No. 1 Alabama plays host to Texas A&M on Saturday in an primetime matchup for the SEC on CBS Game of the Week that's been circled on the calendars of college football fans since the offseason. While one of the storylines will be whether the Crimson Tide can avenge last year's stunning loss, most of the intrigue surrounding this game stems from the offseason issues between Nick Saban and Jimbo Fisher.
First, Texas A&M upended Alabama 41-38 in College Station, Texas, last season, marking the first time that Saban had lost to a former assistant. Then, Fisher and his staffed secured a recruiting class that not only ranked No. 1 in the country, but rated as the best class in the history of the recruiting ranking industry. Saban would go on to make a public comment regarding the influence of NIL on Texas A&M's recruiting success, sparking a fiery response from Fisher in a press conference -- and eventually a public reprimand from SEC commissioner Greg Sankey for both coaches for their "derogatory comments and public criticism" of another program.
The first half of the season may not have unfolded to the preseason expectations with two top-10 teams clashing in the Saban-Fisher rematch, but the intensity of this modern SEC rivalry does need national rankings to provide intrigue. Alabama is both putting its No. 1 ranking on the line and seeking revenge for last year's loss in the same setting; Jimbo and the Aggies are here to play spoiler on one of the game's biggest stages, the SEC on CBS in primetime.
Follow No. 1 Alabama vs. Texas A&M LIVE
How to watch Alabama vs. Texas A&M live
Date: Saturday, Oct. 8 | Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama
TV: CBS | Live stream: CBSSports.com, CBS Sports App (Free)
Alabama vs. Texas A&M: Need to know
Bryce Young is dealing with a shoulder injury: The biggest on-field headline heading into Saturday's matchup is the status of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was knocked out of last week's win at Arkansas with a shoulder injury, and is going to a game-time decision as he works his way back into full health. He was replaced in the game by redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe, and after a rocky third quarter the offense leaned heavily on the run game to pull away from Arkansas in the fourth quarter. If Young can't go, or is limited, the expectation will be that running back Jahmyr Gibbs will lead a ground-heavy approach against the Aggies after the former Georgia Tech transfer totaled 206 yards and two long touchdown runs in the win against the Razorbacks.
Devon Achane is the lone bright spot for the Aggies offense: The junior running back does it all for Texas A&M. He's the SEC's third-leading rusher, averaging 92.3 yards per game, while also leading all Power Five specialists in kickoff return average with 34.25 yards per return. But outside of Achane, it's been tough for Texas A&M to find consistency, going through a change at quarterback from Haynes King to Max Johnson and losing top wide receiver Ainias Smith to an injury two weeks ago in the win against Arkansas. The result of those setbacks is a Texas A&M offense that ranks last in the SEC, averaging 335.6 yards per game, and No. 108 nationally at 21.8 points per game. Beating Alabama will require another stellar performance from Achane, but it will also need a strong showing from the supporting cast as well.
The next chapter in Saban vs. former assistants: Last season was notable for Fisher handing Saban his first loss to a former assistant, but Kirby Smart piled on when he got his first win against Saban in the College Football Playoff National Championship. But while these two losses each held plenty of significance, Saban remains dominant over time against his former assistants since arriving at Alabama with a 26-2 record that dates back to beating Derek Dooley in 2010 and was most recently improved by beating Steve Sarkisian and Texas earlier this season. Fisher gets to claim one of those two losses for Saban, but he's also on the other end of four Alabama wins (three at Texas A&M, one at Florida State), so there's still a notable advantage in this modern coaching rivalry.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M prediction, picks
Texas A&M may have one of the 10 worst scoring offenses at the Power Five level, but I have to believe that the same head coach who put Zach Calzada in a position to succeed against a solid Alabama defense will be able to get more than 13 or 14 points attributed to the Aggies in the implied score of this point spread and total -- 38-14 based on Alabama-24 and an over-under of 51.5. Additionally, I think that Alabama -- with or without Bryce Young -- is going to hang at least 40 in this game. It might be a sweat, but I think the series trends back up a higher scoring game when these two meet. Prediction: Over 51.5
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