Saturday, September 14, 2013, the date that every die-hard college football fan has had circled on their calendar since the end of the 2012 season.
The time has at last, finally arrived for the marquee match up of No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide @ No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies.
The game between these two in Tuscaloosa last year, to most, was the game of the year.
We finally get the rematch this year in College Station, Texas. The battle of Johnny Manziel vs. Nick Saban or the battle of the Bama defense vs. the A&M offense are just a couple of headlines that makes this game so intriguing.
The big question this year is how will the mad scientist that is Nick Saban develop a plan to slow down Manziel. That key component could be the one secret and decider in who wins Saturday.
The Texas A&M offense has been off to a great start this season. After serving a first half suspension in the opening game against Rice, Johnny Football came out and shined in the second half. Manziel threw three touchdowns in the second half alone against Rice and didn't seem to skip a beat from last year. The defense of Alabama will be a different test, but he has proven that he can solve it.
The classic last year in Alabama in which the Aggies went into Tuscaloosa and stunned the Tide started the hype machine for this year's game. The Aggies beat the Tide 29-24 last year in a classic down to the wire battle. The Aggies got off to a 20-0 lead and held on down the stretch to come out a winner in Alabama. This year's game could be much of the same as far as drama and excitement.
I feel the fact that the Aggies have home field advantage this year gives them a shot at realistically winning once again against the Crimson Tide. This in all reality is probably the biggest and most hyped game in the history of Texas A&M's program. This could put some added pressure on the Aggies to pull through and make sure they don't disappoint the home crowd with all the hype.
So, as we go inside the game and breakdown the roster who has the advantage in key areas? To begin with, I will discuss the offensive lines vs. defensive lines for each teams. The offensive lines of both Alabama and Texas A&M lost key member off of last year's team. The Tide lost three key members and this has led to some concerns for this year's offensive line for Bama. This concern was brought to light even more after struggling in week one against Virginia Tech.
The Aggies also lost a number of key offensive linemen from last year as well. The Aggies haven't gotten a true test this season, but we will learn very fast Saturday against Alabama if the offensive line will be prepared. I feel the advantage of playing at home will really help the offensive line in this contest.
The offensive firepower is the next key into examining who will win on Saturday. These two teams also lost several big time skill players from last year.
The Tide lost running back Eddie Lacy to the NFL and this has left the task of running the ball to T.J. Yeldon. Yeldon struggled in the season opener and I feel part of this was adjusting to the fact he is now the main focus for defenses at the running back position for Alabama.
The weapons that Texas A&M lost seem to be more of a challenge in replacing. The Aggies lost star wide out Ryan Swope and running back Christine Michael.
Swope was the receiver who caught the pass that lives in Aggies memories forever. Manziel bobbled the football regained control and threw a strike to the back of the end zone to Swope. Swope also made several other big catches in last year's meeting between these two teams.
The final stage is the defensive side of the ball. This without a doubt goes to the Crimson Tide as having the advantage. The Tide returned seven starters on defense from last year's team that won the national title. The Tide defense once again looked great against Virginia Tech in week one. The Tide only allowed ten points and gave the Hokies no chance of believing they were realistically in the game.
The defense for the Aggies returned only five starters from last year's defense that held Alabama to 24 points. This year's Aggies defense has struggled thus far against lower tier teams in Rice and Sam Houston State. The defense will have to use the home crowd's energy to help defend the Tide's offense, but that still may not be enough. The Aggies' defense will be key in how real their chances of winning will be on Saturday.
The aspect of coaching in this game could be crucial. Nick Saban in revenge games, in which he lost to the team the previous year and faced them the next season, is 7-1. Saban in these seven wins has won the game by an average of 21 points. This could spell trouble for A&M in this game if history repeats itself.
Kevin Sumlin also has worked wonders since taking over for the Aggies in 2012. Sumlin turned a bottom tier team in the Big 12 to a top ranked team in the SEC. I believe Sumlin will have a unique game plan that may surprise some folks in this year's game against Bama. Sumlin's offensive play calling has been the special ingredient in winning where ever he has been head coach.
I feel this game will be a great one, but not be as close as some are hoping for. I believe the Alabama's offense will finally come out of it's shell and expose the A&M's defense. This will require the A&M offense to try and outscore the Tide, but Saban want allow that to happen. The one way I can see the Aggies winning this game is by Manziel having a specular performance for the ages.
My final analysis of this show down is that the Crimson Tide find a way to put away the Aggies late. The Aggies will come out energized because of the home crowd and get off to another great start like in last year's game. I don't believe the Tide will let it get to a 20-0 lead this year however.
The Tide were coming off an emotional hard fault win against LSU before last year's game against the Aggies. This year they had a bye week before the A&M game and I feel this will help enormously.
I see the Crimson Tide winning by double digits when this one is all said and done. The Aggies will put up a battle for the ages, but in the end the overall talent of Alabama will take over and win this one.
The Tide should have a clear path after the Aggies until they meet LSU in November. First things first however; and that is that the Tide need to take care of business against the Aggies and I believe they will.