This young SEC series looked like it would be an annual shootout until Alabama smacked Texas A&M, 59-0, in Tuscaloosa last season.
The Aggies swear this year will be different, and the national polls agree with them. No. 9 A&M rests one spot above No. 10 Alabama, and Saturday afternoon’s game will likely decide which SEC West team has the best shot at slipping past LSU en route to the Georgia Dome.
Here is everything you need to know about today’s contest:
No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1 SEC) vs. No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17, 3:30 pm ET (CBS)
Weather: 83 degrees, sunny, zero percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Alabama -4
By the numbers
14-0 – Kevin Sumlin’s record at Texas A&M when the Aggies win the turnover battle. His team is trying to go three straight games without a turnover for the first time since 2004.
11 – Games in a row ‘Bama running back Derrick Henry has scored at least one rushing touchdown. He set the Crimson Tide’s all-time record against Arkansas last Saturday.
59 – Alabama’s margin of victory last season was its largest against a fellow SEC team in three decades.
Storylines to watch
Can Alabama defend A&M’s fast-paced attack?
We know the Crimson Tide defense is sturdy against the run. It crushed Georgia and Arkansas — two ground-oriented teams — in consecutive weeks, and did the same against Wisconsin to open the season. But the Tide gets a little iffy when teams open up on offense. Ole Miss poured in 43 points en route to a Week 3 upset, and Nick Saban said A&M has the best set of skill players ‘Bama has faced this season.
Will Jake Coker limit his mistakes?
Alabama’s senior quarterback regressed a bit against Arkansas, tossing up two ugly first-half interceptions. Most of his issues develop when the offensive line breaks down, but Coker needs to be more careful with the pigskin in those situations. If A&M’s offense is clicking, the pressure is on Coker to be nearly perfect through the air.
The Georgia Dome is at stake
This is a de facto semifinal to see which team will have the best shot at unseating LSU for the West title, gaining an SEC Championship bid and earning a chance to advance to the College Football Playoff. If Alabama loses, there’s little hope that it makes up two-game deficits to both Louisiana State and A&M.
Prediction: Alabama 33, Texas A&M 31
We’ll have an old-fashioned shootout on our hands in College Station. Alabama will find plenty of success on the ground, but its defense will take a step back against A&M’s track stars.
Jake Coker will be rough early, but the quarterback will make enough big plays in the second half to lead Alabama to victory.