3:30 PM EST, CBS – Line: Alabama -19, Over/Under: 59
The funny thing about the Southeastern Conference, particularly the SEC West, is that it’s been annually stockpiled with so many talented teams that sooner or later you’re bound to get a matchup of Top-10 teams, which is the case today as the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the sixth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denney Stadium in Tuscaloosa. 2016 has thus far been about defying expectations for Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0 in SEC), who after a mass Quarterback exodus, which saw three highly-touted passers leave under varying circumstances, have surprisingly never looked better. For the first time in his tenure at College Station, Kevin Sumlin’s charges are doing serious work on BOTH sides of the ball, with a high-flying offense and a staunch defensive unit. Offensively, the Aggies have been averaging a prolific 40.2 points (15th Overall) on a whopping 532.8 total yards, including 258.5 through the air and another 274.3 yards on the ground. It’s seems almost poetic that after so many signal-callers transferred away that yet another transfer would lead them to a run at the SEC Championship, as Trevor Knight has settled into life with the Aggies. The former Oklahoma Sooner has proven an awesome fit for Sumlin’s offense, completing 53.5% of his passes for 1,500 yards (7.0 y/a), nine touchdowns and five interceptions, while tormenting opponents with his legs, rushing for 502 yards on a solid 7.7 yards per carry and a team-high nine rushing scores. His various talents were on display in A&M’s 45-38 overtime victory over then ninth-ranked Tennessee two weeks ago; Knight may have struggled at times probing the Vols’ Secondary (17-of-34, 239 yards, 2 TD 2 INT), but he had no such problems carrying the football, as he continued to slice through their defense like a hot knife through butter, rushing for 110 yards and three touchdowns on fifteen carries. Tailback Trayveon Williams joined the rushing fun, totaling a game-high 217 yards on twenty-eight carries in the win, as the hosts racked up a wild 353 yards on the ground. With that said, for the first time all season, the defense was exploited, particularly against the pass, where the visiting side shredded them on 29-of-48 passing (60.4%) for a season-high 402 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 282 yards to boot. Fortunately, two things benefitted Sumlin and Co. in this one, as Tennessee proved to be their own worst enemy; the visitors were flagged a dozen times for eighty-five yards, while committing a staggering seven turnovers, five of which were lost fumbles. Now it may be a bit unrealistic to think that they’ll get as lucky against he Crimson Tide, but consider these few things heading into this Top-Ten Clash. A&M comes into this game well-rested due to their Bye Week after the win over Tennessee, and may enjoy the return of All-SEC Defensive End Myles Garrett who missed the last contest with a sprained ankle. Garrett sits atop many a draft Board, and has done nothing but terrorize opposing Quarterbacks during his three years at Kyle Field, amassing 26.5 sacks in twenty-nine games. Furthermore, the Aggies are no strangers to success in Tsucaloosa, as they are one of just two teams to have defeated the Tide in Alabama when they have been ranked No. One in the country. In fact, the last time that Alabama had lost at home when ranked first was in 2012 to Sumlin’s outfit.
Meanwhile, it may certainly be hyperbole, but the Tide just keeps rolling in Tuscaloosa, as Alabama (7-0, 4-0 in SEC) continues it’s reign of dominance over the College Football World. The defending National Champions look every bit as imposing as they did a year ago, featuring many of the same characteristics that have defined this program over the course of Saban’s ridiculously successful tenure. First and foremost, the defense has been outrageously good, permitting a scant 15.0 points per game (8th Overall) on just 274.7 total yards, including 210.1 via the pass and another 64.6 on the ground. Despite losing a number of prominent members of their vaunted unit to the NFL draft a year ago (not to mention the loss of Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart), the proverbial cupboard never seems to lack about a dozen freaks on this side of the ball. From Defensive Lineman Jonathan Allen (5.5 TFL, 5.0 Sacks, 2 PD) and Tim Williams (7.5 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 2 FF), to Linebackers Reuben Foster (4.0 TFL, 1.5 Sacks, 2 PD) and Ryan Anderson (8.5 TFL, 4.5 Sacks, 2 FF), to Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (1 INT, 3 PD, 1 FF, 1 TD), ‘Bama once again looks to be well-represented at May’s NFL Draft. And in case you wondering, that same Tennessee team that gave Texas A&M everything could handle two weeks ago, as DISMANTLED by Alabama last week in a 49-10 romp in Knoxville. Saban’s charges absolutely smothered the Volunteers’ offense, relegating Josh Dobbs and Co. to a mere 163 yards of total offense, including an amazing thirty-two rushing yards on thirty-two carries!!! Don’t bother doing the math, folks, for that’s a miniscule one yards per carry. However, the bigger story in Tuscaloosa is the fact that they’re once again atop the rankings with a Quarterback that they didn’t plan on running the show. Last year it was Jacob Coker, and this year it’s True Freshman Jalen Hurts, who many thought would Redshirt, or at the very least be utilized in limited packages throughout the term. With that said, the future is now for the Tide, who have watched the duel-threat QB evolve from week to week; Hurst has been efficient in the passing game, completing 63.5% of his attempts for 1,385 yards (7.8 y/a), nine touchdowns and three interceptions, while becoming the team’s primary rusher in the process, leading the team with seventy-four rushing attempts for 428 yards and a team-best eight touchdowns. Over the years, Alabama has thrived mostly with Pro-Style Pocket Passers under Center content with simply managing the game, but this kid brings an entirely different skill set to the position along with a wealth of possibilities. Opposing defenses have been able to take one or the other from him, but not BOTH aspects of his game; after torching the likes of Kentucky and Arkansas with his arm for an average of 257.5 yards with two touchdowns apiece, Tennessee chose instead to let him run and got burned for 132 yards and three scores on thirteen carries, one of which was a forty-five yard romp into the End Zone. Offensive Coordinator Lane Kiffin has done a remarkable job keeping the youngster from making those dreaded freshman mistakes, and just how long that remains the case will likely dictate whether or not the Tide can make it back-to-back National Titles, something they managed to achieve as recently as 2012.
Predicted Outcome: Alabama 28, Texas A&M 17