Alabama facing vastly improved Aggies

Alabama facing vastly improved Aggies

October 13th, 2015 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk (3) breaks the tackle attempt by Mississippi State linebacker J.T. Gray (45) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, in College Station, Texas. (AP Photo/Bob Levey)

Photo by Bob Levey

It was a picture-perfect day and a picture-perfect performance by Alabama's football team.

For Texas A&M, it was the worst of nightmares.

The Crimson Tide and Aggies will meet Saturday afternoon in College Station, a year after Alabama demolished Kevin Sumlin's squad 59-0 in Tuscaloosa. The score was not misleading, as the Crimson Tide racked up 602 yards to Texas A&M's 172 and scored 35 second-quarter points to take a 45-0 halftime lead.

Saturday's showdown will contain two top-10 teams, but has Texas A&M improved enough to withstand Alabama's physical brand?

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, right, pulls in a pass for a touchdown as Arkansas defensive back Henre' Toliver (5) reaches for the ball in overtime of an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. Texas A&M won 28-21. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Texas A&M wide receiver Christian Kirk, right, pulls...

Photo by Tony Gutierrez

Tide, take three

1. Alabama’s win over Arkansas this past Saturday was its 57th straight over an unranked team, a streak that dates back to a loss in the 2007 Iron Bowl.

2. The Crimson Tide lead the series with Texas A&M 5-2, which includes a 1-1 split in Cotton Bowl matchups.

3. Alabama’s defense is forcing an average of 6.83 three-and-outs per game, which is tied for the most nationally.

"We better improve, or else the same thing will happen," Sumlin said last week on the SEC teleconference.

The No. 9 Aggies are 5-0 overall and 2-0 in league play, having topped Arkansas 28-21 in overtime and Mississippi State 30-17. They were off this past weekend while No. 10 Alabama was improving to 5-1 overall and 2-1 within the SEC by downing Arkansas 27-14.

Texas A&M was 5-0 last season before getting thrashed by Mississippi State, Ole Miss and the Tide, but this year's Aggies aren't showing the same deficiencies.

"I thought they had a good team last year, but we just had a crazy game with them where things went right for us and not much went right for them," Saban said Monday in a news conference. "They had a good year last year, and those guys have all gotten better. Kyle Allen became the quarterback last year and has gotten a lot of experience, and their receivers are really, really good. They've got really good skill players, and they're also a lot tougher and sounder in what they're doing."

Joining Texas A&M's offensive mix this season has been heralded receiver Christian Kirk, who leads the SEC with 103.8 yards per game.

Sumlin made an offseason splash by luring LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis to the same position in College Station. It was a transaction that was overshadowed by Auburn hiring former Florida head coach Will Muschamp as its defensive coordinator, but Chavis has produced far more early returns.

"We've all seen and played against John Chavis quite a bit in his years at LSU," Saban said. "Now he's got a lot of good pressures, and he's going to do things to get those guys in one-on-one situations. They're good edge rushers, and they've been very disruptive.

"If we don't block the edges well, we'll have some issues."

The Aggies allowed an average of 28.1 points and 450.8 yards per game last season but are yielding 21.0 and 374.8 through five games in 2015. Their defensive strength a year ago was menacing freshman end Myles Garrett, who had 11.5 sacks, but Garrett already has 7.5 this season, while opposite end Daeshon Hall has 5.0.

Texas A&M leads the SEC with 3.8 sacks per game.

"We've made a lot of improvement in the offseason, and all we've looked at trying to do this year is improve every week," Sumlin said. "We've played three pretty good opponents, a couple of Top 25 teams, and have won those games. We're better, but we'll see where we are.

"When you play Alabama, they can obviously expose you in different ways."

Odds and ends

CBS elected Monday to use a six-day option for Oct. 24, so the network will televise either Tennessee at Alabama or Texas A&M at Ole Miss at 3:30. Whichever game CBS doesn't take will be on ESPN at 7 p.m. Video emerged Monday of Arkansas coach Bret Bielema pretending to be pushed during the second quarter of Saturday night's game by Alabama sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson, who was flagged for a personal foul. Saban had been made aware of the video just before his news conference. Saban had no new injuries to report.

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


Loading...