CAVEAT: By and large the Bama fans have been very gracious, and if we aren't the team that makes it to the SECCG, out of loyalty (and because it makes us look better heh heh), we will be cheering for the SEC West representative to go all the way and win not just that game but another Natty for the SEC. I hope a ton of Bama fans make it to the game and enjoy the North Gate and tailgate pre-game festivities. This article is nothing more than my armchair analysis. Coach Sumlin said we need to forget about the 2012 season, and I will, but only after making these last salient observations that I think carry forward. I chose the mushroom cloud graphic to represent the epic nature of "the" game to be played on 9/14/13, and my overarching desire to NTHO our opponents. That being said, heeeeerrreee we go:
1. Though Bama fans will readily dispute this (all of these actually), they were out coached on both sides of the ball last year. Saban and Smart are two of the best in the business, but there are some new kids (Sumlin, McKinney, Snyder, Banks, Spavital) on the SEC block that are a step ahead of them and their staff.
2. In addition to their in-game coaching advantage, A&M has a superior conditioning coach. In what will be the most challenging game for both teams all year (even if one of them makes it to the SECCG and/or the NC game) how gassed a team is/isn't in the 4th quarter will make a difference. Although it will be early in the season and injuries shouldn't yet be a major factor, having your key players on the field for every series can be important. Even though it was a loss for us, I suggest you review our inaugural SEC game against Florida. The gators were dropping like flies (I'm assuming from truly being shaken up, and not just trying to slow down our offense).
3. In spite of everyone saying A&M is not going to surprise anyone this year, the opposite will occur, especially as it applies to where Bama falls on our schedule. A&M will play vanilla in its first two games and then come out guns blazing with a very different look from last year. Our two cupcake warm-up games will serve us better to work the kinks out than Bama's bye to "prepare" for us. Factor in two new already seasoned running backs (in addition to the dynamic duo of Trey Williams and Ben Malena), more use of tight ends, attempts at actually blocking kicks, more passes to all those running backs and numerous other "wrinkles", in addition to the high octane offense we had last year. And when all else fails Johnny can still conjure up a 1st down or TD out of thin air. A&M will have the better offense on the field.
4. Our secret weapon. Our stealth bomber, is our defense. Before you start caterwauling about how we lost some great players, take a deep breath. Yes it is a small sampling, but re-watch the second half of the Cotton Bowl. Sure Nealy, Porter and Moore were making plays, but tick off the number of critical stops by players that are returning. Hurd, Jenkins, H. Matthews, Raven, Everett, and many others will be back to ruin our opponents' day. The noise created by our offense's video game like numbers and JFF's road to winning the Heisman drowned out the fact that simultaneous to the offense improving week after week, the defense was too. We lost DaMonster? So what. We lost Von Miller before him. Yes there has to be some inherent talent, but predominantly it comes down to conditioning/coaching that creates these star players. Our second string looked weak during early game mop-ups. Bama still has an advantage in depth. But, because of our numerous blow-outs those second stringers got some valuable playing time and we were able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Some of the seniors that left were deadwood anyway. Some of the incoming freshmen will start and contribute immediately. Bottom line, at a minimum, the defenses will be relatively equal in strength.
5. Kyle Field and the 12th Man > Saban/Bama's revenge game factor.
6. Confidence levels will be equal, but A&M, in spite of winning last year, still has much to prove and will be playing with the bigger chip on their shoulder. A&M will also likely be portrayed as a slight underdog. If you want to throw some over the top smack our way Bama, to further fuel the fire, it would be greatly appreciated.
7. Hunger. A shot at just going to the SECCG game means more to A&M than winning a third in a row (can you say meh?) Natty does to Bama. The whole A&M team will be psyched out of their minds, but in particular, Manziel will put in a lights out effort to win this game.
8. Yes, team speed does kill. A&M will play even faster than they did last year. Think the Bama D was on it heels when A&M ripped off 20 points in the 1st quarter? Wait until you encounter a "making something happen when there's nothing there" QB that now, unlike last year, has mastery of the entire offensive scheme. He won't be looking back at the bench. He will be calling the plays and snapping the ball every five seconds, driving down the field, and scoring with relative ease. There will be few if any substitutions and point 2 will also come into play.
9. In addition to point number one (A&M's brain trust advantage. I know I know. Blasphemy), no Bama you do not/will not have us figured out. See points 1 and 3. In last year's game both teams adjusted. Bama did not shut us down in the second half. A&M scored 20 unanswered points, followed by 17 unanswered Bama points, followed by 9 A&M points and then 7 Bama points. Yes it came down to the wire and took a stellar defensive play to safeguard the win. It was a great game. This year will be no different, but for all of the rational reasons above I give A&M the edge.
10. Lastly, I give us the irrational edge because it will really really piss off t.u. (Insert whiny teasip response about how we cannot let go/not comment about them here.) There must be balance in the universe. For those of you who suffer from BAS (No Doc, I don't. It is the doubters who do. And in spite of my glasses being tinted maroon, my analyses are clinical.), I refer to a great philosopher:
[Using the Force, Yoda frees the X-Wing from the bog]
Luke: I don't, I don't believe it.
Yoda: That is why you fail.
Gig’Em Aggies! and Roll Tide Roll.