Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide have had 10 months to digest and analyze their upset loss to Texas A&M last November. While Bama went on to win the rest of its games en route to a second straight BCS national title, the trip-up to the Aggies raised questions heading into this season about the Tide's three-peat chances in 2013 -- particularly given their Sept. 14 showdown with A&M on the road in College Station, Texas.
In that head-turning November upset, it was QB Johnny Manziel who gave the Tide fits on defense, piling up 253 passing yards and two TDs to go with 92 rushing yards. While Alabama eventually was able to slow down the A&M offense a bit in the second half, the damage had been done and the Tide couldn't fight their way back.
There has been a lot of discussion this offseason about what tactics and game plans Saban could and should use to contain Manziel heading into Saturday's rematch. Likewise, there's also been talk about the subsequent counterstrategies Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin could employ as an answer to whatever Saban draws up.
What will these game plans and counterpunches look like? After doing some tape study of my own, I've come up with three defensive strategies the Alabama defense could use in an attempt to slow down Manziel, with countermoves for each that could lead to offensive success for Texas A&M.
1. Rush Manziel with defenders who can catch him
What Saban and Bama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart realized pretty early on in the Aggies' win was that they could rush four unblocked defensive linemen and still not get Manziel on the ground, because he was simply too fast and too elusive for them. So what they did as an adjustment was switch to a 30 front (three down linemen) that allowed them to get smaller, quicker defenders on the field who could rush Manziel off the edge and up the middle.