Smack in the heart of perhaps their most difficult stretch of the season, the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies have the chance to squash any national-title hopes the No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide might possess in Saturday’s conference showdown at Kyle Field.
As one of only three undefeated teams left in the SEC, the Aggies have already downed then-No. 21 Mississippi State 30-17 last week and will next face No. 13 Ole Miss next week. But sandwiched between those matchups are the Tide, a squad that has largely recovered from its shocking upset loss to Ole Miss by ripping off three straight victories to return to the top 10.
Armed with the nation’s No. 20 scoring offense, Texas A&M and sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen can also narrow the SEC West to just itself and fellow undefeated squad and No. 6 LSU while burying Alabama’s chances for a College Football Playoff berth with a second loss.
There’s also the matter of last year’s crippling 59-0 loss to the Tide, one that saw the typically blazing Aggies offense held to 172 total yards and just eight first downs.
But Allen wasn’t the starter back then, and he’s guided the offense with 1,274 passing yards and 13 touchdown passes to only two picks. Allen’s also charged up 136 rushing yards and two scores to complement leading running back Tra Carson’s 430 yards and four trips to the end zone.
Receivers Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds are both part of the SEC’s elite, with Kirk topping the rest of the conference for 519 yards and four touchdowns off 32 receptions.
Yet since their only loss, the Tide have allowed just three total touchdowns over the last 12 quarters and have forced seven total turnovers, including three interceptions against then-No. 8 Georgia’s quarterbacks two weeks ago. And last week Alabama completely stunted Arkansas to the tune of 220 total yards and a miniscule nine first downs in the 27-14 victory.
The Tide have clearly found their defensive groove, but the offense hasn’t been nearly as dominate as in previous years. Alabama has averaged 34.7 points per game, but that puts it squarely in the middle of the SEC with quarterback Jake Coker’s seven interceptions partially to blame.
The senior has completed 11 passes for touchdowns this season, but he’s also been wildly inaccurate. Three times this season Coker’s completed less than 60 percent of his passes, and twice he’s thrown two interceptions in a game.
Instead, the Tide will likely turn to junior running back Derrick Henry, who ranks fourth in the SEC with 665 yard rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He could be the key to exploiting an Aggies defense allowing 182.6 rushing yards per game, third-worst in the conference.
Betting Odds: Alabama -4.5
Over/Under: 53.5 points
Prediction: Alabama over Texas A&M, 35-24