By: Ryan Mace
After a dramatic 21-17 win in Death Valley, the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide will face arguably their last regular season test before the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1, No. 15 Texas A&M, this Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban quickly warned his team not to let the emotions of last Saturday’s thrilling win at LSU overshadow the task at hand this week. With a hot team like Texas A&M coming in after a huge win, there is no time to celebrate.
“We’ve got to forget about this last game,” Saban said on Monday. “We’ve got to move on. I told the players that right after the game. I think they have a lot of respect for this team. It’d be pretty difficult not to respect this team based on their body of work and what they’ve accomplished this season.”
A win this week would most likely set up Alabama undefeated in Atlanta for the SEC Title Game, where they would face either No. 5 Georgia or No. 6 Florida, depending on this week’s Georgia-Auburn outcome.
Alabama faces FCS opponent Western Carolina (1-9) and then rival Auburn (2-7) to wrap up the regular season slate. To play for the BCS National Championship, Alabama needs to win out.
The importance of this game isn’t based only on Alabama’s national championship chances, however. Texas A&M is sitting at 7-2 overall, and still has an outside shot at a BCS bowl if they can upset the Tide this Saturday.
The Aggie offense brings in a fast-paced style of play featuring freshman phenom Johnny Manziel at quarterback. Texas A&M ranks in the top 10 in passing yards, rushing yards and points per game. The Aggies score an average of over 44 points per contest.
“He’s extremely quick and very instinctive, and has a unique ability to extend plays,” Saban said of Manziel.
The no-huddle style that the Aggies run has been questioned by Alabama’s Saban.
“There has to be some sense of fairness in terms of asking, ‘Is this what we want football to be?’” Saban said, later adding, “Guys have a much greater chance of getting hurt when they’re not ready to play.”
Saban insists his remarks about the modern offensive approach were misinterpreted.
“Everybody misinterpreted what I said about no-huddle,” he said. “I don’t mind playing against no-huddle. … I just asked the question, ‘Is this what we want the game to become?’ That’s for you to answer.”
A&M receiver Ryan Swope just shrugged his shoulders when asked about Saban’s comments on the hurry up offense.
“We practice hard and play by the rules,” Swope said.
For Alabama’s defense to have success against the Aggies, they will need to find a way to copycat the defensive strategies of both LSU and Florida, who have been the only teams to slow down the A&M attack. The Tide leads the nation in scoring defense allowing just nine points per game.
Despite the two losses, Texas A&M Head Coach Kevin Sumlin thinks if A&M can stay aggressive and play a complete game, they should have a chance to win.
“We’re disappointed we lost those two games, but there is a little bit of confidence gained from being able to handle the physical nature of this league,” Sumlin said. “We haven’t played a complete football game yet. If we can do that, we’ll be dangerous for anybody.”
Alabama 38 Texas A&M 20