Bama has 'different' tough test

photo Alabama's head coach Nick Saban walks the sideline.

TIDE, TAKE THREEThree tidbits regarding top-ranked Alabama entering this week's home game against No. 15 Texas A&M:1. Alabama is 3-1 all-time against Texas A&M, but the teams haven't met since the Crimson Tide rolled to a 30-10 win at College Station in 1988.2. With a victory this Saturday, the Tide would clinch a fifth consecutive 10-win season and the 32nd in program history. Only Oklahoma has more with 33.3. By rushing for 166 yards at LSU this past weekend, Alabama improved to 46-0 since the start of the 2008 season in games in which it has rushed for at least 150 yards.

Imagine a Southeastern Conference football team so dominant it could travel to Auburn and Mississippi State and build a combined 66-7 halftime lead.

Only No. 1 Alabama could do such damage, right?

Actually, it's Alabama's opponent this week at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the 15th-ranked Texas A&M Aggies. After embarrassing Auburn 63-21 on Oct. 27, the Aggies continued their impressive run under first-year coach Kevin Sumlin last Saturday by routing Mississippi State 38-13.

The star of Texas A&M's show has been redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, who completed 30 of 36 passes for 311 yards against the Bulldogs and rushed 21 times for 129 yards. Manziel threw for 290 yards and rushed for 90 at Auburn despite playing one series into the third quarter.

"There have been a number of plays he's made over the course of the year, and some of them were improvised and some of them were called," Sumlin said. "Obviously he has the green light a lot of times to take off, and what you're seeing is our team really, really adjusting to him with some of the downfield blocking that is occurring when he gets loose and with guys working to get open.

"We're all playing with a lot of confidence now, and in order to be successful on the road and start the way we've started the last couple of weeks, that confidence level has got to be high."

Sumlin insists the preparation for Alabama will be no different this week. Texas A&M's only losses in its surprising 7-2 season have been to No. 7 Florida (20-17) and to No. 9 LSU (24-19), games in which the Aggies failed to hold double-digit leads.

Alabama, meanwhile, is having to move quickly past last Saturday's 21-17 thrilling victory at LSU.

"This is a very, very good team with a totally different presentation in terms of what we have to defend and what we have to play against offensively," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said of A&M. "It's going to take a lot of good focus and preparation on our part to come out and play a good game."

Saban said the LSU game was "the worst we've played on defense all year by far." The Crimson Tide surrendered 435 yards to the Tigers and now face a team averaging 559.6 yards and 44.7 points a contest, numbers that top the Southeastern Conference.

Manziel, a 6-foot-1, 200-pounder from Kerrville, Texas, leads the SEC with 102.4 rushing yards a game and is second nationally in total offense with 383.2 yards a game.

"We're very fortunate to have a quarterback like him," Aggies tailback Ben Malena said, "because the play is never over."

Manziel has completed 203 of 305 passes this season (66.6 percent) for 2,527 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He is 78 yards shy of a 1,000-yard rushing season, having averaged 6.7 yards a carry.

Alabama will be the third top-five defense Manziel has faced. He struggled against the first two, being held to 32 passing yards and 19 rushing yards in the second half against Florida and throwing three interceptions against LSU.

"I've been around longer than most, and most of our players can't relate to this, but this guy reminds me of Doug Flutie," Saban said. "He was a really good player and a really good competitor, and that's who this guy reminds me of. This guy is not great and big in stature or anything like that, but he's extremely quick and extremely instinctive, and he has a unique ability to extend plays and seems to know when to take off and run it."

Tide tidbits

Eddie Lacy tweaked his ankle at LSU, but Saban said the junior tailback should practice today and be fine by Saturday. ... Backup quarterback Blake Sims will be emulating Manziel some this week in practice. ... Alabama's game next week against visiting Western Carolina will be televised by the SEC Network with a 12:21 p.m. EST kickoff. ... Saban had a relapse to his LSU coaching days Monday when he said, "We're looking forward to being at home and playing in Tiger Stadium." ... Sophomore linebacker Adrian Hubbard was named SEC defensive player of the week after amassing 12 tackles and 2.5 tackles for loss against the Tigers.

Contact David Paschall at or 423-757-6524.