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Mitchell: Bama Exposed, What Comes Next?
Interconference Cooperation
Interconference Cooperation
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Nov 11, 2012


A funny thing happened on the way to a second half blowout…the Tide ran out of gas. The whole team, including its coaching staff. Now what does it mean?

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Alabama 29, Texas A&M 24.

I’m sorry, what? Switch what? You mean Alabama LOST?

For the second consecutive season, the vaunted Tide lost a home game in which it was favored, and for the second straight week it looked average at best. Now it remains to be seen whether fate (with the help of Bama's vocal/influential fan base) will grant Nick Saban & Co. another mulligan.

This game actually opened as expected...within reason. Not unlike the Florida and LSU games, Texas A&M started like it was late for a date with Kate Upton, seemingly surprising its host with its up-tempo offense.

But no, this game wasn’t lost here. 20 points to start a game is nothing to raise your nose at, and we can’t recall the last time Alabama was down 20-0 in a first quarter at home. But the Tide cut that margin to six with dominating play in the second quarter, and opened the third by thrashing Johnny Manziel and the Aggies offense with two three-and-outs (including three sacks on six plays, and nearly a safety).

But a funny thing happened on the way to a second half blowout…the Tide ran out of gas. The whole team, including its coaching staff.

For that, we hope TAMU head coach Kevin Sumlin had the team plane stop in Baton Rouge on the flight home, so he could give LSU’s Les Miles a big, sloppy kiss...because the Tide’s lethargic second half performance had as much to do with the 80+ snaps and 40 minutes of possession that the Tigers forced Alabama to defend on November 3 as anything that TAMU did Saturday night.

RUN BAMA RUN

Even then, it appeared magic and destiny were once again on Alabama’s sideline. After falling behind 12 points in the fourth quarter, Bama had the ball first and ten on the TAMU six, down five, with four minutes to go.

Yet like the Florida Gators, who also seem to have forgotten how to run the ball following its undressing of South Carolina, Bama would attempt only one running play at this critical juncture in the game, not to mention position on the field. Saban would instead trust his quarterback, AJ McCarron, who was finishing up his second average performance in as many weeks (more on that below). Instead of a go ahead touchdown, the Tide faithful would have to settle for McCarron’s second interception on the day.

But don't get stuck on that last series...against TAMU, Alabama actually had more passing plays on offense (34) than running plays (31). The same thing happened the week prior when Alabama struggled against LSU – 27 pass attempts to 24 carries.

Unless you count last year’s season opener against Kent State, in which Alabama was auditioning two quarterbacks for the job, Bama hasn’t attempted more passes than carries since the Iron Bowl loss in 2010…and that includes the Tide’s pass-happy BCS title game last season. Now they have logged back-to-back games with more passing than rushing, and looked inadequate both times.

5 HOUR ENERGY

Bama played a sluggish second half and allowed A&M to dictate the tempo – something that rarely happens to the Tide. The good news for Bama is this has only happened twice this season; the bad news is Bama has only faced those two top shelf competitors.

Indeed, this 2012 Bama team is a tale of two regular season schedules: LSU & TAMU, and everything else. You can see this in Bama’s turnover margin. The Tide entered Saturday’s game vs. A&M as the #4 team in the nation in this statistic…impressive. However, they now carry a -5 differential against the Tigers and Aggies. Worse, that's on five turnovers without a single takeaway. A tale of two schedules...

Not unlike the LSU game, Bama quarterback AJ McCarron once again looked average vs. the Aggies. McCarron overthrew several open receivers, should really have had three interceptions, and cost his team two touchdowns given deep fourth quarter passes to Amari Cooper and Kenny Bell were grossly under-thrown, both of which ended in turnovers (T.J. Yeldon fumbled on the play after the under-thrown pass to Cooper, and had Bell’s pass been delivered in stride, McCarron’s second interception at the goal line with 1:36 to play would have only been the stuff of nightmares).

While TAMU was certainly aided by Bama mistakes and lethargy, let’s give credit where it’s due. Manziel had another solid outing: 24-of-31 passing for 253 yards, two touchdowns and more importantly, zero interceptions. To that he added nearly 100 yards rushing on 18 carries.

The Aggies’ defense also deserves a nod of recognition. TAMU held Bama to 3.9 yards per carry, had three takeaways and allowed only 17 first downs (to TAMU’s 23). Remember, the Aggies entered Tuscaloosa with just the nation’s 46th best total defense and 70th pass defense. However, the Aggies did learn from LSU's mistakes - where the Tigers played a soft prevent defense, TAMU attacked.

WHAT NEXT?

Past Bama, the second biggest loser on the night was Georgia. Given the Dawgs humiliating loss to South Carolina, they might have needed a win against an undefeated and top-ranked Bama squad to propel itself into the national title game.

Given Alabama’s light schedule and its weak performance against its only two top shelf opponents, and that it appears 2012 is a down year for the SEC (think SEC vs. the Sun Belt Conference), the conference’s string of six straight titles is in jeopardy unless there’s only one undefeated team left standing when the regular season ends.

That written, it's worth noting that without hesitation I’d take Bama, LSU, TAMU or UGA to beat all three undefeated teams, most certainly Notre Dame.


Follow me @russmitchellcfb