Everyone knew before the first snap of the season that there would only be three teams battling for the top spot in the grueling SEC West: Texas A&M, Alabama, & LSU. The Aggies and the Crimson Tide squared off on Saturday, and there were plenty of learning opportunities for the Bayou Bengals, who will have to play both teams later this season. Both teams displayed strengths that the Tigers will need to slow down, and weaknesses that must be exploited.
The Aggies lost the game, but put together an impressive performance. At times they looked mediocre, while other times appeared completely uncontainable.
Mike Evans: Evans made the glorified Crimson defense look like children on Saturday! He caught seven balls and made every reception count, finishing the day with a school-record 279 receiving yards. Midway through the fourth quarter, Evans pulled down a 95-yard reception, diminishing Bama’s lead to seven.
Johnny Manziel: I guess you could say this sophomore quarterback out of San Antonio is a pretty talented football player. Manziel completely dismantled the Crimson Tide’s defense, which was previously hailed one of the top units in all of college football. Manziel finished the day with 562 total yards, including a career-best 464 yards in the air.
The defense as a whole was a major weakness for the Aggies. Prior to the game we knew their defense was bad, but this bad? Seriously? The Alabama offense was considered its weakest link. However, Texas A&M surrendered 568 yards to a Bama team that only put up 206 against Virginia Tech in week one. The Aggies’ defense is to blame for AJ McCarron prematurely receiving Heisman discussion.
Texas A&M will bring their high-powered offense to Death Valley on November 23. Zach Mettenberger, Jarvis Landry, and Odell Beckham Jr. will take care of business in the air against a porous Aggie defense. LSU has a plethora of dynamic backs that will look to slow down the pace of the game and give the defense some much-needed rest. A&M will score points, that’s a given, but the game is going to come down to whether or not the Tiger defense can make a few stops when it is needed.
AJ McCarron: The Aggie defense may have made him look better than he really is, but McCarron put on an outstanding performance on Saturday. He ended the day with 334 yards and four touchdowns. Most importantly, he was turnover-free the entire day. While Manziel was remarkable, his two interceptions proved to be costly.
T.J. Yeldon: Yeldon was a force for the Crimson Tide, breaking off quality eight to ten-yard runs at will. He finished the day with 149 yards rushing and a touchdown. Yeldon had an overall great game, but his celebration penalty was unacceptable and his goal line fumble almost proved costly. Do not expect either of those issues to be a problem come November 9.
Nick Saban: Most Tiger fans can’t stand the man. However, the man knows how to coach football. Saban has won a National Championship at LSU, defeated LSU in the big game, and has won it on two other occasions. Say what you want about Saban as a person, but he can coach at an extremely high level.
Slow start: Alabama started the game down 14-0 before storming back with 35 unanswered points. Les Miles loves to get a lead early, feeling like in doing so, he can control the remainder of the game. Expect LSU to come out firing early against the Crimson Tide.
The Defense: It is hard to imagine that the Alabama defense would ever be considered a weakness, but on Saturday, it was just that. The highly-praised Crimson defense gave up an astonishing 628 yards. Giving credit where it is due, Manziel was sensational, but surrendering 628 yards is going to show LSU ways to outmaneuver the Bama defense.
Mark your calendars for November 9th; the LSU vs Alabama showdown will be a game to remember, for reasons completely against the norm. Both teams’ defenses have digressed from a year ago, but their offenses are more lethal. Nick Saban will have his team ready, and Miles will have plenty of tricks in his hat. It will be a high-powered offensive showdown ending in a scored remarkably higher than 9-6.