Friday, 9 November 2012

Alabama finishes rare stretch vs Texas A&M

The game of the week in college football takes place at 3:30 on Saturday, when No. 15 Texas A&M visits No. 1 Alabama. The top-ranked Crimson Tide will be the sixth AP No. 1 team to face an AP top-15 team in three consecutive regular season games. Three of the previous five won each game in that stretch.

Kevin Sumlin’s teams have won 11 straight road games, including all five this season (Houston went 6-0 on the road under Sumlin last season). This marks the first time since 1977 that Texas A&M has won as many as five road games in a single season.

LSU exposed some weaknesses in Alabama last week by putting up 435 yards of total offense, including 139 on the ground, snapping a streak of 11 straight games that Alabama held FBS opponents under 100 yards rushing.

Can Texas A&M and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel follow suit? The Aggies are 10th nationally in rushing offense and fifth in total offense. A&M has totaled 713 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground the past two weeks.

Manziel is second in the country in total offense and has four games with 100 yards rushing and 200 yards passing, including last week against previously unbeaten Mississippi State.

He’s been phenomenal all year on third downs of five yards or longer -- he's the only player in FBS averaging 10 yards per rush AND 10 yards per pass attempt in those situations, and his 11 touchdowns responsible for in those situations are three more than any other FBS player.

Manziel has gained 634 of his SEC-leading 922 rushing yards on scrambles, which is 182 more than Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller and Collin Klein have combined. Manziel has scrambled for 28 first downs this season, including 18 of them on third down.

However, in A&M's seven wins, the best defense it faced (according to total yards per game) was Mississippi State (48th in FBS). In two losses, it faced LSU (3rd) and Florida (5th), and Manziel wasn't nearly as effective. Not good news considering Alabama is 2nd nationally.

On the other side, Alabama QB AJ McCarron still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. He’s up to 204 pass attempts this season, and 289 dating to last season, without throwing a pick.

Since 2000 he’s the only player in FBS with 25 career touchdown passes and as few as five interceptions -- he’s got 38 touchdowns and just five picks.

McCarron is completing more than 60 percent of his passes thrown at least 25 yards downfield this season, a huge increase over last season. Play-action has been the key -- he’s completing nearly 78 percent of his deep throws off play-action this season, including all four of his touchdowns.

Bear Bryant was A&M’s coach from 1954-57 before moving on to a legendary career as Alabama’s coach from 1958-82.

Nina Moric Shirly Jones

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