- Chris Low, ESPN Senior Staff Writer
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- For a league that was supposed to be all about defense, these wild offensive shootouts are suddenly becoming the norm in the SEC.
Remember the good, old days -- just two short years ago -- when Alabama and LSU played an epic No. 1 versus No. 2 showdown, including an overtime period, without anybody scoring a touchdown?
That model seems to have gone the way of the rotary telephone.
As entertaining as Alabama's 49-42 win over Texas A&M was on Saturday at Kyle Field, it raises a question that will reverberate around the college football world.
Are either one of these teams good enough defensively to win a national championship?
Maybe that's not fair to Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, who might not actually be Superman, but all he was missing Saturday was a cape. He torched Alabama's defense for 562 yards of total offense and five touchdown passes and was mesmerizing with his uncanny ability to turn nothing into something.
As good as the reigning Heisman Trophy winner was, his favorite receiver, Mike Evans, was just as good with seven catches for a school-record 279 yards.
So, just maybe, the Aggies are simply that dynamic offensively.
But you might want to rub your eyes before processing this next statistic: Alabama gave up 628 yards of total offense ... and still managed to win the game.
Raise your hand if you saw that coming.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said earlier in the week that this was a chance for this particular Alabama team to create its own identity.
When you win national championships at the rate the Crimson Tide have the last few seasons, the tendency is to lump them all together.
But the hallmark of this program under Saban is that it delivers when it has to, and even though the Crimson Tide gave up the kind of points and yards usually reserved for an Xbox video game, they had an answer for everything the Aggies and Manziel threw at them Saturday.
It's impossible to imagine how electric Kyle Field was after Texas A&M exploded to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, but Alabama steadied itself, never flinched and calmly reeled off 35 unanswered points to seemingly gain control.
Evans' improbable 95-yard touchdown catch gave Texas A&M hope once again, pulling the Aggies within 42-35 midway through the fourth quarter. But Alabama, which had fumbled on the goal line the previous possession, responded with a nine-play, 65-yard touchdown drive to finally seal the game.
The fact that Alabama couldn't put Texas A&M away after building a three-touchdown lead late in the third quarter will undoubtedly grate on Saban, whose Alabama defense allowed more yards Saturday than any defense in school history. You'd have to go back to Archie Manning and Ole Miss in 1969 to find an offense that shredded an Alabama defense the way Manziel and the Aggies did.
But Saban has also been around long enough to know that sometimes you have to win ugly, and while this was a different kind of ugly in the realm of Alabama football, maybe it was a sign of the times in this league.
To read more of Chris Low's story, click here.
7dEdward Aschoff and Alex Scarborough