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Jumbo Package: Tide look to flex their muscles vs. improved Aggies

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. The Tide have yet to be tested this season, and the Aggies are next in line to try. The game starts on CBS at 2:30 CT, but there will be a special on last year’s team an hour earlier.

Your previews:

Given the way Alabama has scorched opponents the first three weeks, it might seem like a reach to pick somebody to cover against that offensive machine. The Aggies, however, also are 3-0 against the spread and have the lost the last three meetings by an average of 15 points per game. Alabama wins 38-14 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.

A&M should definitely be able to cover the spread, as it is hard to imagine the Aggies losing by more than four touchdowns even with how well Alabama has been playing. However, it is also very tough to see A&M topping the Tide. Alabama is too well-oiled in all three phases and playing at home is another intangible that favors the Tide. A&M should give Alabama its most competitive outing to date, but there will be no earth-shattering upset. A strong performance by the Aggies though would re-affirm A&M’s potential to post more than a mediocre year. It’s a long season, and a loss to No. 1 Alabama is not the end of the world for the 2018 Aggies.

Score: Alabama 35, Texas A&M 20

Alabama looks a little different than the Crimson Tide we have seen in the past. This Alabama team has a dynamic offense to go along with its consistently-dominant defense. The Tide are naming the score against everybody. The Aggies are the best team Alabama has played so far, which is evidenced by the scare they put into Clemson in Week 2. However, that was at home in College Station; this SEC West showdown is Texas A&M’s first road trip. Pick: Alabama (-27)

Ross Dellenger picks Alabama: The Crimson Tide last weekend became the first SEC team to score 50 or more points in the first three games of a season. With Tua Tagovailoa operating the offense, Alabama and coach Nick Saban can now outscore opponents, something previous teams could never consistently do. That’s a scary thought, given Saban’s success. Jimbo Fisher is, maybe, ahead of schedule in his rebuilding effort at Texas A&M (he’s got sophomore QB Kellen Mond to partially thank for that), but if the Aggies can keep it close in the second half, that’d be a win.

Conventional wisdom holds that 27 points is a ridiculous number against a solid conference foe that has recruited well and started the season well, dismantling two cupcakes as expected and losing close to the #2 team in the nation.

Of course, then there’s this.

Here’s what we know. Eight of Tagovailoa’s 50 throws this season have gone for touchdowns, which is a reminder he’s only had to throw the ball 50 times in three games because Alabama has had such big leads. He is protected by one of the nation’s best offensive lines. He’s surrounded by a physically gifted group of wide receivers and hands the ball off to perhaps the nation’s most versatile stable of running backs.

Offensively, this certainly seems to be the case. The Aggies have the best roster Alabama has faced to date, but the Tide have won the first three games by an average of 47 points and beat their best opponent thus far by 55 on the road last week. As Rainer Sabin notes, however, Jimbo Fisher is likely to play a different style from the Rebels.

Fisher, a former Saban assistant, isn’t consumed with tempo. In 2017, his final season at Florida State, the Seminoles were the fourth-slowest team in the FBS, according to Football Outsiders’ adjusted pace rankings. The year before, they took an average of 27.8 seconds between snaps, an unusually long period in this day and age.

Yet the time expended served a purpose, allowing Fisher to interchange tight ends, receivers and wideouts to mix up the formations and keep the defense on its heels. In A&M’s surprisingly close 28-26 loss to Clemson on Sept. 8, the Aggies used seven different personnel packages -- running the gamut from a four-receiver set to one with two running backs and a pair of tight ends.

”They’re very multiple in terms of...lots of formations, motions, adjustments,” Saban said.

As I mentioned in the offensive preview, expect Fisher to try and slow this game down a bit. He has given RB Trayveon Williams at least 20 touches in every game and will undoubtedly try and maintain balance against Alabama. While still very stout, the Tide has allowed a bit more on the ground than we are accustomed at 3.23 yards per carry against teams that aren’t particularly adept at running the football. For contrast, the Tide allowed only 2.72 per carry last season, including those against the powerful ground games of Auburn and Georgia. Granted, there has been a lot of garbage time thus far, but it’s still something to watch with Williams running behind an excellent interior line.

At this point, however, it seems foolish to bet against the Tide. With Tua Tagovailoa at QB, they have scored on an absurd 75% of offensive possessions this season. The Aggies are clearly the best defense faced to date, but it’s tough to see them holding the Tide under 40 even practicing some clock management. Odds are that the Aggies move the ball a bit, and they have an excellent kicker. I’ll give the Tide a cover here, but it will be close. Let’s call it 48-19.

As always, that’s just my opinion. Vote and give us your score in the comments.

Some other game notes:

“They’ve opened it up more — they’re throwing more (on earlier downs),” Fisher said of the Crimson Tide’s powerful offense fueled by sophomore quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. “There’s a larger volume of that right now with what they’re doing. Everybody does it on third down, but on first and second downs you’re seeing more of that true drop-back passing game than they did before.”

Ten different receivers have caught passes for the Crimson Tide in three games, and five of those have receptions have gone for at least 31 yards.

The A&M secondary will indeed be the key to keeping it close. The Alabama OL has done a nice job protecting Tagovailoa and he has excellent pocket presence as well, so there will be plenty of passes thrown at them.

“It’s the same as it’s always been, to use them both,” Saban told ESPN on Thursday. “It evolves a little bit as you go. Our team has evolved. I can’t tell you exactly how it all will play out. It’s going to be whoever helps our team play the best, and they’ve both played a role in doing that.”

No surprise here, though I’m sure some handwringing will continue.

If you haven’t heard, Auburn WR Nate Craig-Myers is playing something of a Curt Flood role in college football as the first player from a major program to exploit the new redshirt rule.

“Now, I think that people are manipulating the rule in terms of older players who may be thinking, ‘I could be a graduate transfer, so maybe if I only play in four games this year, I’ll have a place to play next year.’ I don’t think that was really the intent of the rule. It’s probably one of those unintended consequences of what all rules sort of bring.

“But I think it’s a good thing, and I think it’s a good thing for young players because we can actually play some guys, they can get some playing time, it can enhance their development, it can teach them better what they need to learn to do to prepare and play in games, what the competition is like. And I think it will help them in the future, and you still have the opportunity to redshirt them.”

So, should they limit the rule to just freshmen, or are we OK with a bunch of players quitting the team midseason to preserve a year of eligibility at their transfer destinations?

Alabama will again be represented well in next year’s draft.

Junior left tackle Jonah Williams, junior defensive end Raekwon Davis and redshirt junior safety Deionte Thompson was the trio Kiper considered among the best draft prospects in the entire nation after three games into their 2018 seasons with the Crimson Tide.

Yeah, don’t plan on seeing Deionte and Raekwon next season.

Last, in case you didn’t see it, Baker Mayfield got to play the hero as the Cleveland Browns finally got their first win since 2016 last night, and there were some hijinks. First off, Georgia castoff Isaiah Crowell, who started his career in Cleveland, had the classiest of end zone celebrations for the Dawg Pound.

Very nice, Isaiah.

Then, a fan came walking down the steps with a live possum found somewhere in the stadium.

This is a terrible development, as you know that there will be Cleveland fans crediting the varmint with the victory and thus trying to bring possums to the game.

On second thought, that might be funny as hell. Maybe they’ll even grill some. It is Cleveland, after all.

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.


What will be Saturday’s result?

This poll is closed

  • 59%
    Jimbo wishes he had gone fishin’, Tide cover 27.
    (356 votes)
  • 35%
    Aggies get to yell some, but Tide win by 10-26.
    (210 votes)
  • 3%
    Too close for comfort, Tide by single digits.
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    Aggies pull the upset (FLAGGED!)
    (12 votes)
599 votes total Vote Now