Two elite teams in the competitive SEC West meet Saturday, when the the No. 10 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-1, 2-1) travel to College Station to face the No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (5-0, 2-0) at Kyle Field. With LSU and Ole Miss in the mix to win the division, both the Tide and the Aggies are aware of the importance of the matchup.
"As you win, every week 'this game' is the biggest game," Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin told reporters on Tuesday. "This is a big game because we are 5-0, this is Alabama, and we are trying to win a division championship and get to Atlanta. Two weeks ago put us in position. Every week, if we come in here and think: if we keep winning..."
Sumlin, who boasts the SEC's No. 2 offense (480.4 yards per game), described Alabama's defense as "big and fast" with three starters over 300 pounds. The Crimson Tide traditionally have exceptional defensive talent and have even improved over the last few weeks.
Since the upset loss to Ole Miss on Sept. 19, Nick Saban’s defense has allowed just three total touchdowns over their last three games, forcing seven turnovers in the process. The Crimson Tide picked off then-No. 8 Georgia three times en route to a 28-point drubbing in Athens, and limited Arkansas to just nine first downs last week.
In a matchup of strength against strength, it is Alabama’s defense that has surrendered just 15.7 points per game in 2015. Texas A&M's has scored at least 28 points in all five games and average 4.5 touchdowns per game.
But last season's game hovers over this contest. In a thoroughly dominating performance, Alabama overwhelmed Texas A&M, 59-0. The Tide entered as 12-point favorites, and were up 45-0 at halftime.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, who relieved Kenny Hill in the fourth quarter against Alabama, leads the Aggies' high-octane attack. Allen has already thrown for 13 touchdowns with just two interceptions this season, and his 169 quarterback rating leads the SEC. Allen has also rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns to complement leading rusher Tra Carson’s 430 yards and four scores. The Aggies are also armed with two of the conference’s most prolific wide outs in Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds. Kirk, a freshman who showed off his breakout speed against Arizona State with a 66-yard touchdown reception, leads the SEC with 519 receiving yards.
Alabama’s offense is less of an aerial attack and more ground and pound. The passing attack has struggled behind inconsistent quarterback Jake Coker despite the team scoring 34.7 points per game. Coker is tied for second in the SEC with six interceptions and matches up with an A&M pass rush that has tallied 19 sacks in five games.
Running back Derrick Henry could be the key to Alabama exploiting A&M’s poor rush defense, which allows 182.6 yards on the ground. Henry is Alabama’s workhorse with 120 carries, good for fourth in the conference. He’s also fourth rushing yards (665) and second in the conference in touchdowns (10), behind only Heisman-favorite Leonard Fournette. Henry has rushed for a touchdown in 11 straight games, the longest such streak in Alabama history.
In a press conference this week, Saban stressed that the team needs to do a better job of limiting mistakes. "There's still the issue of ... a lot of areas where we can improve based on just basic fundamental execution," he said.
Start Time: 3:30 p.m.
Betting Odds: Alabama -4 (Sportsbook.ag)
Over/Under: 54 points
Live Stream Info: CBS Sports