by Frank Martin
Top-ranked Alabama dodged a major bullet in its national title defense last week, but the Crimson Tide face another tough test Saturday with No. 14 Texas A&M traveling to Tuscaloosa for the first time. The teams are meeting for the first time since 1988; Alabama has won three of four previous meetings. The Crimson Tide can clinch the SEC West title by beating the Aggies or by winning their Iron Bowl matchup with Auburn on Nov. 24. Texas A&M would have to beat Alabama and Missouri (Nov. 23) and also have the Crimson Tide lose to Auburn to make its way to the SEC Championship Game.
That's a far-fetched scenario for the Aggies, not least of all because it involves knocking off the Crimson Tide. Alabama won its first eight games by an average of 32.5 points before needing a late touchdown pass from A.J. McCarron to pull out a 21-17 win at LSU last week. The Crimson Tide's vaunted defense did give up big chunks of yardage on the ground and through the air against LSU, and it will face a major challenge against the Aggies and freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Texas A&M Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide
When: 3:30 PM ET, Saturday, November 10, 2012
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS.
Texas A&M Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC): The Aggies have proven they can compete with the SEC's powers in their first year in the league - their only losses were 20-17 vs. Florida and 24-19 vs. LSU - but this is their last chance to knock off one of the conference's elite teams. Coach Kevin Sumlin's offense, led by Manziel, has averaged 559.6 total yards, which is on pace to break the SEC record of 534.4 set by Florida in 1995. The Aggies rank fifth in the nation in total offense and fourth in scoring (44.67).
Alabama Crimson Tide ((9-0, 6-0): The Crimson Tide looked vulnerable for the first time this season against LSU, but McCarron and the offense were up to the task down the stretch. The defense likely will face its biggest test yet, but Alabama has the athletes to contain Manziel much like LSU did. Alabama also has a weapon in senior Jeremy Shelley, the only kicker in the nation who has not missed an extra point or field goal this season. Shelley is 43-for-43 on PATs and has made all nine of his field goal attempts.
1. Alabama and Louisiana Tech are the only teams in the nation that have not thrown an interception this season. McCarron has thrown a school-record 289 passes without a pick.
2. Texas A&M has scored first in every game this season and 14 straight dating to 2011. The Aggies have scored on seven of nine opening drives this year. Here2
3. Alabama has scored in 151 consecutive games, the longest streak in program history.
NCAA Football Prediction: Alabama 33, Texas A&M 20.
a.j. mccarron - alabama crimson tide - johnny manziel - texas am aggies