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Alabama Football 2015: Previewing the Texas A&M Offense

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After an embarrassing 59-0 defeat in 2014, the Aggies look to topple Alabama with a high-flying and efficient offense.

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The Aggies, yet again, have a high-powered passing offense in 2015.

Kevin Sumlin employs a true air raid offense, and is one of the few coaches in the NCAA who can run it well. It is a system predicated on trotting out a myriad of different styles of receivers that attack the defense in different ways, while the quarterback distributes the ball to all areas of the field. Though it is a spread offense with little focus on running the ball, this is not one of those high school spread offenses that we at Alabama tend to look down upon. This air raid offense runs some pretty complex schemes, involving option routes for receivers that require both the receiver and quarterback to make the same read on opposing defenses on the fly. When A&M's offense starts rolling, it is a sight to behold.

Sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen showed promise as a part-time starter last year, and has grown into one of the most efficient passers in the nation in 2015. He's completed 64% of his passes for almost 1300 yards, with 13 touchdowns to only 2 interceptions. Most impressively, he's averaging over 9 yards per attempt. That is enough to almost get a first down every single time he drops back to pass. However, you see a completely different QB in Allen in the second half of games. Though some of it can be contributed to A&M playing with a large lead through most of the second half of games, it can still be noted that Allen's completion percentage drops from 72% to 52% from the first to the second half, and he drops almost two full yards per attempt. Behind Allen, freshman Kyler Murray was a transcendent talent in high school that excels at eluding rushers and making explosive throws on the run. Though he got significant playing time early in the season, injuries and Kyle Allen's emergence have pushed Murray into less and less playing time lately.

A&M has a plethora of different receiving options who all employ different styles of play. 6'4" junior Josh Reynolds was the team's leading receiver and top scorer in 2014, and continues to be a consistent weapon this year for the Aggies. He's second on the team with 383 receiving yards, and is is also the best deep threat, as he averages a ridiculous 20 yards per catch. The massive and talented Ricky Seals-Jones also returns from 2014, but has struggled to get much yardage this year. Seals-Jones has only managed 138 yards on a disappointing 8.5 yards per catch rate.

Sophomore Damian Ratley has been a new regular in the 4 WR sets this season, and has put up 138 yards on only 9 catches. Uber-athlete Speedy Noil is still struggling to get on the field due to injuries, and has yet to make much of an impact for the Aggies, but the high school SPARQ king from 2014 has tremendous untapped potential.

However, freshman phenom slot receiver Christian Kirk has quickly established himself as the best player on the Aggie's offense. Kirk leads the team in catches, yards, and touchdowns (32-519-4), and is averaging an explosively solid 16.2 yards per catch. Kirk is exceptionally dangerous with the ball in his hands, as he also returns kicks and punts for A&M. Kirk is versatile, and A&M uses him in a myriad of ways, ranging from traditional slot roles making catches in the middle of the field, running option routes, and even taking quite a few screen passes behind the line of scrimmage. Kirk is without a doubt the most dangerous player on this offense.

Running back Tra Carson returns as A&M's lead running back from last year. the 6'1" 240 senior is a 3rd down back trapped in a bowling ball body. Carson is an effective pass blocker, and is 4th on the team with 11 catches for 100 yards. He's also put up 430 yards and 4 touchdowns as a traditional running back, though it has been done on a decent-but-not-special 4.5 yards per carry.

Though the offensive line is comprised of all seniors and juniors, this has not been the Aggies best iteration in recent years. Despite the offensive scheme's penchant for quick passing, this line has still allowed 10 sacks thus far in 2015. That's not good enough to be in the top 50 in the NCAA. And as TAMU will always be an Air Raid offense, this line will never be expected to be better than just average at run blocking.

The Aggie offense can be terrifying. It hits fast and hard in huge chunks, and puts up a ton of points. However, it has proven to slow down in the second half. Another curious note is that a huge chunk of their offensive success is on first downs. It seems that once a play does not go as planned, the Aggies seem to struggle to keep the attack moving. They have a statistical trend of calling the largest chunk of their total running plays on 2nd down. Once their first play is stopped, this offense becomes predictable. Unfortunately, stopping that first down play is much easier said than done. The Crimson Tide's secondary better be ready for a long game, and will need the defensive line to step up in the pass rush game to give a them a little relief.