#1 Alabama vs. #6 Texas A&M; Showdown for the SEC West

There is no sneaking up on the Crimson Tide this time for the Texas A&M Aggies.

The Aggies have had Alabama’s full attention ever since that Johnny Manziel kid shocked the world in Tuscaloosa a few years back. You mess with the Saban and the Saban never forgets. This weekend gives us a showdown for the SEC West and a potential spot in the College Football Playoffs this year.

The No. 1 ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are taking on the No. 6 ranked Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium. College Gameday will descend upon Tuscaloosa and all eyes will be on this game. For a top-6 matchup, the oddsmakers sure feel that A&M doesn’t have shot. Texas A&M is a 17-point dog on the road at Alabama. Most people expected Alabama to be in this position- the No. 1 team in the nation and a national championship contender. Less people, on the other hand, expected A&M to be here.

Texas A&M was frantic after both Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray left College Station for Houston and Oklahoma respectively. This came after consecutive years of the Aggies starting 5-0 and then unraveling the rest of the season. Pressure was mounting on Kevin Sumlin to turn the program back around to the success of Johnny Manziel. Then, a savior came. Trevor Knight decided to transfer from Oklahoma to A&M. Trevor Knight had similar struggles towards the end of his Sooner career and it almost seemed destined that Knight and A&M needed each other. A&M started the season opposite of Alabama. The Aggies were unranked and nobody was sure if they could beat No. 16 UCLA at home. Alabama was ranked No. 1 and taking on a USC team that everybody was sure they would beat.

Now, A&M is 6-0 and Alabama is 7-0 heading into this week 8 match-up. Aside from the Tennessee game, A&M has been pretty dominant heading into this game. The situation is similar for Alabama. The Crimson Tide trailed by 21 at Ole Miss earlier this year before they came back to win. Outside of that one game, Alabama might have their best team ever and that is saying something.

Let’s take a little look at how these teams match-up for this game.

Alabama is the best in the country at defending the run. The Crimson Tide allow only 63.9 yards per game with a scarce 2.04 yards per rush. They will need to continue that dominant defense because A&M comes in with the 7th-ranked rushing attack. The Aggies rush for 274.3 yards per game and balance it pretty well with 258.5 passing yards per game. For yearsl the biggest concern for A&M has been their defense. John Chavis, former LSU defensive coordinator, was brought in to fix it. It has taken a couple of years, but there are definitely improvements. The Aggies rank 22nd in points per game allowed with 19.2 points per game. Future first-round pick Myles Garrett leads the defense and is disruptive all over the field. Garrett hopes to be as healthy as he has been in a while heading into this game where the Aggies will need it to stop Jalen Hurts of Alabama.

Lane Kiffin has allowed Alabama to move from having a game-manager at quarterback with a dominant defense to a game-changer at quarterback with a dominant defense. The only real question for this team heading into this season was at quarterback. It took a little experimenting in the first game before the Tide realized Hurts was their guy. Jalen Hurts, a true freshman, has taken Alabama from good to scary good. Hurts has the speed to destroy defenses on the read-option and has made enough plays throwing the ball to keep defenses honest. Alabama is ranked sixth in points per game with 45.4 points per game. Defensively, the Tide rank eighth in points per game allowed with 15 points per game.

There are a couple of common opponents for the Aggies and the Tide to look at heading into week 8. Both teams have played Arkansas and Tennessee. Alabama beat Arkansas and Tennessee by 19 and 39 points respectively. A&M beat Arkansas and Tennessee by 21 and 7 points respectively. The one concern for the Aggies, despite the improved defense, would be the chunk plays they still allow. A&M has made the plays when they mattered and have forced more three-and-outs than they have before. However, they still allowed 600+ yards to Tennessee in a double-overtime win at home. A&M also allowed 491 yards to Arkansas, including 371 passing yards. Alabama did give up points to both Arkansas and Ole Miss, however, once the team settled in, they played like they have most of the year. In addition, Alabama has had a defensive touchdown in every game this season.

It would seem, on paper, Alabama has the advantage playing at home. Trevor Knight will have to re-capture that Sugar Bowl magic from his Oklahoma days in order to defeat the Tide this time. A&M has capable receivers and that will be the key for A&M if they want to win. The Aggies will need to pass to set up the run instead of trying to force the run against that scary Alabama defensive front. Alabama will look to startle the Aggies early and will probably throw more than they usually do because of a susceptible Aggies secondary. It should be a great match-up in the SEC and nationally.

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