TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Heading into Alabama’s top-10 matchup against No. 6 Texas A&M, we enlisted a little help to get a feel for the Aggies ahead of the game Saturday.
Robert Cessna covers Texas A&M for The Eagle in College Station. Kickoff at Bryant-Denny Stadium is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. Top-ranked Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) is coming off a 49-10 win against Tennessee. Texas A&M (6-0, 4-0 SEC) is coming off its bye week.
Robert Cessna, The Eagle
Question: Has Texas A&M’s run defense improved enough to stop Alabama’s rushing attack?
Cessna: I thought so until the Tennessee game, when the Aggies allowed 353 yards on 50 carries. That looked too much like last year. It looked worse when Alabama put the clamp on Tennessee’s running game. Tennessee was missing a center and guard for Alabama, but they also went out against A&M and the Vols still had no problem picking up yardage. A&M did have some injuries, so maybe the week off will help.
Q: What has Trayveon Williams brought to the offense, and how much more balanced is Texas A&M when he’s playing well?
Cessna: Williams is a home-run threat – four runs of at least 40 yards. He seems to get stronger with more carries. He’s been impressive, but I think a lot of credit goes to an inexperienced offensive line and quarterback Trevor Knight, who has been uncanny at making decisions of when to run, hand off or pass.
Q: Given how Alabama has handled Texas A&M the last two years, how are the players and the coaching staff approaching them?
Cessna: They all said the right thing at Tuesday’s press conference, but until they have a solid game against the Crimson Tide, they’ll keep getting asked about 59-0 and having 3 interceptions returned for touchdowns – which they did.
Q: Outside of the obvious, who are some Texas A&M players Alabama fans should know?
Cessna: A&M’s offense has sorely missed WR Ricky Seals-Jones (6-5, 240), who was injured against Arkansas. A&M is strong in the kicking game, with Braden Mann having 28 touchbacks and opponents averaging only 18.5 yards on the 12 they’ve been able to return. Shane Tripucka averages 43.6 yards per punt. Every yard is important when you’re playing Alabama. LBs Shaan Washington, Otaro Alaka and Claude George need strong games if the Aggies are to get a handle on Alabama’s running game.
Q: What’s your feel for the game and prediction?
Cessna: A&M’s defense is vastly improved in the second year under coordinator John Chavis, but the Aggies have given up a ton of yards (437.5 avg.) but not many points (19.2 ppg) thanks to 17 turnovers. I don’t think A&M’s defense is to the point it can win the game, say the way LSU did in the past against Alabama, because even with a redshirt-freshman quarterback, A&M can’t expect to force 4-5 turnovers. Jalen Hurts might have a turnover or 2, but he’ll also make plays considering Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs had 455 total yards. Alabama is the clear-cut favorite, but A&M probably has just as many — if not more — future NFL players as did the 2012 team. I like Alabama by at least 10 points.