TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 1 Alabama hosts No. 6 Texas A&M in a battle for SEC West supremacy Saturday. Kickoff from Bryant-Denny Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.
Here are five things to watch:
5. Run, run and run some more
Alabama should come out and run between the tackles and force Texas A&M to stop them.
A banged-up Tennessee team ran for 282 yards against Texas A&M two weeks ago.
Alabama should at least be able to match that number. Alabama rushed for 438 yards vs. Tennessee, the most during Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa.
Look for Alabama to use its three running backs (Damien Harris, Bo Scarbrough and Joshua Jacobs) as well as quarterback Jalen Hurts to test the Aggies run defense.
4. Is Alabama’s secondary ready?
After giving up 400 passing yards at Arkansas, Alabama’s secondary responded against Tennessee.
The Crimson Tide held Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs to 92 passing yards.
While Dobbs and Tennessee’s offense is talented, Texas A&M’s passing attack presents a lot of potential matchup nightmares.
The Aggies like to spread out teams and throw the ball up to its big receivers. The Aggies also feature speedy guys like Christian Kirk. Alabama can’t let its safeties get matched up with a receiver with no help over the top.
This will be the toughest test for Alabama’s secondary since beating Ole Miss.
Alabama held Texas A&M’s passing game in check last season, but Trevor Knight is a better passer than what the Aggies had a season ago.
Alabama will need its pass rushers to get after Knight so the defensive backs aren’t covering for too long.
3. King of the West
There still is more football to be played, but this game will decide the SEC West.
It’s hard to realistically see another team on Alabama’s schedule being able to defeat the Crimson Tide.
If the Aggies pull off the upset, no way anyone is beating them considering the confidence boost a win like this would bring.
No disrespect to any of the other teams in the division, but the winner of the SEC West will be decided Saturday.
2. Limit turnovers
Texas A&M’s defense gives up a good amount of yards on the ground and through the air.
The Aggies are seventh in the SEC in rushing defense (159.33 yards per game), and last in pass defense (278.2 yards per game).
But what has saved Texas A&M’s defense has been forcing turnovers. The Aggies lead the SEC and are tied for second in the nation with 17 forced turnovers. The Aggies have recovered 10 fumbles and intercepted seven passes.
If Alabama can limit turnovers, the Tide should be able to have success on offense.
1. Has Texas A&M improved enough?
A lot of people scoffed at the opening line. The Crimson Tide opened as a 17-point favorite, according to VegasInsider.com. The line moved to 16.5, but a lot of people felt that was way too many points.
But is it really?
Alabama just hammered a top-10 team on the road. The last two times Alabama and Texas A&M played each other, the Crimson Tide won 59-0 (2014) and 41-23 (last season). The result last year wasn’t that close.
It’s reasonable to expect Texas A&M to be improved, but have they made a big enough jump to knock off Alabama?