Offense for Texas A&M Football vs. Tennessee Defense
The defense for Big Orange has quietly been a great unit over the past two years. Tennessee boasted one of the top rushing defenses in the nation last year, with not many people talking about it as it clearly paled in comparison to the storyline of their offensive prowess. This year, though, despite a defense that is extremely prolific at creating sacks, they are not quite the same unit up front. They’ve been susceptible to big plays in the run game, though they’ve done a decent job at limiting down-in and down-out success for opposing backs. That said, though, they’ve not exactly faced an all-star cast of teams when it comes to running the ball, as we’ve already touched on here. I think there will be some chances for the Aggies to get Le’Veon Moss and company going against the Volunteer front and hopefully limit the effectiveness of what is a truly intimidating pass rush.
Make no mistake on that note, either: the Vols will send the house at Max Johnson. His weaknesses against pressure are well known (as are Milton’s) and Tennessee will try to take full advantage of knocking him out of rhythm. This is why it is vital to get the Aggie backs going early: Johnson won’t be able to hold up under pressure if the Volunteers start getting home. Conversely, if he has a solid rushing attack to lean on, Petrino can dial up some play-action shots (where Johnson excels) to keep him playing within himself.
The Vols aren’t too bad when it comes to defending the pass in general; they rank 14th in the nation in yards per attempt allowed (5.8 YPA) and no team yet has hit over 7.0 YPA against them. The Aggies have exceeded 7.0 YPA in every game except against Miami—yes, even with Max Johnson at the helm—but it will be a big task to face down the Vols at home here. No team has yet met their average YPA against the Volunteers, so if the Aggies were to exceed expectations on that front, it would represent a real step forward in the passing game.
For all their warts offensively, the Aggies have done a decent job this year of generating quality possessions and scoring opportunities—it’s just that they’re exceptionally poor at taking advantage of them. The Volunteers, like the Aggies, are great at preventing opponents from scoring when they have the chance, too, so this will be an area where UT will be looking to capitalize. If Texas A&M football is able to convert drives that get inside the opponents’ 20 (or even the 40!) into touchdowns at anything resembling a decent clip, that will be a major trend-buster in favor of the Maroon and White.