Yes, you read that title correctly, Alabama has won eight straight games in football against the Texas A&M Aggies.
It’s been nine years since Johnny Manziel had a circus-like performance to beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa 29-24. However, since then it has been all Alabama, and the team in crimson will be looking to keep that up this year.
Alabama comes into today’s matchup ranked first in the nation, while Texas A&M is unranked for the first time this season. At one point, this was thought to be the matchup of the season in the SEC, but after the Aggies’ loss to Arkansas and a struggling Mississippi State team, this looks less and less like a marquee matchup.
This segues nicely into the first key of Bama getting their ninth-straight W over the Aggies, and what it will take to avoid any kind of upset by a former Saban assistant.
Taking an unranked TAMU team seriously
A massive preseason talking point was whether or not Jimbo Fisher was going to be able to be the first assistant to defeat Nick Saban and the mighty Tide.
However, that narrative holds very little water now that Texas A&M has struggled and lost the number before their name.
As usual, Saban doesn’t feel that way. He wants his players to avoid the “rat poison” about Texas A&M being an easy win for them. Saban even discussed the matter on his weekly “Hey Coach Show” this Thursday.
On the upcoming game Saban said, “I think this is a dangerous team. I think this is a little bit of a trap game for us.”
He may be using “coach speak,” or he may know that this team is not experienced enough to let down against a good team. Sure, the Tide will be able to easily handle the Aggies if they can play up to their standard. Yet, if they come out flat and unprepared, then they will be in for a dogfight in College Station.
Saban clearly just wants to let his team know that if they play around this week during practice they could be in line for an upset. Keeping up with the trend of this season, Saban is still a bit worried about his players’ focus during the early season.
Fourth quarter focus
Speaking of focus, Bama has had it every game so far this season for the beginning of their games. However, when they have gone up big on a team, they seem to want to coast through the rest of the game.
Any other team can get away with this, but Saban isn’t going to have it on his team. That is why he and Alabama are the best to have ever done it.
In most games this year other than Florida, finishing the fourth quarter hasn’t put the Tide at any risk of losing the game. However, if Alabama doesn’t follow the first key to this game, the game could come down to the fourth quarter against a capable opponent.
The second to last thing Alabama wants to do is dominate 12th-ranked Ole Miss one week just to get in a boxing match with an unranked Texas A&M. The last thing is getting into that boxing match and not being able to finish in the fourth quarter.
Will Alabama even be put in this predicament? Probably not, but if they do, their focus and intensity have to kick up several notches in the fourth quarter compared to the first five games of the season.
This sounds like an obvious one, but in an increasingly more pass-heavy league, teams aren’t focusing on the run as they did in the past.
SEC defenses are now riddled with fast and fit defensive linemen who can rush the passer as well as stop perimeter runs on the outside such as sweeps. The less time a quarterback has to throw, the better protection downfield can play.
Imagine a linebacker that can cover a wide receiver man-to-man if need be but still stop the run. Most teams do not have two of those guys. So, you are slowly getting away from strictly run-stopping defenses.
It should be mentioned that Alabama is one of the few teams that does have the talent for a player like that, but nobody is there at this point in the season.
Aggies running back Isaiah Spiller was projected to be the best back in the SEC this year and has now transitioned into one of the most underrated backs instead. Spiller is averaging 6.5 yards-per-carry this season and is almost halfway to a thousand-yard season.
Tide defensive coordinator Pete Goulding has improved the his defense so much this season that it is hard to be worried about anything on that side of the ball. However, it is worth mentioning that just one or two big breakout runs could shift momentum in a hostile environment.
Spiller could be the guy that gets the 12th Man rocking this weekend, and Alabama will need to do everything in their power to reduce his opportunities.
With Haynes King still out for TAMU, Zach Calzada will start again at quarterback. Nicely put, Bama shouldn’t have to worry about any air-raid magic this year.
Alabama kicks off at Texas A&M Saturday at 7:00 p.m. on CBS.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football and college basketball writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: Hayden@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.