Texas A&M Aggies: Alabama Crimson Tide

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The new College Football Playoff is supposed to encourage schools to schedule better nonconference games, as teams try to beef up their schedule strength to earn one of the playoff’s coveted four spots at season’s end.

On Thursday, Texas A&M and UCLA announced that they’ll play each other during the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Other schools have announced future marquee nonconference opponents, including Texas A&M vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, Alabama vs. Michigan State and LSU vs. Oklahoma.

Here are five other nonconference games I’d like to see in the future:

[+] EnlargeNick Saban, Urban Meyer
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesUrban Meyer and Nick Saban have faced off for SEC titles, but their current teams, Ohio State and Alabama, have played only three times in history.
1. Alabama vs. Ohio State: Alabama’s Nick Saban and OSU’s Urban Meyer dominated the SEC when Meyer was coaching at Florida, combining to win five BCS national championships from 2006 to 2012.

When Meyer was still coaching at Florida, the Crimson Tide and Gators played in two of the most anticipated SEC championship games. The No. 2 Gators beat the No. 1 Tide 31-20 in 2008, and then the Tide turned the tables on No. 1 UF with a 32-13 win in 2009.

Alabama and Ohio State have played only three times in history, with the Tide winning each time, most recently in a 24-17 victory in the 1995 Citrus Bowl.

2. Texas vs. Texas A&M: Perhaps the biggest casualty in conference realignment, Texas and Texas A&M haven’t played each other since the Aggies bolted the Big 12 for the SEC after the 2011 season. Sadly, there are no plans for the in-state rivals to play again in future regular seasons.

The Aggies and Longhorns played each other 118 times from 1894 to 2011, with their annual meeting traditionally being played on Thanksgiving Day. UT won nearly twice as many games as the Aggies (76-37-5), including nine of the last 12 meetings.

With former Louisville coach Charlie Strong taking over at Texas, and Kevin Sumlin building the Aggies into an SEC powerhouse, the game would also pit two of the sport’s best African-American coaches against each other.

3. Oregon vs. Baylor: Two of the game’s most explosive offenses -- and two of its best-dressed teams -- would undoubtedly light up the scoreboard if they ever played. In fact, the contest would probably look more like a track meet.

Under coach Art Briles, the Bears have become the Ducks of the Southwest, with their hurry-up, spread offense and myriad flashy uniforms closely resembling what Chip Kelly and then Mark Helfrich built at Oregon. The Bears and Ducks follow the same blueprint on offense: play fast and score fast.

We hoped to see this matchup in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl last season, but alas, it didn’t happen. Oregon and Baylor have never met on the gridiron.

4. Michigan vs. USC: Two of the sport’s traditional heavyweights have faced each other eight times in the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Vizio, but only twice during the regular season -- in 1957 and 1958.

The Trojans won the last three meetings in the Rose Bowl, 32-18 in 2007, 28-14 in 2004 and 17-10 in 1990. USC has won six of the past seven meetings overall and holds a 6-4 advantage all-time.

We might have seen this matchup during the regular season if a Big Ten/Pac-12 scheduling partnership hadn’t fallen apart in 2012.

5. Georgia vs. Florida State: UGA coach Mark Richt was a longtime assistant under legendary FSU coach Bobby Bowden before taking over the Bulldogs, and he recently poached defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt off the Seminoles’ staff.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles go head-to-head for a lot of recruits every year, and Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher upgraded his roster by effectively recruiting South Georgia and Atlanta.

The Bulldogs and Seminoles have played 11 times and only once since 1984 -- UGA defeated FSU 26-13 in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. Georgia leads the all-time series, 6-4-1.

Leonard Fournette to visit Texas A&M 

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NEW ORLEANS -- Running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine), the No. 1-rated prospect in the Class of 2014, has planned a surprise recruiting visit to Texas A&M on Saturday for the Aggies’ meeting with Alabama, according to another top player.

No. 1-rated athlete Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) said he was informed by A&M coaches that Fournette would attend the big game. Noil is visiting the College Station, Texas, campus with teammate Gerald Willis III, No. 29 in the ESPN 300 and the third-ranked defensive end.


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OLs from SEC could thrive at combine

February, 20, 2013
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 Luke JoeckelMatthew Visinsky/Icon SMILuke Joeckel could be the top offensive lineman selected in the NFL draft -- or first overall.

Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Offensive linemen.

Texas A&M Aggies


Texas A&M could have sent two tackles into the draft and both would have probably ended up as first-round picks. Luke Joeckel chose to declare, but Jake Matthews chose to return to Aggieland for another year. Joeckel, the Outland Trophy winner this year, will be rewarded as a possible top-five selection -- and possibly No.1 overall.

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Aggies' wave of momentum continues 

December, 12, 2012
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LA PORTE, Texas -- What a busy week it has been for the Texas A&M coaching staff.

[+] EnlargeHoza Scott
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.com2014 linebacker Hoza Scott made it official on Wednesday and committed to Texas A&M.
In the span of seven days, the Aggies have accepted three commitments, all from highly-touted players. On Dec. 6 it was ESPN 150 defensive tackle Justin Manning who pledged. On Monday, the nation's No. 1 athlete and the top player in Texas, Ricky Seals-Jones, jumped on board. On Wednesday, ESPN Watch List outside linebacker Hoza Scott joined the fray, adding strength to the Aggies' 2014 class.

Since the Aggies' season ended on Nov. 24, the hits have just kept on coming. Nick Harvey on Nov. 26. Cameron Clear on Nov. 27. Shaun Nixon on Nov. 29. Ja'Quay Williams on Dec. 2. It seems like every week, or sometimes every couple of days, the Aggies are landing a new prospect.

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Aggies land Watch List LB Hoza Scott

December, 12, 2012
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videoLA PORTE, Texas -- La Porte (Texas) High School linebacker Hoza Scott hasn't been secretive about the school he likes the most and where his future lies. From the moment he stepped onto the Texas A&M campus in July for the Texas state 7-on-7 championships wearing an A&M snapback, the Aggies were the team to beat. He has been all but committed to Texas A&M for some time now.

[+] EnlargeHoza Scott
Sam Khan Jr./ESPN.comClass of 2014 linebacker Hoza Scott feels comfortable at Texas A&M.
On Wednesday at Bulldog Stadium the ESPN Watch List linebacker made it official, announcing his intentions to join the Aggies' 2014 recruiting class.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound prospect is one of the most coveted 2014 prospects in Texas. In addition to Texas A&M, he held offers from Alabama, LSU and Texas. The Longhorns were his No. 2 with LSU as his No. 3 since this summer and that hasn't changed.

The letters come to La Porte's field house in droves and Scott now leaves every couple of days with shoeboxes full of letters from schools across the country, but his heart has been set on Texas A&M for awhile.

Recruited by Texas A&M recruiting coordinator and running backs coach Clarence McKinney, Scott said he loves the atmosphere in College Station, Texas.

"They have the best community ever out there," he said after La Porte's season finale, a playoff loss to Katy (Texas) High School on Dec. 1. "And when I walk around there, everybody around there knows me. They say, 'Hey Hoza,' this and that. It makes me feel good. And it's close to home."

Scott, whose first name is pronounced like "Jose," said his relationship with McKinney was also a big reason for his comfort level. McKinney made an impression this season when showed up in a maroon helicopter, just the way McKinney and head coach Kevin Sumlin did for Ricky Seals-Jones, to watch Scott play against Houston North Shore on Nov. 2.

"[My relationship with him] has meant a lot," Scott said. "He's a real cool guy, he's chill, he knows how to make you laugh. He's just cool to be around."

Scott is the fifth commitment in the 2014 class for the Aggies, joining Cedric Collins, Nick Harvey, Shaun Nixon and Josh Walker. Scott is the fourth ESPN Watch List member to commit to the Aggies.

He projects as an outside linebacker but said that the Aggies are open to the possibility of playing him inside linebacker.

Top 5 moments: The bobbled TD pass

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Johnny ManzielJohn David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel grabbed the nation's attention against Alabama.
GigEmNation is counting down the top five moments of Texas A&M’s 2012 season this week. No. 3 ...

There were a lot of plays that Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel made this season that made fans and observers drop their jaws. One of those came in the biggest game of the season -- at Alabama.

It went in the box score as a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Swope, but there's a lot more to it than that.

With the Aggies deep in Alabama territory on their second possession of the afternoon and already holding a 7-0 lead, Texas A&M faced a third-and-goal at the 10.

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Aggies add 2014 RB Shaun Nixon 

November, 29, 2012
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Shaun NixonMiller Safrit/ESPN.comESPN Watch List tailback Shaun Nixon is Texas A&M's fourth commitment of the Class of 2014.
Texas A&M's momentum in the 2014 recruiting class continues to build.

The Aggies made their fourth addition to the class on Thursday morning, landing ESPN Watch List running back Shaun Nixon of Austin (Texas) Lake Travis. Nixon confirmed the news to RecruitingNation via text message.

The 5-foot-10, 180-pound running back had five offers in total, with the others coming from Baylor, Clemson, SMU and Texas Tech. He was also receiving interest from TCU, Oklahoma, Alabama and Texas.

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Kameron MilesDamon Sayles/ESPN.comKameron Miles, who committed to Texas A&M on Wednesday, isn't likely to be the only recruit to switch his committment from another school to the Aggies.

Earlier this week, when speaking about the impact the current buzz around Texas A&M's football team after its win over Alabama, head coach Kevin Sumlin uttered a handful of interesting words.

"Our phone is ringing off the hook at this point," he said.

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2014 S John Bonney talks LSU offer 

November, 16, 2012
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Before this season, Houston Lamar safety John Bonney already possessed an offer from his father's alma mater, Houston. This week, the 2014 prospect received one from his mother's, LSU.

[+] EnlargeAlabama defense
AP Photo/Bill Haber2014 safety John Bonney enjoyed his visit to LSU for the Alabama game.
The six-foot, 175-pound rising star got the news of the LSU offer on Thursday from his head coach at Lamar, Tom Nolen. It was met with excitement from Bonney, who came into the season with offers from Baylor, Houston and SMU.

"I was kind of surprised at first," Bonney said. "I didn't expect anything coming but it was pretty good and I was happy. It's great."

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Film review: Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 

November, 12, 2012
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Johnny ManzielJohn David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel's ability to improvise and keep plays alive keeps Aggies receivers on alert.

Texas A&M pulled out a thrilling 29-24 win over then-No. 1 Alabama on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It took a complete effort, and the Aggies were effective on both sides of the ball. Here are three examples of notable plays where the Aggies' shined:

Situation: Texas A&M ball, third-and-goal at the Alabama 10 (8:09 left, first quarter)
Score: Texas A&M 7, Alabama 0

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Grantland: All Hail Johnny Football

November, 12, 2012
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Texas A&M redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has been the subject of high praise throughout the season but particularly of late in the aftermath of the Aggies' 29-24 win over then-No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Grantland.com's Michael Weinreb takes a look back at the memorable Saturday win for Texas A&M and the quarterback they call "Johnny Football."

Read the full story in Grantland
Texas A&M's upset win over No. 1 Alabama sent shockwaves through the Southeastern Conference and the college football landscape.

For the Aggies to make their first-ever trip Bryant-Denny Stadium and defeat the favored, defending BCS champions sent a statement to the rest of the league that the Aggies are not here to be a doormat.

Ed Paris
William Wilkerson/ESPN.comEd Paris, a 2014 CB prospect, was impressed with A&M's win over Alabama, but knows it can't be the only thing affecting his decision.
The impact of the 29-24 victory wasn't just felt on the field for Texas A&M, it also caught the attention of recruits everywhere.

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Weekend Rewind: Texas A&M 

November, 12, 2012
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Texas A&M's upset win over then-No. 1-ranked Alabama didn't just resonate in the polls and among pundits and observers nationwide, it also caught the attention of recruits.

The Aggies already had begun to turn heads with the way they fared in their first season playing in the Southeastern Conference, but beating the defending BCS champions was another matter entirely.

"Yeah, it surprised me a lot," 2014 ESPN Watch List cornerback Ed Paris said. "When you hear Alabama's name, you think about them being No. 1 in the nation, an all-around unstoppable team, and as for A&M, first year in the SEC, to beat Alabama was impressive. It was very impressive. It was an all-around great game."

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Johnny ManzielJohn David Mercer/US PresswireJohnny Manziel stunned the college football world as he led the Aggies past Alabama.
Texas A&M did what many thought they couldn't, going into Tuscaloosa, Ala., and stunning the nation's No. 1-ranked team by pulling out a 29-24 victory over Alabama on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. It was a game with a lot of twist, turns and thrills for both squads. Let's see the good and the bad for the No. 15 Aggies in their win:

THREE UP

1. Johnny Manziel: The redshirt freshman quarterback might have just thrown himself fully into the Heisman Trophy race with his performance. He finished 24-of-31 passing for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. On the ground, he had 92 yards on 18 carries and even showed the speed necessary to get away from the Crimson Tide's vaunted defense on occasion. He also made some big-time throws from the pocket.

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Down goes No. 1.

The defending BCS champions and the nation's top-ranked team, the Alabama Crimson Tide were upset by No. 15 Texas A&M 29-24 on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

The Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 lead behind their high-powered, up-tempo offense and a strong defensive start and hung on in the second half, never relinquishing the lead even when it appeared the Crimson Tide were on the verge of going ahead. Let's take a look at the high points from the thriller:

It was over when: Alabama linebacker Tyler Hayes committed a neutral-zone infraction when the Aggies were lining up to punt it away to the Crimson Tide with 40 seconds left. The penalty gave Texas A&M a first down and the Aggies took a knee to seal the win, as the Crimson Tide had no timeouts to stop the clock.

Game ball goes to: Johnny Manziel. Really, you could give it to a lot of guys (the Aggies' offensive line, senior receiver Ryan Swope and the defense made some big plays) but Manziel is the straw that stirred Texas A&M's drink -- and has all season. He finished 24-of-31 passing for 253 yards, 2 touchdowns and, most importantly, zero interceptions. He also made plays with his feet, rushing for 92 yards on 18 carries (he has now surpassed 1,000 rushing yards on the season). He took care of the ball, made good throws, extended plays and played about as well as you can expect a redshirt freshman to in that environment.

Key stat: 3-0. The turnover margin. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw two interceptions, including one on the Crimson Tide's final offensive drive, and the Tide also fumbled once when T.J. Yeldon coughed it up at the Aggies' 38, killing a potential scoring drive. The Aggies scored on the ensuing drive to take a 29-17 lead. The Aggies' loss to LSU on Oct. 29 was marred by five turnovers. This time, they flipped the script.

Key play: Sophomore cornerback Deshazor Everett's interception with 1:36 to go. On fourth-and-goal from the 2 and needing a touchdown, McCarron tried to hit receiver Kenny Bell on a short out route near the pylon, but Everett stepped in front of Bell and intercepted the pass to get the ball back for the Aggies and kill the Crimson Tide's drive.

What it means: The Crimson Tide's (9-1, 6-1 SEC) BCS Championship Game hopes took a huge hit with this loss. Three teams -- Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame -- could remain undefeated after their games on Saturday night and jump Alabama in the BCS standings. And on the flip side: Welcome to the SEC, Texas A&M. Many wondered whether the Aggies could compete in the SEC when they made the move to the country's premier football league. Not only have the Aggies (8-2, 5-2) shown they can compete, they've shown they can beat the best teams the league has to offer. Kevin Sumlin has this team peaking, and it could jump into the top 10 with this win. It's definitely a new era in College Station, Texas.

And this could also be a formal introduction into the Heisman Trophy race for Manziel.

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