- Sam Khan Jr., ESPN Staff Writer
Alabama 31, Texas A&M 23
This game is intriguing on several levels. For starters, the matchup of Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel against the big, fast, athletic Alabama defense will be one to watch. The Crimson Tide are coming off an emotional, hard-fought win at LSU last week. How Nick Saban's team will deal with the Aggies' up-tempo offense should be compelling. And LSU's offensive success gives the Aggies reason to believe that they'll be able to move the ball and score as well. However, the Crimson Tide's stellar offensive line and good running game might be too much for the Aggies defense, which is limited on depth. The Aggies could have some success early on both sides of the ball, and don't be surprised to see Texas A&M jump out to a quick lead early, as they did against Florida and LSU, but the Crimson Tide could wear down the Aggies defensively in the late stages if they get the running game going. And Manziel's two lowest single-game rushing totals came against the likes of LSU and Florida. Look for the Tide to keep him from exploding in the running game.
While all eyes will be on Manziel, it's worth keeping an eye on the Aggies' two offensive guards. Texas A&M has run the ball effectively in their last two games, going for over 300 rushing yards in each of those road wins at Auburn and Mississippi State. Manziel is important, but so is the running game production. The Aggies' offense, for all the perception about it being pass-happy, is most successful when the running game is working. If Harrison, Ogbuehi and center Patrick Lewis can help Ben Malena, Christine Michael, Trey Williams and Manziel find some room in between the tackles, it would bode well for the Aggies' chances of moving the chains with consistency.
Matchups to watch:
Moore leads the nation in tackles for loss and sacks this season and has played like an early-round draft pick. The junior has been consistent and relentless and even leads the Aggies in tackles. Fluker, also a junior, has good size (6-foot-6, 335 pounds), was a preseason first-team All-SEC pick and has started all nine games for the Crimson Tide this fall. If he can keep Moore in check, it will bode well for the Crimson Tide. If he can't, it will be a big advantage for the Aggies on defense.
Swope is in the midst of his best stretch of the season. He has hauled in at least six passes in each of the last three games (including 10 against LSU) and has gone for more than 120 receiving yards in each of his last two outings. His role in the Aggies offense is an important one. Swope will probably see some matchups against linebacker C.J. Mosley, but look for Sunseri, who often lines up against an inside receiver, to match up with Swope as well. The sophomore is fourth on the team with 40 tackles and has two interceptions this year.
3dSam Khan Jr.
5dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough