Alabama is set to take the road for its second SEC trip of the season. This time, it’s College Station. Here’s a look at a few things we’ll be watching in this one.
WHAT: Alabama at Texas A&M
WHEN: 7 p.m. CT Saturday
WHERE: Kyle Field, College Station Texas
SERIES: Alabama leads, 11-2
LINE: Alabama by 17 1/2
THIS GAME WILL DETERMINE
What was expected to be one of the biggest games in the SEC in the preseason lost some luster when the Aggies lost the last two games to Arkansas and Mississippi State. Still, this is a night game in a hostile environment against one of the best defenses in the nation in terms of points scored. It will show how composed this young Alabama team will be in a place that has seen some sloppy play in year’s past.
THREE THINGS TO LOOK FOR
1. Running back depth
This will be the first full game without injured Alabama RB Jase McClellan and his versatility will be missed. The No. 2 behind Brian Robinson was a major safety valve for Bryce Young in the passing game, taking three of his nine receptions for touchdowns. It will be interesting to see the carry distribution between Bryce Young and new No. 2, Roydell Williams. Robinson had 36 of the 45 running back carries against Ole Miss after McClellan was injured on his sixth run of the day. There had been more balance this year after Najee Harris got the vast majority of the runs the past few years so it’ll be interesting to see how this breaks down moving forward.
2. Linebacker depth
The hand injury likely to sideline starting outside linebacker Drew Sanders presents another issue at that position. Sanders was already a replacement starter for Christopher Allen, already out for the season, so the Tide will again tap the reserves it built at that position. A pair of former five-star recruits are next up in sophomore Chris Braswell and freshman Dallas Turner. Sanders brought a high motor to the position since taking Allen’s place and made a few big plays including forcing an interception at Florida so there will be a high burden with a few highly regarded young players stepping into his shoes.
3. Handling the crowd noise
Few environments get as loud as Kyle Field but Alabama’s already played in one on that list. They battled the noise and a few times it got the better of the Tide offense in Week 3 at Florida so they learned a few lessons that should help Saturday night. Alabama offensive lineman Chris Owens said they’ve been practicing with fewer verbal play calls and more hand signaling after having sound-related trouble at The Swamp. Alabama was called for five false-start penalties and had one delay of game with noise being a significant contributing factor in those flags.
Alabama defense vs. TE Jalen Wydermyer. The Aggies are known for their tight end play and Wydermyer fits that mold. He’s a mismatch in the passing game as Alabama learned last season. The tight end had a team-high eight catches in a loss in Bryant-Denny Stadium with 82 yards. He sits 117 yards behind the Texas A&M tight end record held by Martellus Bennett (1,246). Wydermyer already has the record with 13 touchdowns by a tight end and is 10th overall. Alabama struggled to cover the tight ends against Florida and Southern Miss and Wydermyer figures to be the most talented of the group.
BY THE NUMBERS
859 — consecutive football minutes that Alabama’s not trailed in a game. The last time the Tide wasn’t leading was the third quarter of last year’s Oct. 17 game against Georgia. A 90-yard touchdown pass from Mac Jones to Jaylen Waddle put the Tide ahead and haven’t been behind since.
TEXAS A&M PLAYER TO WATCH
Isaiah Spiller, running back: The veteran back has three 100-yard games in the first five weeks of the season as the most consistent performer on the Aggie offense. He showed big-play speed in a 67-yard touchdown run against Arkansas. A year ago, he averaged 112.6 yards a game in the eight-game winning streak that followed a loss at Alabama. He managed just 25 rushing yards on 11 attempts in the 52-24 Week 2 loss in Tuscaloosa before hitting another gear. Spiller is also a threat in the passing game with 13 catches for 106 yards through five games this season.