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Alabama vs. Texas A&M Preview: When the Aggies Have the Ball

Is Kellen Mond finally meeting the promise he’s been expected to for 2 years?

NCAA Football: Southwest Classic-Texas A&M vs Arkansas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In year 3 of the Kellen Mond experiment for Texas A&M (at this point, it’s one of those experiments that inexplicably just keeps getting just enough funding at the last second to hand around for years), he’s, stats-wise, shown some major progress from his first two seasons— particularly in completion percentage, where he’s well over the 60% mark for the first time in his career. He had a particularly ugly game against Clemson that really soured opinions on him, but has, overall, been quite efficient— sitting at 20th in the nation with a 49% success rate.

That said, he’s been generally ineffective at pushing the ball downfield, sitting at a decidedly pedestrian 15% explosive pass rate, and the 69th ranked 6.5 yards per attempt.

Among his receivers, the hulking 218 pound junior Jhamon Austin has been his most reliable target as he leads the team with 32 catches and 446 yards, with a rather impressive 65% success rate and a 70% catch rate. Behind him is fellow 6’2” junior Quartney Davis, who, with 289 yards on 8 less catches, has been rather boom-or-bust. He leads the receivers with a 28% explosive rate, but is sitting at only a 50% success rate and 12 yards per reception.

The Texas A&M running game, though, has been nearly invisible through the first five games of the season. Sophomore Jashaun Corbin was set to be the heir apparent to Trayveon Williams this year, but went down with a hamstring injury in week 2, and may miss the entire season. In his place, sophomore Jacob Kibodi has been totally shut down for only 100 yards on 4 yards per carry, but 220-pound freshman Isaiah Spiller has picked up some of the slack. Spiller has an impressive 255 yards on 41 attempts and 3 touchdowns, to go along with 9 catches for 79 yards in the passing game. The stats are skewed a lot by an 85 yard scamper, though, and Spiller has only 9 yards on 13 attempts in the last two games against Auburn and Arkansas. His 34% stuff rate is pretty putrid, and is significantly worse than the other backs on A&M’s squad, indicating that, despite big play ability, he’s been plagued by a very freshman-esque vision behind the line of scrimmage.

Again, credit goes to Zane Murfitt for creating these graphs for us:

If you don’t see the charts, here are links to the first and the second.

In terms of success rate, Texas A&M’s offense and Alabama’s defense are very evenly matched— both hanging around the 20-25th ranked in the nation, with A&M even having an advantage over Alabama’s rushing defense. On the other hand, when you start looking at actual yards per play and explosives, the Aggies start to lag behind. Most encouraging for Alabama is A&M’s propensity for getting stuffed behind the line of scrimmage and giving up “havoc” plays.

The Aggie offense likely plays right into the strengths of the Alabama defense, as the Tide’s secondary has locked down any sort of deeper passing all season long, and the Aggies don’t have the rushing game to do a whole of damage to a leaky Alabama run defense. The key for the Tide will be keeping Mond contained on scrambles and making their tackles on receivers in the short passing game.

Ultimately, I can’t see the Aggies getting more than 3-4 scores. So let’s call their final score 20 points.