Vanderbilt will look to build on a season-defining win over Georgia when they travel to face their toughest test of the season on Saturday. Texas A&M is undefeated against teams that aren't based in Alabama this season, and though their defense has left much to be desired, they may have the most potent offense in the NCAA.
That could spell trouble for a Commodore defense that has had trouble getting started against SEC opponents this year. Vanderbilt's penchant for falling behind early (combined score against SEC opponents in the first quarter: 61-7) could leave them in a deep hole against an Aggie team that doesn't have any gears besides full throttle. That will be even tougher with Patton Robinette, a redshirt freshman quarterback who will be making the first start of his college career, behind center.
To get a better idea of what Robinette and the Commodores have in store, we went to the experts. Good Bull Hunting is SBNation's Texas A&M blog, and they've got everything you need to catch up on everything Aggie. Writers/Editors/All-around gentlemen Dr. Norris Camacho and ColoradoAg were kind enough to stop by and do a Q&A exchange with me to preview this weekend's game. Here's what they had to say about A&M's outlook for Saturday.
1. Johnny Manziel has suffered through a couple of scary-looking injuries this season, tweaking his knee and shoulder in recent weeks. Do you expect him to be at/near 100% this week against Vanderbilt? Do you have injury concerns with your Heisman-winning quarterback going forward?
Dr. Norris Camacho: Not worried. He is apparently a robot.
ColoradoAg: I always concerned about a great quarterback’s health. As someone who has suffered many shoulder injuries, watching Manziel get hurt against Auburn was very concerning. Hopefully the medical staff is keeping it loose and he’ll be able to play with some grit and cortisone.
2. The Aggie defense hasn't been very intimidating this season. How have opponents exploited A&M's D en route to 34 points per game in 2013? Darian Claiborne has looked solid up the middle as a true freshman, but who else should the Commodores be worried about on defense?
ColoradoAg: We lost a ton of senior leadership and playmaking ability from the 2012 unit. This group is promising, but young and raw. The front seven hasn’t been able to get to the quarterback and has been gashed left and right trying to defend the run. Our best defender is DB Deshazor Everett. He has great instincts and a knack for the big play as evidenced by a pair of defensive touchdowns.
3. There's a chance that redshirt freshman Patton Robinette is Vandy's starting QB on Saturday. Do you expect the Aggies to confront him with an aggressive blitz scheme to keep him on his toes? Does A&M have the personnel to sell out on a blitz but still maintain coverage downfield?
Dr. Norris Camacho: Our inability to get to the opposing quarterback has been maddening this year, but selling out used to worry me even more. But at this point, with a first-time inexperienced starter, I don't see what we have to lose. I'd like to see some more aggressive blitzing on Saturday. We've got one good cover guy at FS and two decent ones and CB, so I'm OK with rolling the dice.
ColoradoAg: Patton Robinette is the most Vandy name ever.
4. How much of Mike Evans's success can be attributed to Manziel's ability to extend plays? What did Ole Miss do to successfully cover Evans, limiting him to just four catches and 46 yards two weeks ago?
ColoradoAg: Evans was hobbled with a nagging injury in the Ole Miss game. A good portion of his success can certainly be attributed to Johnny’s freelancing. Mike knows when a play has broken down and when to get out of his route to help out #2 as he’s looking for an escape. Beyond that, Manziel and Evans just have a chemistry. They give each other a look at the line of scrimmage when the .
5. With two conference losses, what's the adjusted goal for this year's Texas A&M football team?
Dr. Norris Camacho: Probably 9-3, with a chance for a tenth win in a decent bowl game. No one knew before the season that Missouri could potentially be so tough, but a split with both sets of Tigers on the road to finish the year would be fine with most people.
Dr. Norris Camacho: I'm excited. I love watching the 'Dores play under Franklin, and Mr. C is a hell of a mascot.
ColoradoAg: The opportunity to embark on this rivalry is THE reason we joined the SEC. I’m actually really excited for when we get to play y’all in Nashville. That will be a fun road trip.
7. Finally, what's your prediction for Saturday's game?
Dr. Norris Camacho: 41-28 A&M as we lean more on the running game (I try to predict this every week).
ColoradoAg: 48-34 Ags. Should be fun. Hope all the Dores fans making the trip enjoy the visit to College Station.