Can the Aggies slow down Hurts?

Mark Passwaters, Publisher
Aggie Yell

AggieYell.com's look at the matchup between Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0 SEC) and No. 1 Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) continues with a look at the Crimson Tide offense against the Aggie defense.

Alabama likely starters

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QB: Jalen Hurts (Soph.; 6'2", 218; 57-89, 747 yards, 6 TD, 0 INT passing; 55 carries for 461 yards and 4 TD rushing)

RB: Damien Harris (Jr.; 5'11", 221; 45 carries for 376 yards and 6 TD)

TE: Hale Hentges (Jr.; 6'5" 249; 2 catches, 26 yards, 2 TD)

H-Back: Irv Smith Jr. (Soph.; 6'4", 246; 5 catches, 25 yards)

WR: Calvin Ridley (Jr.; 6'1" 190; 24 catches, 322 yards, 2 TD)

WR: Robert Foster (RS-Sr; 6'2", 194; 6 catches, 95 yards, 1 TD)

WR: Cam Sims (Sr; 6'5", 214; 6 catches 106 yards)

LT: Jonah Williams (Soph.; 6'5", 301)

LG: Ross Pierschbacher (RS-Jr.; 6'4", 303)

C: Bradley Bozeman (RS-Sr.; 6'5", 314)

RG: Lester Cotton (Jr.; 6'4", 324)

RT: Matt Womack (RS-Soph.; 6'7", 324)

Alabama by the numbers

Scoring offense: 46.2 PPG (8th nationally, 1st SEC)

Rushing: 315.6 YPG (4th nationally, 1st SEC)

Passing: 193 YPG (94th nationally, 11th SC)

Total: 508.6 YPG (14th nationally, 1st SEC)

1st downs: 128 (12th nationally, 1st SEC)

3rd down conversions: 44.1% (34th nationally, 3rd SEC)

4th down conversions: 100% (1st nationally)

Red zone offense: 92.6% (27th nationally, 3rd SEC)

Sacks allowed: 4 (1oth nationally, 3rd SEC)

Turnover +/-: +10 (10 takeaways, 0 giveaways; 14th nationally, 1st SEC)

Texas A&M likely starters

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DE: Jarrett Johnson (Sr.; 6'3", 265; 6 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks, 1 forced fumble, 1 PBU)

DT: Zaycoven Henderson (Sr.; 6'2", 305; 13 tackles, 3 TFL, 2 sacks)

DT: Kingsley Keke (Jr.; 6'4", 305; 12 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries)

DE: Landis Durham (RS-Jr.; 6'3", 255; 18 tackles, 5.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery)

WILL: Otaro Alaka (RS-Jr.; 6'3", 240; 31 tackles, 7 TFL, 3 sacks)

MIKE: Tyrel Dodson (Soph.; 6'2", 242; 30 tackles, 5 TFL, 3 sacks, 2 INT, 4 passes broken up)

NICKEL: Priest Willis (RS-Sr.; 6'2", 205; 9 tackles)

CB: Charles Oliver (Soph.; 6'2", 193; 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 3 passes broken up)

FS: Armani Watts (Sr.; 5'11", 205; 37 tackles, 5 TFL, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery, 3 passes broken up, 3 INT)

SS: Larry Pryor (RS-Soph.; 6', 205; 25 tackles, 1 pass broken up)

CB: Debione Renfro (Fr.; 6'2", 190; 15 tackles, 2 passes broken up, 2 forced fumbles)

A&M's defense by the numbers

Scoring defense: 28 PPG (80th nationally, 12th SEC)

Rushing defense: 95.8 YPG (15th nationally, 4th SEC)

Pass defense: 291.6 YPG (117th nationally, 14th SEC)

Total defense: 387.4 YPG (76th nationally, 11th SEC)

3rd down conversions defense: 29% (23rd nationally, 4th SEC)

4th down conversions defense: 66.7% (94th nationally, 10th SEC)

Red zone defense: 90.5% (102nd nationally, 11th SEC)

First downs allowed: 93 (67th nationally, 11th SEC)

Tackles for loss: 39 (20th nationally, 1st SEC)

Sacks: 20 (4th nationally, 1st SEC)

Turnover +/-: +8 (12 takeaways, 4 giveaways; 7th nationally, 2nd SEC)

What Alabama wants to do

There's a lot of similarities between Alabama's offense and A&M's: both run a lot of run/pass option out of the shotgun. A&M has been efficient with theirs, but Alabama has been incredibly effective. While Kellen Mond is more apt to hand the ball off, Hurts is happy to keep it and leads the team with 55 rushing attempts. He's also averaging 8.4 YPC, which gives an idea of how good he's been.

When the Tide runs, they want to do it between the tackles. Damien Harris is also averaging 8.4 YPC, and Bo Scarborough is the power back. They may be the only team that A&M faces this year who has a deeper stable of backs than the Aggies do.

When Hurts does throw, he targets Ridley almost exclusively. The wideout has four times more receptions than anyone else has three times more yards than the next guy. He's the real threat to stretch the field. Otherwise, Hurts likes to check the ball down and take the safe options, which is part of the reason he hasn't thrown any interceptions yet.

What A&M wants to do

Control the middle of the field. The Aggies completely dominated the interior against South Carolina and hasn't given up much in the middle of the field all season. That would be a tall task against Alabama, but that's where the Crimson Tide does business.

A&M is going to need their interior four of Zaycoven Henderson, Kingsley Keke, Daylon Mack and Justin Madubuike to hold up and not give big holes to run through. Knowing Hurts plays the RPO well, A&M will have to spy him -- that will probably be up to MLB Tyrel Dodson. He's shown plenty of speed this year and tends not to bite on misdirection.

When the Aggies blitz, odds are they'll do it up the middle as well. Otaro Alaka and Dodson have both been very good rushing the passer all season, and you want to pressure Hurts in his face. But in both cases -- running and passing -- the Aggies have to hold up on the edges to make sure Hurts doesn't get loose off tackle. Buddy Johnson is going to have to a bigger role and responsibility this week than we've seen so far.

When it comes to the passing game, A&M has to be aware of play-action and the Hurts' affinity to throw to Ridley. The Aggies will probably press him on first down and if they can get the Tide into 2nd and 3rd and long, may double him.

The Aggies need to win first downs. If they can get Alabama off schedule and force them to throw more, than that works to their advantage, past secondary problems or not.

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