Though the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide have looked like an impenetrable force of nature for much of the 2012 college football season, some cracks have begun to show coming into their matchup against the No. 15 Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.
Facing off against the rival LSU Tigers, the Tide needed a last-minute comeback to pull off a 21-17 victory on the road. That game was the first time any opponent had come within 19 points of the Tide all season.
While, in a vacuum a win is a win and all that good stuff, LSU's close call proves that this Alabama team can lose. All Texas A&M needs to do is get a few key breaks and follow the Tigers' blueprint to victory.
With that in mind, here is a look at what the Aggies must do to pull off a massive upset on Saturday.
Johnny Manziel Must Have a Career-Best Game
We'll file this in the "well, no duh" category, but the Aggies' hopes are almost completely riding on Manziel's ability to excel against the Alabama defense.
Unfortunately for the dual-threat quarterback, it's almost guaranteed that he won't be able to make things happen on the ground. The Tide has the second-best run defense in the nation coming into Week 11, as they have given up just 66.3 yards per game and allow opposing rushers to gain just 2.1 yards per carry.
That means Manziel will have to find a way to dominate against the Alabama secondary—which is actually a distinct possibility.
In Texas A&M's toughest game of the season against LSU, the freshman star threw three interceptions, but was able to move the ball quite well. Manziel finished the game with 276 passing yards, which is still the best figure any quarterback has put up against the Tigers this season.
On paper, the Aggies should have an easier time through the air on Saturday. Alabama is coming off a contest where it made LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger look pro-ready, so it's not exactly a unit firing on all cylinders.
If Manziel is able to find holes in the secondary and efficiently drive the offense down the field, it could lead to the Tide's downfall.
Slow Down Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon
While LSU was able to find cracks in the Alabama secondary, Les Miles' squad was completely unable to stop the Tide's rushing attack.
Running behind the best offensive line in college football, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon combined for 153 yards on just 22 carries while sparking much-needed life into the offense. For the season, the two-headed attack has rushed for over 1,400 yards and 15 touchdowns while both averaging more than 5.5 yards per carry.
Obviously, stopping Lacy and Yeldon is pretty much out of the question. However, if Kevin Sumlin schemes heavily against the run, throwing blitzes and different defensive looks at the Tide, Texas A&M may be able to slow the attack down.
Even if the Tide finishes with just 100 or 120 rushing yards, that has to be considered nothing short of a win for the Aggies.
Win Turnover Battle/Force A.J. McCarron to Throw an Interception
Based on talent alone, there's about an igloo's chance in Arizona that the Aggies will be able to pull off this upset. Alabama is far superior on both sides of the ball and has the best coach in college football leading the charge.
However, we've seen countless upsets be swung by one or two big plays this season—particularly turnovers. Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron has gone 204 passes in 2012 without an interception and the team has the fourth-best turnover margin in the FBS coming into this week.
Nonetheless, all it takes is one play to make a difference. If the Aggies can find a way to create a turnover that prevents an Alabama score or creates one for themselves, this game will be far closer than expected.
Combining all three of the aforementioned keys could lead to a landscape-altering upset on Saturday.
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