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November 10, 2012

FOUR DOWNS: Tide fails test

Texas A&M presented some questions that the University of Alabama had trouble answering Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Here are some of the key ones:

1. Can Alabama contain Johnny Manziel?

Johnny Football pretty much had his way against the Crimson Tide's top-ranked defense. He passed for 253 yards and two touchdowns and added 92 more yards on the ground, motoring Texas A&M to a 20-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and making crucial plays to pull off the upset.

2. Will the Crimson Tide be emotionally hung over from the LSU game?

Alabama coach Nick Saban indicated after the game that his team didn't have the necessary mental energy and enthusiasm as the week of practice wore on after last weekend's last-minute defeat of the Tigers. Texas A&M deserves full credit for beating UA in Bryant-Denny Stadium, but one has to wonder if the Crimson Tide left something on the field in Death Valley.

3. Is UA's defense as vulnerable as it looked at times against LSU?

What LSU exposed, Texas A&M exploited. While the Aggies have a completely different style of offense from LSU, they were able to find favorable matchups and put playmakers in space to make some big plays, or just to stay in rhythm. Just as LSU did a week earlier, Texas A&M was able to convert on third downs to keep drives alive.

4. Does this Alabama team have what it takes to keep rolling toward a national title shot?

Ultimately, it appears not. Alabama went through a stretch of games against ranked opponents Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M that would make or break the season and it did not finish. Alabama can still win the Southeastern Conference championship and play in a BCS bowl, but only a rash of upsets could put UA back in the national title picture.

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