published Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Alabama's Crimson Tide insists Saturday not about payback

TIDE, TAKE THREE

Three tidbits regarding top-ranked Alabama entering Saturday's game at No. 6 Texas A&M:

• 1. Alabama hasn't visited Texas A&M since defeating the Aggies 30-10 in 1988, which was a matchup that was moved to the end of that season due to hurricane warnings.

• 2. The Crimson Tide have won eight consecutive SEC road games since their 24-21 loss at LSU in 2010.

• 3. Alabama will be trying to stop an Aggies offense that has surpassed 400 yards in 14 consecutive games.

  • photo
    Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper (9) runs for yardage against Virginia Tech in the Crimson Tide's season-opening win in Atlanta on Aug. 31. Cooper and the Tide resume action Saturday at Texas A&M, the only team that beat them last year.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It's not often that Alabama finds itself in an avenging situation, but the Crimson Tide have one this week.

Alabama won college football's national championship for a second straight time last season, but that required recovering from a 29-24 November loss to Texas A&M in Bryant-Denny Stadium. The riveting upset catapulted Aggies quarterback Johnny Manziel to the Heisman Trophy a month later, and it was easily the most monumental triumph of coach Kevin Sumlin's 11-win debut season in the Southeastern Conference.

The two teams square off Saturday afternoon in College Station, with Alabama ranked No. 1 nationally and Texas A&M ranked No. 6.

"It's the only game we lost last year, but to me it's not a revenge game," Alabama receiver Amari Cooper said Monday. "If we wanted to get revenge, we would have to play that same team last year with the same team we had last year. If you lose a fight to someone, you don't get revenge by fighting someone else."

The two quarterbacks from last season's thriller, Manziel and Alabama's AJ McCarron, are back for the rematch, as are players such as Aggies tackle Jake Matthews and Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley. Yet much about this game is different.

While Texas A&M has opened by dismantling Rice and Sam Houston State, the Crimson Tide got an open date after thumping Virginia Tech on Aug. 31. Entering last season's matchup, Alabama was coming off an emotional 21-17 win at LSU in which McCarron led a rapid 72-yard drive that culminated with a 28-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Yeldon with 28 seconds remaining.

When the Aggies came to Tuscaloosa the following week, they took a 20-0 lead in the first quarter and made it hold.

"I don't think that was any excuse for us not playing very well in the beginning of that game and getting behind," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "Players have to be able to understand that you have to play every week in this league against every team that you play. We had a tremendous amount of respect for Texas A&M last year. They were a top-10 team and a very good team.

"You can say that Mississippi State was undefeated when we played them and LSU was really good when we played them, but that's the way it is. You have to be able to take 24 hours, win or lose, and then get ready for that next opponent. Consistency and performance is the key to being successful. You can't be up and down."

McCarron also isn't using the trip to Baton Rouge as an excuse for last year's loss to the Aggies, though he described the win over the Tigers as "exhausting."

No team has defeated Saban's Tide in consecutive matchups with the exception of LSU, which won regular-season meetings in 2010 and '11. That streak ended when Alabama skunked the Tigers 21-0 to win the 2011 BCS championship game.

Saban believes his team put the bye week to good use, and his Tide have more familiarity with the Aggies and their up-tempo offense that is averaging 58.5 points per game.

"From a strategic standpoint, any time you play someone, you learn a little bit about what they did against you," Saban said. "You learn about what you did against them, and you see some of the things that they may do to try and take advantage of that. We have to have the answers for what to do if that happens.

"When you play somebody, you get a little better history of what needs to be done for you to be successful on both sides of the ball."

Alabama is hoping to experience more success against the Aggies this time around, whether that makes Saturday a revenge game or not.

"It's the only team we lost to, so that's about the only different thing," McCarron said. "Other than that, it's just another week."

Tide tidbits

Alabama is 14-3 under Saban when ESPN's "GameDay" is on location, with the losses being to Florida in the 2008 SEC title game, at South Carolina in 2010 and home against LSU in '11. ... Redshirt freshman defensive end Dalvin Tomlinson underwent season-ending knee surgery Friday after suffering the injury in Wednesday's practice. ... Next week's home game against Colorado State will have a 7 p.m. EDT kickoff on either ESPN2 or ESPNU.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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