Coming into Summer Camp I put the Aggies chances at beating Clemson around 25 to 30 percent. I know we played Clemson close at Kyle Field last season and the maroon kool-aid tastes oh so good but this isn’t the same situation as last season.
Before I look at Clemson if you want to read my thoughts on the Texas State game here’s the link:
Here’s three key points that stick out in my mind when it comes to the Clemson game:
- It’s at Clemson. Unless a team is coached by Kevin Sumlin they always play better at home.
- This is Clemson’s biggest game on their schedule. They know if they can beat a decent SEC team their margin for error becomes much bigger for the rest of the season. There’s no “sneaking up” on Clemson.
- This is not the same team that played at Kyle Field last season. Trevor Lawrence and Justyn Ross had little impact on the outcome as they were true freshman. By the end of the season they were hooking up to comfortably beat Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff. This team is LOADED with top notch talent.
Because of our offensive line and some questions about our secondary I now put A&M’s chances of winning this game at 10%. I think this is going to be a lot like the Alabama game last season where we get burned early through the air and it’s too big of a gap to come back from. We’ll make a push in the second half but it’ll be too little and way too late.
I can see Clemson burning us for at least four scores through the air of 40 yards are longer. I know our secondary looked improved against Texas State but it’s still Texas State. Justyn Ross, Tee Higgins, and their other receivers are in a different class than Texas State. If the Clemson staff has any film from last year they’ll realize where we’re weakest and look to make a statement. I would if I were Dabo and Company.
I know Clemson “struggled” in the passing game against Georgia Tech but I think they were just more inclined to run it that game. I feel okay about the Aggies slowing down Etienne but I think Clemson is going to take to the air against A&M. If Dabo wants to try and establish the run I’ll be totally okay with that as the Aggies will be up to the challenge. If Dabo unleashes his weapons through the air I’m not sure the Aggies will be able to handle it.
It’s not impossible for the Aggies to win but it’ll take a special effort.
Here’s how the Aggies can do it:
The only way the Aggies can win this game is if the defensive line wreaks havoc. This will be a really tall task as Clemson has one of the best offensive lines in the country. Justin Madubuike must have his official coming out party for 2019. He’s going to need to be in the backfield all game long harassing Hunter Lawrence. The other three guys need to contribute as well but if the Aggies win I expect it’s because Madubuike sets up shop in the Clemson backfield. He’ll need three sacks on Lawrence along with some quarterback hurries. People will be talking about Madubuike as a first-round pick if the Aggies win. He’s the most important guy in this game in my mind.
The best example of what needs to be done in this game is when the Giants beat the New England in their two Super Bowls in 2008 and 2012. All game long the Giants defensive line dominated the New England offensive line not giving Tom Brady the time he needed to throw.
Four defensive linemen dominated five offensive lineman all game long. The key component was four guys beating five. There were no disguised blitzes. It was just 4 dominating 5 so the rest of the defense could provide extra pass coverage. Brady couldn’t diagnose weak spots via blitzes or anything else. By the time his receivers were getting open the defensive line was already applying pressure.
If the Aggies have any chance of winning it’s because the defensive line by itself brings intense pass pressure. This will allow the remaining 7 defenders to stay back and provide pass protection. If Clemson receivers get our secondary in man coverage and Lawrence has time to hit them the Aggies are toast. We simply don’t have the talent and experience in the secondary to defend long developing deep routes against Clemson. I’m fine with some occasional blitzes but the defensive line must bring pressure by itself for most of the game.
If I’m Jimbo and Elko I’m showing my defensive line film of those two Super Bowls and challenging them to do the same. It’s a mighty big task but nobody gave those Giants teams a shot at beating Tom Brady. I think the Aggie defensive line can do it if they want to make a statement.
Jimbo and Kellen Adapt to the Game:
Jimbo and Kellen’s plan of attack will have to be adapted during the game. If the defensive line is applying pressure and frustrating Lawrence then I’m fine with the Aggie offensive taking a conservative approach. Burn clock and give the defense time to rest. This is how Jimbo operates the best.
If Clemson starts burning our defense then Jimbo and Kellen better be ready to shift gears. We’ll need to fire right back and they better be on the same page. For whatever reason Kellen plays best when he’s under fire. Jimbo needs to let Kellen know its time to start letting it fly.
Jimbo and Kellen can’t come into this game with a designed game plan to be conservative and stick to it if our defense is being burned. JImbo has to be ready to unleash the ball and Kellen better be ready to just let it fly. There’s a lot of hope from our game with Texas State because of how Kellen and the receivers played but Clemson isn’t Texas State and this isn’t at Kyle Field.
Last year’s Alabama game was our biggest point difference of the season. Bama was up 25 at one point. The Aggies never came close to getting back in that game. Kellen was sacked 7 times which was our largest total in one game. Some of that was the offensive line but some of it was Kellen hesitating on what to do down so many points. That can’t happen this year if we do find ourselves down by more than two touchdowns. Jimbo has to have Kellen ready to let the ball fly to try and mount a comeback even if our offensive line isn’t giving him much time to throw.
In the Clemson game last year we clawed back from 15 points down to only lose by two but that’s not happening with this Clemson team. If they get up on us they’re going to keep pouring fuel on the fire. There won’t be any moral victories if we’re just hoping for some late scores to make the final score close.
Jimbo and Kellen just have to be ready to execute two different game plans based on what the defense is able to do. I’m fine being conservative but if Clemson starts landing big punches we’re going to need to swing back. Jimbo likes slow and steady but I’m not sure that will be a good course of action if Clemson gets up early.
Obviously we’ll need to be equal or on the plus side of turnovers. We can’t give field position and extra opportunities to Clemson. Braden Mann will have to do what he does and Seth Small will need to be perfect. Paul will need to be his usual self returning punts making sure the ball is secure before anything else. Secure the ball and give the offense a chance to do something.
I don’t think time of possession will really be that important unless our defensive line is doing what I mention above. If Clemson is hitting big plays then time of possession won’t matter one bit. It’s why I believe Jimbo and Kellen must adapt to the game as it goes along.
It’s certainly possible for the Aggies to win but this will likely be our toughest game of the year. Clemson likely has the most talent, it’s only our second game so our young guys won’t have the needed experience, and it’s on the road. Clemson is currently a 16.5 point favorite and that seems about right. My heart believes the Aggies can win but my head says it too big of a task based on the obvious factors.
I hope Jimbo proves me wrong. There’s nothing I’d enjoy more than walking out of that stadium having upset the number one ranked team and defending national champion. It’ll be like Bama 2012 all over again.
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The Ultimate Aggie Grill:
At the 2019 Houston Coach’s Night the ultimate Aggie grill was on display. Chaz Hammonds ’13 with Soul Fit Grill has created a maroon kamado grill. As someone who has one of the big name kamado grills I can tell you this thing is on par quality wise. It’s comparable in size to the XL of the big name brand for much less. For $899 you get the grill, side boards, and stand. If you’re in Houston he’ll even deliver for free. If you’re in the market for a kamado grill give Chaz a look. You won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a link to his website:
He also has a smaller grill if you’re looking for a smaller one: