How Alabama football handles the Aggies is important not just to secure a win but as a clue for later games. Check out three important areas for Saturday.
Alabama football fans are looking for more than a win on Saturday in College Station. The Aggies will be the best team the Alabama Crimson Tide has faced in the 2019 season. Any SEC win, especially one on the road, is a good win.
Crimson Tide fans want more than a win. They want either some clear answers to questions of concern or at least some strong clues about the Tide’s future. With game six following a bye week, it is fair to expect Alabama football to show improvement in key areas.
Alabama Football Rush Defense
Based on how the Aggies have played this season, their rushing attack is not much of a threat. Clemson and Auburn limited Aggies’ runners to less than three yards-per-carry. In Jimbo’s offense, Kellen Mond has become mostly a pocket passer. That could change against the Crimson Tide. Mond rushed for 98 net yards last season in Tuscaloosa but was well over 100 yards in rushes and scrambles.
Mond is a true dual-threat QB. A Crimson Tide defense that has been inconsistent in containment and filling gaps could be hurt by Mond running. More than few quarterback draws can be expected and Jimbo may throw in misdirection and reverses by other Aggies, hoping to catch Tide defenders out of position.
The last two seasons Alabama football defenses have had 17 tackles-for-a-loss, including 11 sacks against the Aggies. The 2019 Tide defense will be measured by whether it can put up similar numbers.
Alabama Football Rushing Attack and Time of Possession (TOP)
There has been much talk among Crimson Tide fans about the number of plays for the young Tide defense. It has even been suggested part of the problem is the Tide’s explosive offense. If the Alabama rushing attack could assume more of the burden on scoring drives, the Tide defense might get longer rest breaks.
That is the old ‘Time-of-Possession’ argument long considered to be a determining factor in winning and losing. The game has changed so much TOP has become less valid. What now matters most is defensive stops. Alabama football is No. 36 in the FBS in allowing offensive third-down conversions at 32.9 percent.
This season’s Tide defense is so far not close to Saban’s Alabama football national championship defenses. Nick Saban has acknowledged the 2019 team is built differently. It must have an explosive offense. But when facing much tougher offenses later in the season, the Tide defense must make stops.
Alabama Football and Punting
The J.K. Scott years of Alabama football showed how much a punting game can be a weapon. The other way the punting game can be a weapon is explosive returns. So far, the Crimson Tide does not have a punter that can come close to J.K. Scott. But it has a sensational punt returner in Jaylen Waddle.
The Aggies have last season’s Ray Guy winner in Braden Mann. In Tuscaloosa last season, Mann averaged 60.8 yards. His numbers are down slightly this year, at an average of 48.4 yards – good enough to be No. 4 in the nation.
Not every long punt is a good kick, Net punting matters even more and the Aggies are No. 24 in the FBS, having yielded 100 return yards. If Jaylen Waddle can have a big afternoon then the apparent huge punting advantage for the Aggies might be negated. Icing on the Tide’s cake would be for someone to average 40 yards with sufficient hang time.
A win against the Aggies will be good. Containing Kellen Mond, having the defense get off the field after third down and not having a big punting deficit would be even more satisfying.