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November 7, 2012- Texas A&M has faced number one ranked teams throughout its history but interestingly enough none since a loss to Oklahoma in 2003. That makes this week a little bit different as the Aggies face top ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa, not just from the standpoint of facing the challenge that a number one team offers but also in the emotional approach that A&M is taking towards such a challenge.
"Everybody is amped and geared toward you when you are No. 1, and when you're going against No. 1, there's a certain buzz in the air, a certain excitement," said A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. "For us coaches, there's a reason they're No. 1 - because they're pretty good."
Even so, A&M players also know that no matter how amped they are, they have to play well to have a shot at the Tide and play better than they did against two other top ten teams in Florida and LSU.
"We know that we're going to have to play up to the part," said senior linebacker Jonathan Stewart. "We're going against the No. 1 team in the nation. As we saw when we lost to Florida and we lost to LSU, our two losses this year, we can't beat ourselves. When we're going against top 10 teams, they don't beat themselves. Unfortunately, in our two losses, we beat ourselves. We made crucial mistakes and we had crucial penalties and we didn't beat them."
-For all of the talk about Alabama's defense which ranks in the top five nationally in rush defense, pass defense, total defense, and scoring defense, little attention has been paid to an offense which ranks in the top five of the SEC in rushing offense, total offense, and scoring offense. Alabama's offense may have saved its season last Saturday with a 72 yard, five play drive against one of the country's best defenses in perhaps the most hostile environment in college football.
"I haven't looked at their defense very much but they have no weaknesses in their offense," said A&M defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. "All the way across the board, there are no weaknesses in this offense. Each week when you go into a game, you see a weakness here-or-there that you may be able to attack. They're good across the board. AJ (McCarron) is playing really well. The offensive line is huge and really good at what they do. They've got two really good running backs and they've got tons of speed outside. They're a complete offense."
McCarron had really been under the radar until he led Alabama on the game winning drive. Until that point, McCarron had been appreciated moreso for his ball security than his play making abilities but now he's recognized for having more of an all around game than people gave him credit for.
"He's really talented," said A&M defensive end Damontre Moore. "He's careful with the ball. He's fundamentally sound. Their offense makes very few mistakes and of the few mistakes they make, they are really minor. He's so talented that he either makes the play or one of his receivers does. He doesn't flinch under pressure. He's one of those types of quarterbacks that has confidence in his offensive line and he has confidence in himself."
McCarron is third nationally in passing efficiency, hitting 136 of 204 passes for 1,849 yards and 19 touchdowns and (most importantly) no interceptions.
- One of the guys that will be chasing McCarron on Saturday is senior defensive lineman Spencer Nealy. Nealy does not have the national or even the regional reputation of Damontre Moore but he's been a high motor guy who developed a reputation for being just a little well, different and in the process passing along that energy to his teammates.
"He's been great," said Snyder. "He's the Energizer Bunny for us. He's the ultimate team guy. Every team needs a Spencer Nealy. With Julien (Obioha) coming on and us being able to move Spence inside, that kind of solidified our front. That was an area of concern coming into this year. He's been gold for us. Spence is the Energizer Bunny. He always brings energy to the field, and when we're running onto the field, and on the field, and on the bus."
That energy was apparent at the press conference when Nealy spoke before the assembled media about practice, a topic he has different feelings about this week than usual.
"Let's just say it's a Tuesday and we usually hate Tuesday practices, but I'm pretty amped up right now," he said. "I don't like taking on those double-teams as much on Tuesdays, but today we've got to get after it. So, I'm jacked."
Nealy has 27 tackles on the year (13 solos) with three tackles for loss and two sacks.
Finally, Aggies love to talk about the home field advantage that Kyle Field provides A&M. Nonetheless, A&M will face it's biggest crowd by far in its inaugural season in the SEC and also probably the toughest atmosphere that they will have played in all year.
"I, for sure, want to enjoy the atmosphere" said senior receiver Ryan Swope. "That's one of the reasons I came back was to play in all of these venues and be a part of it. It's going to be loud and the fans are going to be rowdy. We know the atmosphere is going to be right at our level so we are excited for it. We can't wait. The guys are hungry to win and this football team has a lot of character, so it says a lot about us."
"I think that in playing college football, and playing football in general, this is going to be the Saturday you live to play for" said senior Patrick Lewis. "Going up there on the road, I think their stadium holds well-over 100 thousand people. It's probably going to be packed to capacity. We look forward to the challenge they're going to present. We're ready to go up there and play a game of football."
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