Can Texas A&M beat the Crimson Tide two years in a row?
Texas A&M travels to No. 1 Alabama in the next chapter of the SEC West rivalry at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday.
Game time is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET, and it will be televised on CBS. This matchup was highly anticipated coming into the season given the offseason feud between Alabama coach Nick Saban and Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher.
Alabama (5-0) will monitor the status of Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who suffered an AC joint injury in last week’s 49-26 victory against Arkansas. Nick Saban said Monday Young was day-to-day and it was not a long-term injury. Backup quarterback Jalen Milroe filled in well in Young’s place, and running back Jahmyr Gibbs had a breakout performance with 206 rushing yards.
Texas A&M (3-2) is coming off a disappointing 42-24 loss to No. 23 Mississippi State. The Aggies continue to struggle on offense, and it’s on LSU transfer Max Johnson to try to keep pace against the Crimson Tide. Texas A&M did beat Alabama 41-38 last season, so it’s not an impossible task.
Here is everything you need to know about Saturday’s matchup between Alabama and Texas A&M:
Alabama vs. Arkansas odds
Spread: Alabama -24
Moneyline: Alabama -3500, Texas A&M +1400 (Caesars Sportsbook)
This line dropped a half point from its open, which suggests a little more action than expected on the Aggies. Four of Texas A&M’s five games have hit the under this season, too.
Three trends to know
— Alabama has won 16 straight home games, and they are 13-3 ATS in those games. The Crimson Tide is 4-1 ATS this season, and three of those games had spreads of 40 or more points.
— Saban and Fisher have met four times since Fisher took over at Texas A&M. The Aggies won last year, but the Crimson Tide won the other three meetings by an average of 23 points per game.
— Texas A&M has a decent track record on the road under Fisher for bettors. The Aggies are 13-8 ATS in those games, but they are 9-12 straight up. The downside? Alabama has won the last four meetings between the teams at Bryant-Denny Stadium by an average of 32.8 points per game.
Three things to watch
— Bryce Young’s shoulder. Saban said Young was “day to day,” but there is a good chance Young returns for this game. Young passed for 369 yards and three TDs in last year’s loss to the Aggies, and the offense was working before he exited against the Razorbacks. Texas A&M allows 188.4 passing yards per game and has a talented secondary, but Jardin Gilbert has the only interception through five games. If Texas A&M cannot create turnovers, then it’s going to be a long game no matter who is at quarterback.
— Max Johnson channels Zach Calzada. Unbelievable sentence, right? Calzada passed for 285 yards, three TDs and one interception in last year’s upset. The key to that was the protection, which prevented the Crimson Tide from getting a sack. Will Anderson had six tackles in that game. Johnson (517 yards, 3 TDs, 0 INTs) has done a good job of not making the big mistake, but he has taken 10 sacks the last three weeks. Anderson has five of Alabama’s 15 sacks this season.
— Jahmyr Gibbs. Young’s injury allowed for a long-awaited breakout for Gibbs, who scored on runs of 72 and 76 yards in the fourth quarter to put the Razorbacks away. Gibbs has 378 rushing yards and 207 receiving yards, and he averages 9.4 yards per offensive touch. Will Texas A&M shadow Gibbs with safety Antonio Johnson, who leads the Aggies with 46 total tackles through five games? This is a fun matchup within the matchup.
Stat that matters
The Crimson Tide rank second in the FBS in third-down percentage on defense. Teams are converting at a 21.1% rate, and Texas A&M has converted 35.2% of their third downs. That number needs to go way up. Remember the legendary Johnny Manziel-led upset at Bryant-Stadium in 2012. The Aggies were 11 of 18 on third down in that game – a conversion rate of 61.1%. To keep this one close, the Aggies are going to have to be money on third down.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M prediction
So much will be made of the back-and-forth between Saban and Fisher, but that goes out the window at kickoff. Texas A&M faces a challenge keeping the Alabama offense in front considering the Crimson Tide have averaged eight yards per play or more since the 20-19 victory at Texas. If Young plays, then offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien may opt for the short passing game early, and Gibbs will be active in the screen game. You cannot make it a four-quarter game unless you take Alabama’s first punch, and the Crimson Tide has outscored opponents 83-6 in the first quarter. We’ll see if Texas A&M can absorb that real quick.
Final score: Alabama 42, Texas A&M 19