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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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One step away
June 8, 2024

A&M will look to feast in Rocky Top, but the Tennessee defense will have other plans

Sophomore+RB+Levion+Moss+%288%29+falls+to+the+ground+after+a+run+during+Texas+A%26amp%3BMs+football+game+against+Alabama+at+Kyle+Field+on+Saturday%2C+Oct.+7%2C+2023.+%28Chris+Swann%2FThe+Battalion%29
Photo by Chris Swann/The Battalion

Sophomore RB Le’vion Moss (8) falls to the ground after a run during Texas A&M’s football game against Alabama at Kyle Field on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2023. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)

It was a tale of two different offenses for the Aggies in their last game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. Sophomore quarterback Max Johnson and the entire offense looked inept, unable to create any semblance of production in the second half.
The lefty long bomber in Max Johnson has looked good this season but folds under pressure when the offensive line is not able to contain the pass rush. Max Johnson’s lack of mobility has been a weak point and limits offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino’s play-calling.
Offensive line coach Steve Addazio is surely preparing the maroon goons for the ruthless wave of orange that is the Tennessee Volunteer defensive line. A&M ranks 23rd in 3rd down conversion percentage and the offensive line will need to hold up if it wants success on those crucial downs.
Tennessee, who comes into this game well-rested off of a bye-week, leads the country in sacks per game and is second in total sacks only to A&M’s wrecking crew. Sophomore James Pearce Jr. and Senior Tyler Baron lead the pack of Volunteers with five and four sacks respectively.
The Volunteers’ highly touted defense ranks 10th in yards per play, forcing teams to think outside of the box when needing chunk yardage. This defense has held its opponents under 20 points in every single one of Tennessee’s wins this season.
The Aggies have looked well coached so far this season under new offensive coordinator Bobby Petrino. However, if they want to find success come Saturday, it will require execution from every position group and throughout the whole game.
Neyland Stadium is not an easy place to walk into, and A&M will have to operate like a well-oiled machine if they want to try and silence the roaring checkerboard of Volunteer fans.
Tennessee is only allowing an average of 17.8 points per game this season, while A&M averages a whopping 35.5 points per game. One of these SEC heavyweights is bound to fold, and it will be a sight to behold.
A&M senior wide receiver Ainias Smith has been a bright spot for this A&M offense as well as the special teams on punt return. His duties as a returner alone have been a huge benefit for this Aggie offense so far this season. Smith leads the country in total punt return yards and is second in average return yardage.
With only 14 total completions last game, A&M will undoubtedly look to get not only Smith but also junior wide receiver Moose Muhammed III, and the shining sophomore wide receiver duo of Evan Stewart and Noah Thomas more involved in this week’s game.
Max Johnson has also shown an obvious sense of chemistry with his brother sophomore tight end Jake Johnson. A&M will need to fire on all cylinders if they want to crack the code to this stubborn Tennessee defense.
Tennessee has allowed the third most completed passes in the country which means A&M might be able to find some holes and get everyone involved. Assuming the offensive line can handle the orange people eaters, Max Johnson should be able to leave his mark in Knoxville, Tennessee.
When it comes to the running game there is not much to speak of as A&M is still looking for the next great Aggie running back. With recent names like De’Von Achane, Isaiah Spiller and Trayveon Williams, people expect a star ball carrier in the backfield.
None of the current Aggie running backs have been able to break out of the revolving door of backfield carries. And with Tennessee’s 35th-ranked rushing defense it doesn’t look like any of the tailbacks will be breaking out anytime soon.
Tennessee will need their stifling defense to remain confident to get the win on Saturday, while A&M will need to find the holes and expose the weak points. Ol’ Sarge’s boys will look to pour out the orange crush and end Tennessee’s SEC title hopes.

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Matthew Seaver
Matthew Seaver, Sports Reporter
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