Top 25 football: No. 1 Alabama braces again for No. 6 Texas A&M’s speedy tempo
By Ralph D. Russo
The Associated PressFirst published Sep 13 2013 05:34PM
Houston • The last blockbuster of the summer is set in Texas.
No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 6 Texas A&M. Johnny Football trying to derail the Crimson Tide dynasty. Who is the hero and who is the villain depends upon your perspective. And, of course, it’s a sequel.
The Tide (1-0) and Aggies (2-0) meet Saturday in the most anticipated and talked-about game of the season.
Just how big is this game, Tide coach Nick Saban?
"Obviously this is an exciting game for our team, the players in our program," Saban said.
OK, so Saban isn’t much for hype, but there’s no doubt this is huge.
Looking online for a last-minute ticket to Kyle Field? Be prepared to shell out $700, give or take a hundred. A hotel room in town? Better have a plan B. Most of the space was booked not long after the Aggies upset Alabama 29-24 last November in Tuscaloosa.
Last year’s victory propelled A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy. For the Tide, the loss was a detour on the way to a second straight national championship. Saban’s team is trying to become the first to win three straight titles. The Aggies have championship aspirations, too.
In a couple of tuneup games leading into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference opener for both teams, Manziel has looked better than ever (six TD passes and 520 yards), showing no signs that an offseason in the spotlight has had any adverse effects on his game.
Alabama’s only game was a 35-10 victory against Virginia Tech that — by Tide standards — was almost a letdown.
Some things to know about the latest SEC Game of the Century:
HOLD THE LINE • Alabama’s rebuilt offensive line was one of the few areas of concern for the Tide coming into the season. The Virginia Tech game did nothing to soothe the worry warts. The Tide didn’t crack 100 yards rushing against the Hokies.
REINFORCEMENTS • Texas A&M’s defense has been leaky against Rice and Sam Houston State. To plug the holes, the Aggies get back four key players — linebacker Steven Jenkins, defensive end Gavin Stansbury and cornerbacks Deshazor Everett and De’Vante Harris — after they missed much or all the first two games because of various suspensions.
THE OTHER QB • AJ McCarron is no Johnny Football, but Alabama fans aren’t complaining. The senior has two national championship rings and is one of the best quarterbacks in the country. One of his few mistakes last season was an interception near A&M’s goal line late in the fourth quarter.
SO, HOW DO YOU STOP MANZIEL? • Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart are about as good it gets when it comes to mixing defensive fronts and coverages, but Manziel is a game-plan wrecker. And A&M is loaded with talented tailbacks and receivers, so it’s not like he’s doing it on his own.