On the road. When it’s riled up after its worst performance of the year.
Top-ranked Alabama will try to get its defense back to its dominating ways today when the Tide hosts the Aggies. The Tide gave up a season-high 435 yards in last week’s 21-17 win over LSU, and Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury figures Alabama’s defense isn’t the type to give up that kind of production often.
“What’s remarkable is that they lost basically an entire NFL team last year and they came back this year and are No. 1 and are the No. 1 scoring defense in the nation with nine points a game,” Kingsbury said. “It just says volumes about the coaches and what they do with recruiting and schematically. Their schemes are great and they have great athletes.”
In Texas A&M’s first season in the Southeastern Conference, the Aggies score more points and gains more yards than anybody else in the league. They hammered South Carolina State for 70 points. Auburn gave up 63 to these guys. They hung 58 on Arkansas.
But Alabama is different. Those teams don’t have defenses that have produced like the Crimson Tide’s has. Alabama ranks second nationally in total defense, and nobody can top the Tide’s average of 9.1 points allowed a game.
Still, Alabama coach Nick Saban said that doesn’t make this week any easier. Texas A&M has gotten off to fast starts offensively lately, and that’s something he wants to avoid today.
“The uptempo probably gets people on their heels a little bit,” He said. “It’s hard to simulate the tempo that they play with in practice. I think that that’s probably one of the most difficult things that the defense has to adjust to. They do a good job. They’ve got a really good offensive concept and they do a really good job of executing it.”
Saban said the toughest part of the Aggies’ offense is its balance. They don’t rely completely on throwing the ball around the field. In fact, Texas A&M leads the SEC in rushing.
“They’ve got balance run and pass, and they make a ton of big plays,” he said. “It’s going to be important that we get our players lined up and playing what you have to defend, which is the quarterback scramble, a very good passing game and ability to run the ball. That’s a lot of keys — a lot of discipline, eye-control in this game.”
In Alabama’s win over LSU, the Tide struggled to stop the Tigers on third down. LSU converted 10 third-down plays into first downs. That has provided a bit of motivation for this week.
“It was very frustrating not to get off the field on third down,” Alabama safety HaHa Clinton-Dix said. “We made some mental errors, corrected that, and now we’ll move forward from that.”
Texas A&M already has faced two of the SEC’s top defenses. The Aggies struggled offensively against Florida in the season opener, losing 20-17. Three weeks ago, they fell 24-19 against LSU, again having trouble moving the ball.
But Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said his team and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel aren’t the same as they were then, especially the Florida game.
“We certainly have more offense at our disposal now than we had against Florida,” Sumlin said. “It’s just growth, number one. Number two, it is the comfort level and Johnny being able to handle it. Just because you put up a play, you better have some answers for it.
“Defenses in this league are pretty complex. It’s not necessarily what you think you can handle as a coach but what your players can handle. In year one, 10 weeks in, I think we’ve progressed pretty well.”