Not quite the game of the century we’ve gotten used to, but Alabama (#1) and Texas A&M (#6) are the best the SEC West has to offer at the moment, in what might be the biggest challenge the national champions will have en route to yet another appearance in the BCS championship game.
Everyone is thinking one thing, and that’s last season’s game between the two teams, in which Johnny Manziel erupted onto the national scene with a 29-24 win in Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s one loss didn’t stop it from going to the BCS title game after beating Georgia in the SEC championship, but it did hint at A&M’s quick transition to a new conference; to Manziel’s ability to dominate for at least a couple of years; and the emergence of a new rival to Alabama in the division other than LSU.
The key for Alabama in this one? It isn’t stopping Manziel, surprisingly. It’s hard to believe their defense, as good as it might be, will be able to hold him down for an entire game. However, getting an idea of how to handle the A&M defense, which has struggled in the opening two weeks against Rice and Sam Houston State might be an even bigger issue.
A&M went on to lead 20-0 in the meeting between the sides last year, forcing three turnovers and holing Alabama to two three-and-outs on from the first three drives. A.J. McCarron and his crew didn’t look too sharp against Virginia Tech in the season opener, generating only 206 yards of offense, but it was enough to get them the win over the ACC team. With two weeks to prepare for A&M, things are bound to look better.
The A&M defense will be almost at full strength this time when compared with what we saw from them (due to suspensions) in the opening two games, which means McCarron and the running game need to be a lot sharper, focused and simply better than they were in the game against the Hokies, especially when it comes to making plays on the outside, which A&M did very well to take away from them in last year’s meet.
Prediction – Alabama aren’t as strong as they were last season, even if they’re still better than the rest. However, it does make them vulnerable, and with all the things Manziel does to generate hate against him, he’s good enough to conquer the Tide’s defense once again.