The conversation around Texas A&M was one of the hot topics of the offseason. Many were questioning whether Texas A&M was closing the gap on Alabama after the Aggies finished 9-1 in 2020, with its only loss coming to a Crimson Tide team that finished as the undefeated national champions. As the two prepare to meet on Saturday night, however, the question is no longer whether Texas A&M has closed the gap; rather, it's whether No. 1 Alabama has increased it.
A Texas A&M offense billed as more dynamic than last year's unit has flopped since an early-season injury to starting quarterback Haynes King, and the Aggies' vaunted defense now has little help. That's not exactly a recipe for success as the Crimson Tide rolls into town fresh off an authoritative 42-21 victory over Ole Miss last week.
The Aggies are dealing with consecutive SEC West losses following a 26-22 home defeat against Mississippi State and are at risk of beginning SEC play 0-3. That would have been unthinkable just weeks ago as coach Jimbo Fisher entered his fourth season, pledging to defeat Alabama and coach Nick Saban at some point. Now, as the two prepare to tangle, it looks like only a miracle will keep Saban from running his record against his former assistants to 25-0.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M: Need to know
A test for Alabama's offense: This will be the best defense that Alabama has faced since it narrowly escaped Florida with a 31-29 win on Sept. 18. In that game, the Alabama offense exploded for three touchdowns on its first three possessions before slowing down, allowing the Gators to get back in the game. Florida gave itself a chance by forcing the Crimson Tide to punt on three consecutive series in the second quarter. Keeping the Crimson Tide at bay for extended periods is nearly impossible, but Mississippi State is the only team to score more than two touchdowns on Texas A&M yet this season.
Aggies floundering offensively: The most obvious difference between this SEC road game and Alabama's win over Florida is the caliber of the opposing offense. Florida's defense got off the field in the second quarter and handed the football over to an offense that ranks first nationally in yards per rush this season. The Gators found holes in Alabama's defense with creative play-calling and quality offensive line play. Texas A&M's 5.2 yards per carry is solid, but the Aggies don't have a mobile quarterback like Florida and don't have a passing attack that Alabama will have to respect. A few three-and-outs for the Texas A&M offense could force the Aggies' defense into tough spots and allow Alabama to take control.
Injury woes: Alabama got some bad news in the wake of its win over Ole Miss. Sophomore running back Jase McClellan will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury he suffered in the fourth quarter of that game. But the Crimson Tide have enough backs in the stable to cope with his loss. The injuries that Texas A&M announced this week appear far more crippling. Cornerbacks Myles Jones and Brian George will miss the rest of the season, as will center Luke Matthews. Jones has played sparingly after a strong 2020 campaign, but George had been a mainstay in the Aggies' secondary until he was injured against Arkansas. Matthews was expected to be the team's starting center after missing the 2020 season but had played limited snaps this season. Those injuries, along with the injury to King at quarterback and issues with the team's receiver depth, are putting the Aggies' depth the test.
How to watch Alabama vs. Texas A&M live
Alabama vs. Texas A&M prediction, picks
This will be the best defense Alabama has faced since playing Florida, but the Aggies' inability to move the football on offense will give the Crimson Tide far more cracks offensively. Expect the Aggies' defense to bend without breaking for a bit before the floodgates open in the third quarter. Prediction: Alabama (-17.5)
Which college football picks can you make with confidence in Week 6, and which national title contender will go down hard? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $3,400 in profit over the past five-plus seasons -- and find out.