Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports. Pictuerd: Jerry Jeudy
- Alabama is blowing teams out at a historic rate, and oddsmakers can't set their betting lines high enough.
- Does that offer some value on Texas A&M this weekend, or will the Tide continue their run of dominance?
- Former Alabama offensive lineman Mike Johnson dives in and makes his pick for Saturday's showdown.
Is it just me, or do the headlines leading into Alabama-Texas A&M look the same every year?
“A young, stud quarterback will lead the upset-minded Texas A&M Aggies into battle against a star-studded Crimson Tide” seems like a sentence that any writer in Tuscaloosa should keep on standby.
Sometimes those upset-minded Aggies do a great job of keeping it close (2017). Sometimes they even pull it off (2012).
But sometimes, things can go downhill in a hurry when you show up at Bryant-Denny and don’t bring your A game (59-0, 2014).
What brand of Aggie football will we see this Saturday in Tuscaloosa? Let’s dive in.
How Good Is Texas A&M’s Offense?
They’re fifth in the nation in total offense with 596 yards per game and have the SEC’s leading rusher averaging 133 yards per game. No, this is not the Alabama Crimson Tide we know and love. It’s the Aggies of Texas A&M.
Running back Trayveon Williams has looked electric so far this season against Group of 5 opponents, rattling off 240 yards against Northwestern State and 128 against Louisiana-Monroe but could not muster much offense against Clemson’s fantastic front four.
But quarterback Kellen Mond had his best game when the lights were the brightest, against a stout Clemson defense when Williams and the running game could not provide much help.
Not only did Mond put the Clemson defense on its heels, throwing for 430 yards and three touchdowns, but he also put the SEC on notice.
This Texas A&M offense can be really good. Wide receivers Jhamon Ausbon and Camron Buckley have stepped into the huge shoes left by Aggie great Christian Kirk, and Jimbo Fisher has even added to the attack by bringing in stud tight end in Jace Sternberger, a guy Bama fans would almost undoubtedly love if he was wearing crimson.
This seems like a place usually reserved for writers to say “they should have some offensive success, they have too many weapons not to.” But if that is what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the wrong place.
Never Doubt Saban’s Defense
I learned a tough, hard lesson last weekend watching Bama take on Ole Miss: Never doubt a Nick Saban-coached defense. Patrick Surtain stepped in and looked like a future All-American at corner, while Deionte Thompson has played safety at a level that would make Minkah Fitzpatrick blush.
Oh and let’s not forget Quinnen Williams and Raekwon Davis. They’ll be taking on an Aggies offensive line that could be short-handed this weekend following a knee injury to starting center Erik McCoy a week ago and the DUI arrest of his backup Ryan McCollum.
Will Tua Have to Play 4 Quarters?
Bama has had little problem moving the ball with the first-string offense. Heading into the season, it seemed like it would be next to impossible for Tua Tagovailoa to even come close to living up to the lofty hype that surrounded him following the national title game. As it turns out, the hype machine is real.
Through three games, Tagovailoa has been next to unstoppable. A stat line that features 646 passing yards and an 8/0 touchdown to interception ratio seems like it would be extremely impressive for any other player in the country in his first season as a starting quarterback.
But, with Tua having thrown a grand total of zero fourth-quarter passes this season, a stat line such as that one doesn’t seem to quite tell the whole story.
The rushing offense at Bama, a place where we have seen legendary seasons under Saban, seems like it has become an afterthought in the Mike Locksley offense.
But don’t fool yourself, Saban knows what he is doing in saving Damien Harris and Najee Harris for just the right time (will he need them, though?)
Texas A&M’s defense looks like a somewhat solid unit after years of the “soft” label being thrown around in College Station. Mike Elko was paid huge money to leave South Bend to come coach an A&M defense in deep need of an overhaul, and he’s made improvements through three weeks.
Oddsmakers Can’t Make Alabama Lines High Enough
So where will the story of this game be told? Is this yet another matchup between Saban and a former assistant coach? Or is Jimbo Fisher ready to stake his claim to a small piece of the SEC West?
Last week, I stayed away from the line. Laying 21 points against an Ole Miss team that had scored at will just sounded like something I didn’t want any part of. I was proven wrong.
My advice to the gamblers out there: Ride the wave. I know at some point someone will catch this Bama team off guard and put up a little more of a fight.
I’m just not sure how that’s going to happen as of now. You’re going to need a very good and physical front seven and an extremely deep and talented secondary. Texas A&M may have those things, but I’m not betting my money on them this weekend, especially not in Tuscaloosa.
It hardly seemed as if Vegas oddsmakers could possibly come up with a spread big enough to keep Bama bettors at bay following a dominant first three weeks, but they definitely tried, making the Tide 27-point home favorites.
However, they didn’t do quite enough to keep this Bama bettor from making a pick again this week. The combination of offensive line questions for Texas A&M mixed with the frightening thought (for opposing teams) of Tua actually having to play four quarters makes me want to put the house on the defending champs.
Bama will go up by 21 in the third quarter before Jalen Hurts scores in the fourth to cover the four-touchdown spread.
Like they say in Vegas: the spread is huge, but it’s that way for a reason. The Tide will roll big again this weekend.
Prediction Alabama 42, Texas A&M 14.
The pick: Alabama -27