Alabama's conquest to repeat as national champions almost came to a halt last Saturday night at LSU, before escaping with an emotional 21-17 victory in the waning seconds of the game. Quarterback AJ McCarron was visibly overcome with emotions on the sideline as the clock expired, and it definitely was a huge win for Nick Saban and his football team. But Saban cautioned his team to not celebrate the win past Sunday, because Texas A&M and their prolific offense will be coming to Tuscaloosa.
Texas A&M surely has been an interesting team to follow this season. They have scored 30 or more points in seven out of the nine games they have played this year. The Aggies lost to conference rivals Florida and LSU by a combined eight points, and should figure to be a roadblock to Alabama's championship aspirations. First year coach Kevin Sumlin, who left his post in Houston after leading them to a blowout win over Penn State last year in a bowl win, has installed his fast-paced, no huddle offense to confuse defenses.
Alabama is a 13.5 point favorite heading into Saturday's contest, but Texas A&M could prove to keep the game much closer than expected. The Tide allowed LSU to put up 475 yards of total offense last weekend, the most under Saban's watch in almost five years. The Aggies average 559 yards per game and almost 45 points per game, both in the top five nationally.
The Tide's defense is arguably the best in the country, but they haven't faced a quarterback quite like freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. The freshman quarterback has garnered some Heisman support, and figures to be a top candidate heading into next year. He is the leading rusher for the Aggies with 922 yards and 15 touchdowns. Not to mention another 2,500 yards passing and 16 touchdowns through the air. He is part of the latest surge of successful dual threat quarterbacks in the NCAA this year. Other run-first quarterbacks who are undefeated this season include Ohio State's Braxton Miller, Oregon's Marcus Mariota (another freshman), and Heisman favorite Collin Klein.
A&M hasn't faced a run attack like the Alabama backfield combo of Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon. Alabama has produced top notch running backs over the past few seasons, and Lacy and Yeldon are the latest and greatest in Tuscaloosa. McCarron has yet to throw an interception this season, but looked shaky last weekend against LSU. Death Valley is always an intimidating venue to play at, and McCarron was sputtering offensively until a screen pass to Yeldon with under a minute left to come away victorious.
Assuming that Alabama can escape Saturday with a win, they will face Western Carolina (1-9) and Auburn (2-7) to close out the season which should be near absolute wins to secure a spot in the national championship game. Manziel & Co. are looking to make a seat for themselves at the table with the rest of the SEC powers of Florida, Alabama, Georgia and LSU. A win against Saban and the Tide would be a good start to gaining some respectful notoriety.