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Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies Game Preview and Prediction

Kenny Hill

Kenny Hill

It’s another critical week of action on Saturday for the SEC West, as Alabama looks to get back on track against a Texas A&M team that comes to Tuscaloosa on a two-game losing streak. The Crimson Tide had an uninspired 14-13 win over Arkansas last week, while the Aggies were defeated 35-20 against Ole Miss.

The SEC West is the best division in college football, leaving little margin for error for the teams in the mix for a spot in the playoff. That pressure also extends to teams like Texas A&M, as the road won’t get any easier with games against Auburn, LSU and Missouri still remaining. If Kevin Sumlin’s team wants to have any shot at contending for the division title or playing in one of college football’s top bowl games in December, it has to win this game.

Meanwhile, Alabama needs this game to get back on track. Coach Nick Saban has a lot of work to do in order to transform the 2014 version of the Crimson Tide into a national title contender. The talent is still there for Alabama, but this team has holes in the secondary, offensive line and in the passing attack. Penalties, a lack of a pass rush and turnovers are other concerns for Saban and the coaching staff to address over the next few weeks.

Alabama and Texas A&M have played six previous times, with the Crimson Tide owning a 4-2 edge. These two teams have played only twice as SEC members, and two of the six meetings occurred in bowl games.

Texas A&M at Alabama

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: Alabama -13.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Texas A&M’s Rush Defense
Stopping Alabama starts in the trenches. With center Ryan Kelly sidelined due to a knee injury, the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack was stuck in neutral last week. On 32 attempts against Arkansas, Alabama managed only 66 yards. And against Ole Miss on Oct. 4, the Crimson Tide recorded only 3.8 yards per carry. Texas A&M’s rush defense is allowing 174.9 yards per game (4.2 ypc) through all seven games, with the numbers a bit higher in SEC play (198.0). Even though Kelly won’t play this Saturday, Alabama should have an edge in this matchup. Will Texas A&M find an answer to stop T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry? In last year’s meeting, the Aggies allowed 6.3 yards per carry. If Alabama repeats that number on Saturday, it’s tough to see this matchup being close in the fourth quarter.

2. Alabama’s Secondary
Even though this may not be one of Nick Saban’s best Alabama teams, it’s hard to find many weaknesses. But if there’s one area the Crimson Tide seem to struggle more than any in recent years, it’s a secondary that gave up 365 yards to West Virginia in the opener and 251 to Ole Miss on Oct. 4. Texas A&M has the talent on offense to take advantage of Alabama’s secondary, starting at quarterback with Kenny Hill and a receiving corps that features youth and a world of talent. Hill has 23 touchdown passes this year but has tossed five interceptions – both losses by the Aggies – in the last two games. Hill has to be more careful with the ball this week, and he needs more help from an inconsistent receiving corps. The sophomore will have some additional help in the receiving department, as veteran Malcome Kennedy is back in the mix after missing the last two games due to injury. Alabama’s secondary will improve over the course of the season, especially as Eddie Jackson returns to full strength from an offseason ACL tear. If Texas A&M has success through the air, it can turn this game into a high-scoring affair and get Alabama out of its comfort zone on offense.

3. Alabama QB Blake Sims
Through the first four games, Sims completed 73.1 percent of his passes and threw eight touchdowns to just two interceptions. But over the last two contests, Sims has tossed one interception and his completion percentage has slipped to 58.8. Playing a stout Ole Miss defense has something to do with Sims’ numbers, but Alabama needs more from its passing game this week. Texas A&M’s secondary should allow the Crimson Tide opportunities to stretch the field through the air. The Aggies have allowed nine passing scores this year, and opposing quarterbacks in SEC play are completing 61.1 percent of their throws. Texas A&M has also allowed 22 passing plays of 20 yards or more.

Final Analysis

The outcome of this game largely depends on two areas: Alabama’s secondary and Texas A&M’s rush defense. If the Aggies stuff the Crimson Tide ground attack and force Sims and receiver Amari Cooper to win this one through the air, Sumlin’s team will have an opportunity to steal a win in Tuscaloosa. And when Texas A&M has the ball, can Alabama defend the pass? Expect plenty of up-tempo and quick passes to the receiving corps from the Aggies to take advantage of their speed and athleticism on the edge. Since winning in Tuscaloosa in 2012, Texas A&M is just 7-6 in its last 13 games. Make it 7-7 as Alabama’s offense gets back on track, and the defense makes just enough stops to keep the Aggies from pulling off the upset.

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Prediction: Alabama 34, Texas A&M 24