There might not be a Johnny Manziel, but Texas A&M (5-0) is off to a red hot start with a balanced attack and improved defense that managed to get by Arkansas and Mississippi State to kick things off in SEC play. But this is the truly big one and the gateway to a potentially special year. Alabama (5-1) has been a wee bit inconsistent offensively, but the defense hasn’t skipped a beat since the Ole Miss loss. Is this a growing SEC West rivalry, or will the Crimson Tide reestablish itself as the true star of the division? Check out the Alabama vs. Texas A&M prediction and game preview.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Game Preview
Date: Saturday, Oct. 17
Game Time: 3:30 pm
Venue: Kyle Field, College Station, TX
Follow, Contact @PeteFiutak
Why You Need To Care
Alabama has been punched in the mouth, and it keeps on hanging around. The Ole Miss win might have made things harder, but the Crimson Tide showed what they could do when everything is working against a Georgia squad looking to make a statement two weeks ago. Last week, Arkansas gave Bama all it could handle, but once again, the defense came through. Considering Tennessee and LSU have to go to Tuscaloosa, and road games at Mississippi State and Auburn are more winnable-looking now than they were a few weeks ago, this might be the biggest barrier to a possible SEC championship appearance.
Texas A&M has done some nice things so far with all five wins coming against teams that’ll probably go bowling – Ball State the possible exception – but this is the game it’s been waiting for. Like everyone else, the Aggies took two weeks to prepare for this, beating Mississippi State a few weeks ago, and now it has to be ready or the season could drop off the map in a hurry with a trip to Ole Miss next week and a date in Death Valley against LSU still to go.
Why Alabama Will Win
A&M hasn’t always been spectacular in a Johnny Manziel sort of way, but it’s been winning games through the air. As questionable as the Alabama secondary has been, it gave up 341 yards to Ole Miss and Chad Kelly, mainly because the Rebels got the dumbest of dumb luck big pass plays, and got another big pass off a quirky 2013 Auburn-like pass play. That’s not to make excuses – it all counts – but Kelly didn’t rip the Crimson Tide apart.
Bama made Georgia’s Greyson Lambert look like, well, Greyson Lambert, and it did a great job against Arkansas QB Brandon Allen, who had been carrying the offense throughout the first half of the season. No, Wisconsin isn’t Green Bay throwing the ball, but Joel Stave and the Badger passing game have been solid so far. Alabama has faced decent quarterbacks and, for the most part, has survived.
To win, Texas A&M has to run the ball, and that’s not going to happen against this NFL-caliber defensive front seven.
Why Texas A&M Will Win
Here comes the pass rush. Alabama has only allowed seven sacks all year, and when it’s able to give Jake Coker time to throw, the results have been fine. However, the Crimson Tide are about to deal with a whole new level of pressure into the backfield with Myles Garrett and the Aggie front line doing a tremendous job of screwing things up. Garrett has 5.5 sacks in the last three games, but he’s hardly alone – defensive coordinator John Chavis is bringing the pressure from all sides.
And then that begs the question – is Jake Coker really ready to be a consistent playmaker? He got a bad rap for the Ole Miss loss, and he’s thrown six interception in the last five games, but he’s still the X factor in the puzzle. Everything else appears to be in place for the Crimson Tide, but if Coker isn’t terrific on third downs, and the drives start to stall because he’s not coming up with the one good throw here and there to keep things moving, this offense can struggle.
Player Who Matters
Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk might be the superstar freshman receiver in the game, but Alabama’s Calvin Ridley might soon take over the unofficial title as the best young wide receiver in the SEC. It’s asking way too much for anyone to be another Amari Cooper, but over the last two games he’s turned into the playmaker the team has desperately needed, coming up with backbreaking plays against both Georgia and Arkansas on the way to 14 catches for 260 yards and two scores over the span. He’s quickly turning into the No. 1 target and a home run hitter. If he’s having a big game, then Coker probably is, too.
What’s Going To Happen?
This is a far, far different Texas A&M team that got rocked 59-0 last season, but it’s still not quite there in terms of dealing with an Alabama defense that’s on a mission. Outside of one garbage time Nick Chubb home run, the Crimson Tide aren’t giving up a thing on the ground, allowing two touchdowns to Ole Miss, the Chubb run, and that’s it. It’s not going to be Georgia Game Part 2, but the defense and running game will bail out an inconsistent game from Coker.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Prediction
Final Score: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 20, Line: Alabama -4, o/u: 52.5
Must See Rating: 5: Trojan War – 1: The Muppets … 5