Texas A&M will present a whole new set of challenges. It all starts with dual-threat quarterback Johnny Manziel. Clinton-Dix was asked if Manziel reminded him of Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, whom Alabama largely shut down in the season opener. "He might not be as quick as Denard Robinson, but he's a great, fast quarterback," Clinton-Dix said. "He can move around the pocket, he can make things happen when nothing is there. He's a great quarterback and we look forward to playing him this week." And how does Alabama plan to stop him? "You have to stay in your zone, stay locked on your man, and don't come out of your coverage," Clinton-Dix said.
If there’s a magic formula or formation to bottle up Manziel, Saban didn’t reveal it Monday. His players, he said, will simply receive a heavy dose of practice against the scrambling of Sims, whom Saban said would likely play the role of Manziel, the runner. "Sometimes people think you can play that stuff better in zone. I guess we could have an argument about that," Saban said. "You could have more eyes looking at him, but they’re not taking the receivers when they start running all over the field, either. I just think you’ve got to practice against it, create an awareness with your players of how to defend."
"There’s one way to stop it," Danielson said of the Aggies’ spread offense. "You’ve got to have great players. You’ve got to have patience. You’ve got to mix it up. You’ve got to tackle well. All of the above. "The one area where I believe LSU and Florida had and Alabama has that will give it a chance to stop the offense: They have no glaring weakness. What this offense does, when you spread everybody out, usually the weakest part of the field stands out more obviously, and you attack that part of it. LSU, Florida and Alabama have no part where you say, ‘OK, here’s where we attack them.’"
"I’ve been around longer than most, and most of our players can’t relate to this, but this guy reminds me of Doug Flutie," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "I played against him a long time ago, but he was a really good player and a really good competitor and that’s who this guy reminds me of. He can throw it, he’s not great big in stature or anything like that, he’s extremely quick, he’s very instinctive – has a unique ability to extend plays and seems to know when to take-off and run it. He scrambles and makes plays throwing the ball down the field. "He doesn’t remind me of (Cam Newton or Tim Tebow) who were bigger, more physical, very athletic guys; this guy really doesn’t run a lot of quarterback runs. He runs quarterback draws, and he runs when it’s a pass and everybody gets all spread-out and [he] scrambles. The other guys were certainly capable of doing that, this is a unique guy in terms of his play-making ability, his size, quickness and speed and ability to make people miss in space."
Who could steal the show: Texas A&M -- DE Damontre Moore. The SEC's leader in sacks (11.5) will face perhaps the toughest OL he's ever seen on Saturday. The good news for him is that Alabama's OL is better in run blocking than in passing protection. It won't be easy, but Alabama has given up 18 sacks on the season, so Moore will have a chance. Alabama -- LB C.J. Mosley. Alabama will utilize a variety of defensive schemes to help keep Manziel in the pocket, but expect Mosley to be a big part of whatever plan its uses. He leads the team with 69 tackles and he played perhaps his best game of the year in Week 1 against Michigan, a team that featured scrambling QB Denard Robinson.
The Aggies' quick-tempo offense ran 97 plays and amassed 693 yards, gaining 361 on the ground and 332 through the air, in last Saturday's 38-13 win over then-No. 15 Mississippi State. It was the fifth time this season Texas A&M racked up at least 600 yards. Manziel completed 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards and ran for 129 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, who improved to 5-0 on the road. The freshman has now totaled 31 touchdowns and is averaging 383.2 yards of total offense, better than 47 FBS teams. "We're lucky to have him," running back Ben Malena said. "The play is never over. You've got to stay in the play and try to help him out any way you can." The Tide appear healthy going into their first meeting with Texas A&M since 1988, though Saban said tailback Eddie Lacy would miss a day of practice to rest an ankle injury sustained against LSU. He said leading wide receiver Amari Cooper didn't re-injure an ankle in the game but was "just a little sore" and shouldn't miss practice. Cooper didn't play in the second half. "He's going to be able to practice and be ready to go this week," Saban said.
"Get your mind right!" isn't just D.J. Fluker's favorite phrase, as Alabama football teammate Chance Warmack revealed Monday. Warmack got that phrase right, all right. "Oh yeah, we wrote a little song on that," Fluker said after Tuesday's practice. How does that song go? "You have to be at practice to see that," Alabama's 335-pound right tackle said. "During flex. But it’s funny, though. Everybody gets into it. It gets everybody cranked up. We just have fun out there with it. It’s really fun."
An interesting bit of trivia - or, if you believe in such things, a portentous omen - has been making the rounds this week, a tidbit involving Texas A&M football history. It was 10 years ago this very weekend that the Aggies last defeated a No. 1 team, knocking off Bob Stoops' Oklahoma Sooners 30-26. Adding to the novelty - or, again depending on your preference, the relevance - is the fact that current Aggie head coach Kevin Sumlin was A&M's offensive coordinator at the time.
Alabama is the model of contrarian football in this air-raid, high octane, points-gone-crazy world. Nick Saban is Bud Kilmer imploring A.J. McCarron to "stick to the basics, stick to the basics!" while slapping him repeatedly with his whistle. This Lombardiesque Bama team doesn't do anything flashy. On offense they run out of traditional, base formations. A lot of Ace-Big, a little I-Twins, and when they do go to the shotgun, it's the basic gun with only one slot receiver. On three critical plays in the second half this was the sequence: a drop to the tight end in the flat, a counter trey, and a play action pass to the fullback out of the I. You know what is coming. It's a Tecmo Bowl offense. Sure, there may only be 4-8 plays, but damn if they aren't effective when you execute them properly.
Those who know Mosley say he's humble, quiet, never brags about his football. His father, Clinton, often asked C.J. the same question throughout his youth to lend perspective: "What's the worst that could happen?" Applying that advice was difficult after Hardy's death. Tracey said Mosley was silent around the house for a few days, then finally broke down at the funeral, where he was a pallbearer. Mosley called Rogers a few days later. He had to make his feelings known. The two talked about how Hardy was "an angel visiting for a short time," and the lives he affected. Mosley then told her he was dedicating his career to Hardy. "I told him thank you, and that I was proud of him," Rogers said. "But when I saw it actually happening, that meant the world to me. He really wants to keep Robert's spirit alive." It was a sweet gesture to a grieving mother, but Mosley was offering more than sweetness. He wanted to honor Robert's name with speed, tenacity and focus on the field. That's what football brothers should do, he thought. "That's what he would have wanted," Mosley said. "It was that simple."
After Stillman held a one-point lead at the half, the University of Alabama came out strong in the closing period, winning 76-68 in a men's basketball exhibition Tuesday night. The Crimson Tide seemed disjointed at times in the first half, but a strong second-half effort led to a double-digit lead. Even though Stillman made a run late in the game, Alabama was able to hold on. "Well, I thought Stillman came in and did a very good job with the tempo that they played with in the first half," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "First half, I thought we were sloppy in the first half offensively and gave them opportunities defensively. I thought in the second half, we settled down a little bit. Until the last two minutes, we had nine assists to four turnovers in the second half. I saw us, in the course of 40 minutes, make some improvements tonight. I think we've got somewhat of a young team that didn't really understand that for 20 minutes in the first half. I thought in the second half we played more the way we wanted to play."
"I felt like we were sloppy in a lot of areas. We ended up starting the game with (Trevor) Lacey at the point. For probably 10 minutes so far this season we’ve had him there, so I just went with that lineup today just to see what it looked like. I thought our execution wasn’t where it needed to be offensively. Give Stillman credit; I thought they did a good job of speeding us up. I thought we didn’t play in character today based on the things we worked on and talked about. We needed to settle down. I think it’s more about that than anything else. I think the decisions we made weren’t very good decisions and that leads to some negative results. I thought in the second half we settled down, and I thought we made better decisions. They did a very good job of keeping pressure on the basketball and on harassing the dribblers and not letting us get ball reversal. They did a good job of being aggressive, so we had to take what the defense was giving us, and tonight we had an advantage on the interior. It was good to see our guys take advantage of that."