient and effective attack.

As good as A&M has been, there was some question about whether or not the team could really play. After all, the big dates and wins over Arkansas, Auburn and Ole Miss didn't turn out to be that big a deal. But last week the team rolled into Mississippi State and dominated with a strong 38-13 victory to firmly establish itself as no worse than the third best team in the SEC West. Now it's time to go big game hunting.

Despite not being all that far apart – just over 600 miles – this is only the fifth time these two schools have met with Alabama winning the last meeting in 1988. The Tide has a 3-1 all-time lead with the first victory a 29-21 battle in the 1942 Cotton Bowl.

Why Texas A&M Might Win: Can Manziel do exactly what Mettenberger did, only with more mobility? The Aggie receiving corps is playing better than the LSU targets, and while the overall pass protection might not seem all that impressive on paper, it's strong – Manziel takes a lot of hits by moving around. A&M won't blast the Tide off the ball like LSU did, but the offensive front is still one of the strongest in the country and should be able to hold its own against the phenomenal defensive front. Manziel is accurate enough that he can keep the chains moving as long as he's getting the time to work, and considering he's playing far better than Mettenberger, there could be a repeat of last week.

Even though LSU had no problems against McCarron until the final minutes, it didn't generate too much of a pass rush with just one sack and two tackles for loss. The Aggies will have far more luck getting behind the line with an aggressive and dangerous pass rush led by Damontre Moore, who's second in the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. McCarron won't get the time to let the deep plays develop.

Why Alabama Might Win: LSU was nearly perfect on the little things against Alabama. The Tigers held the Tide just one of nine on third downs and was +2 in turnover margin, while the offense converted half of its third down chances and didn't give the ball away. Texas A&M isn't going to win the turnover battle, mainly because the aggressive defense doesn't take the ball away with just one fumble recovery all season long and one pick in the last four games. Manziel plays with fire when he tries to make things happen, getting away with a lot of wild and daring throws, but that's not going to fly against the Tide defense. There probably won't be five Aggie turnovers like there were against LSU, but it'll be a slight shock if the turnover margin is even, or in the positive.

What To Watch Out For: The Johnny Football thing has gotten old, fast, but if Manziel comes up with a decent performance and leads the way to the big upset win, all of a sudden he might vault to the top of the Heisman discussion, or at least he'll be in the top three. He has made a name for himself by being able to take off and make big things happen with 181 rushing yards and three scores against Louisiana Tech and five scoring dashes over the last two weeks, but he's not likely to rumble for more than 50 yards against the Tide without a lot of luck. He has to be 30-of-36 good throwing the ball like he was against Mississippi State, and he can't take any crazy chances – throwing the ball into the fifth row won't necessarily be a bad thing from time to time.

On the other side of the ball, it will be a battle of NFL heavyweights depending on where Damontre Moore lines up. A sure-thing All-American based on his relentless pass rushing ability and big-tackling numbers, Moore will be in for a war with Cyrus Kouandjio on the left side and occasionally D.J. Fluker on the right. If the Tide can handle Moore one-on-one, and doesn't have to devote a second blocker to help chip him, the rest of the line should be able to hold its own.

What Will Happen: Alabama is ripe for the picking. The overblown defense proved last week against LSU that it's overrated, while the offense fizzled and struggle up until the final moments … whatever. Alabama had its blip with strange mistakes and too many key errors for a team that's as physically and mentally tough as any in the country. The defensive front seven will keep Manziel in check while the offense will have a very efficient, very effective day with a good balance and more quick-hitting throws to account for the A&M pass rush. The Tide will make up for last week by looking like Alabama again.

CFN Prediction: Alabama 34 … Texas A&M 17
ATS Consultants Line (Click for more lines and picks) Alabama -13.5 O/U: 56
Must Watch Rating (5 – Skyfall, 1 – Wreck It Ralph): 5