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Jumbo Package: Texas A&M Win Continues to Look Even Better for Alabama Football

Is Texas A&M really a top-4 caliber team?

Mississippi State vs Alabama Photo by UA Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images

24 Shutouts for Alabama since Nick Saban became the Crimson Tide’s coach in 2007 after a 41-0 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday. During that 14-season span, Alabama has 10 more shutouts than any other college program. Ohio State has 14 since the start of the 2007 season, Wisconsin has 12 and Georgia has 11. Mississippi State has been shut out twice in its past 147 games with Alabama responsible for both blankings. The Bulldogs’ 24-0 loss to the Crimson Tide on Nov. 10, 2018, stopped MSU’s school record 125-game scoring streak. Saturday’s shutout was the first of a Mike Leach team in his 234 games as a college head coach.

When writing up the Initial Impressions after the game on Saturday, I remarked on how it had been two years since Alabama last managed to shut out a team. That shutouts have been so common in the Saban era that two years felt like a long time is testament in itself. Most programs just never totally shut out other teams, and nobody has done it anywhere near as often as Alabama.

2) Texas A&M 4-1 (Last week: No. 3)

The Aggies have taken care of business since an early blowout loss to Alabama. Texas A&M has a marquee win (Florida) and a very manageable schedule down the stretch before closing the season at Auburn. After a lot of criticism was aimed at Jimbo Fisher, this could be the year the Aggies finally break through and meet expectations.

Man, that easy win over Texas A&M is looking better and better. We all belly-ached about a couple of busted plays on a running back and tight end while Alabama pretty well dominated... And A&M might very well wind up going undefeated the rest of the way with a good shot of making the playoffs.

Clemson Tigers (+225)

Receiver Tee Higgins declared early for the NFL draft after last season and receiver Justyn Ross suffered a season-ending spinal injury. Clemson still is good at receiver, but not quite as intimidating as it was the last time the Tigers and Tide met.

Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, running back Travis Etienne and receiver Amari Rodgers are all Clemson needs to shred any defense in the country. If all three are healthy in the postseason, this offense is capable of winning a championship.

Lawrence’s bout with COVID-19 has overshadowed a more significant development: Clemson’s defensive regression.

Virginia (359 yards of total offense for quarterback Brennan Armstrong), Syracuse (150 rushing yards on 4.7 yards per carry behind a dreadful offensive line) and Boston College (four first-half touchdowns) have made Brent Venables’ unit look more pedestrian than normal.

If Clemson and Alabama play, the team that wins may be the team that forces just a couple of punts.

Clemson obviously broke the Alabama fanbase at the end of the 2018 season, and we’ve spent two years since wringing our hands about having to face the Tigers again every single time any Bama player makes an inconsequential mistake.

But, man, that defense just isn’t looking good.

On the other hand, we’ve seen this script before. They half sleepwalk for most of the year, potentially drop a loss they shouldn’t, and then blow someone out in the ACC Championship to get into the playoffs.

On a night reserved for ghosts and ghouls, the scariest thing inside Bryant-Denny Stadium was the 6-foot-4, 312-pound monster in the middle of Alabama’s defensive line. Earning the start at nose guard, Phidarian Mathis registered a team-high 95.1 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, tallying two tackles, a sack and two pass breakups with a quarterback hurry.

The nose guard position generally draws double coverage from the offensive line. However, Mathis’ sack Saturday came when he was matched up straight on against Mississippi State center Cole Smith.

Big mistake.

Mathis made easy work of the 6-foot-3, 305-pound lineman, punching past him at the line before charging into the backfield to chase down Bulldogs quarterback K.J. Costello for his first sack of the season. While the Alabama defensive lineman got to the quarterback just once on the night, he finished with a team-high 93.7 pass-rushing grade, the highest mark a Tide defender has registered this season.

We’ve seen a lot of flashes from Phidarian Mathis in terms of hustle-plays, chasing a running back down the field. So seeing him translate that effort and energy into effective blockshedding and initial disruption was huge. If he can keep that up, even as a rotational piece who brings a bunch of energy off the bench, it will be huge for an Alabama defensive line that’s struggled to disrupt their opponents.

6.] CB Josh Jobe

Previous: 7

MSU: Another strong performance for the junior, who made his sixth straight start at right corner. Lone tackle in the game was a solo. Pass breakup in the first quarter forced a State punt. Defensive player of the week honors from the Crimson Tide coaching staff.

Season to date: Of his 20 total tackles, 16 have been solos. Tied for second on the team in pass breakups (five) and is one of five defenders to force a fumble. Also has a sack and quarterback hurry to his credit. Honored as a defensive player of the game by UA coaching staff following wins over Missouri and Mississippi State.

A cornerback with 80% of his tackles being unassisted is unbelievably good. Josh Jobe has proven again and again his prowess at making tackles out in space, with his play against the wide receiver reverse against Georgia being one of my favorite plays of this season so far.

Finally, 247 has a rundown of every single Alabama player that participated in the NFL last weekend, and man that’s a list.

With Tua Tagovailoa getting his first start, the Tide now just needs a field goal kicker in the pros and they’ve have at least one starter at every single position on a football team. How’s that for a recruiting pitch?