It’s only Week 7 but this SEC West showdown has the feeling of a January bowl game with so much at stake already.
Alabama can’t afford to lose another conference game if they want to play in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship Game.
Texas A&M vowed in the week leading up to Saturday’s game that they’re a different team from the one that lost to Alabama 59-0 last season. With a new defensive coordinator in John Chavis and a pair of standout true freshmen in wide receiver Christian Kirk and defensive tackle Daylon Mack, Texas A&M has worked all year long to show that they belong in the conversation of playoff contenders.
Here is everything you need to know about Saturday’s contest:
No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0 SEC)
Kickoff: Sat., Oct. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET (CBS)
Weather: 83 degrees, sunny, zero percent chance of rain (Weather.com)
Line: Alabama -4
By the numbers
79 – number of consecutive pass attempts thrown without an interception by Texas A&M quarterback Kyle Allen entering this game.
29.6 – opponent’s third-down conversion rate against the Aggies, which ranks No. 24 nationally. Last year, the Aggies allowed 40 percent.
1994 – the last time the Aggies opened the year with seven straight wins. That team went on to finish the year undefeated at 10-0-1.
Storylines to watch
Texas A&M will be seeking its first-ever win over Alabama at Kyle Field. Alabama leads the series, 5-2, with two of its road victories being at the pre-renovation Kyle Field (1988 and 2014).
Christian Kirk needs 42 all-purpose yards to reach 1,000 for the season. The fastest any Aggie has ever reached 1,000 is six games by running back Leeland McElroy in 1995.
Ticket to Atlanta
A win by Texas A&M would help the Aggies keep pace with LSU in the SEC West title chase. An Alabama loss would crush its SEC title and playoff hopes with two conference losses.
Prediction: Texas A&M 41, Alabama 28
In this battle between Texas A&M’s speed and Alabama’s power, expect big plays to make all the difference in this game.
Expect the playmaking freshman Christian Kirk to make a big return on special teams to start the game, giving Kyle Allen the chance to take advantage of the field position.
Alabama’s offensive line should provide Derrick Henry with some running lanes that could turn into big gains. The ‘Bama offensive line will also help the Crimson Tide hold onto the ball longer. But an Aggie lead in the fourth quarter will force the Crimson Tide to rely heavily on the turnover-prone quarterback Jake Coker to make plays and defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall will take turns making big stops on third and fourth downs.