Could Alabama’s next task be as challenging as the last one?
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
The top-ranked Crimson Tide overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to win 21-17 at No. 5 LSU in a thriller last weekend. On paper, this week shouldn’t be as trying, with No. 15 Texas A&M visiting Tuscaloosa.
But the Aggies, 7-2, are one of the nation’s surprise teams with their losses coming to Florida and LSU by a combined eight points. Last week, A&M visited Mississippi State and defeated the Bulldogs 38-13.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel has evolved into one of the nation’s most dynamic players and ranks second nationally in total offense, accounting for a combined 383 passing and rushing yards per game.
Throw in the hangover factor for Alabama, and that’s why Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban got questions about the dangers associated with this game on the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference Wednesday.
“I told our players after the (LSU) game that this game is going to bring out the best in you or the worst in you,” Saban said. “We got a big win in a difficult place to play. We didn’t play maybe the best we could in terms of execution, but we overcame a lot of adversity. Now we have to focus on doing things better against a good team this week.”
Texas A&M’s record is their best after nine games since 2006, and the Aggies, 4-2 in SEC play, have a chance to post a winning record in conference play for only the second time in six years.
Manziel succeeded Ryan Tannehill, who was the No. 8 overall pick in last summer’s NFL Draft, but he has brought high energy to the offense which is by far the most productive in the SEC at 559.56 yards per game. The attack impressed Florida coach Will Muschamp, whose Gators scored a come-from-behind 20-17 victory at College Station in the Aggies’ opener.
“They spread you out, and if you can’t tackle in space you’ll be in trouble,” Muschamp said.
But Alabama’s defense has met the challenge all season.
“They’re big, they’re physical and they can run,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said of the Crimson Tide. “It is an elite defense.”
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.