- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
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With Texas A&M's clash against the nation's No. 1 team, Alabama, fast approaching, we'll take a closer look at the Aggies opponent with Alex Scarborough, who covers the Crimson Tide for ESPN's TideNation. Here are five questions for Scarborough and his takes on the Tide and the upcoming matchup:
1. Alabama yielded a season-high 435 yards to LSU on Saturday. What worked for LSU against the Crimson Tide and is it something that you think other teams could replicate, including Texas A&M?
LSU was able to effectively run the ball downhill and capitalize on missed assignments in the secondary. Throw in a few missed tackles and it made for a long day for the Alabama defense. While I'm not sure the Aggies can run the ball in quite the same way, I do believe the area of missed tackles and blown assignments should be a concern for Alabama fans. As I've said all week: if you think LSU turning a 2-yard gain into a first down was bad, watch out for what a real offense like Texas A&M's can do. That said, I think there's a fundamental difference in the two opponents. LSU went pro-style all night and effectively kept C.J. Mosley and the nickel and dime defenses off the field, which are Alabama's strengths. Obviously that won't be the case when Johnny Manziel trots out there with three, four and five receivers at a time.
2. I know that Nick Saban said he doesn't have anybody that can help simulate Johnny Manziel for his scout team, but how do you see the Tide trying to attack the redshirt freshman?
I expect to see Alabama go straight containment on defense a la Michigan in the season opener. Saban isn't a guy that harps on getting sacks or tackles for loss. He'd rather pressure the quarterback in a controlled way as to not let Manziel use his feet, whether that's running around the tackles or straight through the box. I think we'll see Saban spy Manziel throughout the game and force him to beat Alabama with his arm rather than his legs.
3. Much was made about Saban's comments on the no-huddle offense after the Ole Miss game. Did the pace really give the Tide that much trouble and could it be an area of concern for Alabama heading into Saturday?
Yes and yes, but take it with a grain of salt. Alabama's defense did have trouble exchanging personnel and getting play calls in when the Rebels went uptempo, but it wasn't like Ole Miss put up 40 points. The game was never in doubt. That said, Texas A&M's offense is far more advanced than Ole Miss'. If Manziel and the Aggies can convert on a few third downs, it can get the defense on its heels. When that happens, it's anyone's game.
4. For those who have never been, describe what a typical game-day atmosphere is like at Bryant-Denny Stadium and what kind of advantage it is for the Tide over visiting opponents.
It's an all day affair in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The quad will be jam-packed and the streets crowded before many of us in the media wake up and get a cup of coffee. The stadium itself is one of the louder venues in the SEC with more than 100,000 fans right on top of you. Expect to hear a lot of "Sweet Home Alabama" and a steady chorus of "Roll Tide."
5. Give me a name of an Alabama player that Texas A&M fans might not know today, but will know by the end of Saturday's game and why.
Adrian Hubbard. Alabama's sophomore outside linebacker is the key to keeping Manziel contained. At 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, he's athletic enough to stay in front of Manziel and more than strong enough to pull him down. He leads the team in tackles for loss, and while he may not end Saturday with a full stat line, his ability to hold the edge and force the action back up the middle will be key to Alabama's success on defense.
4dSam Khan and Greg Ostendorf