A trio of worry: Alabama's 3 biggest concerns about facing Texas A&M
On paper, the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide should cruise to victory over No. 24 Texas A&M on Saturday afternoon.
Faster, stronger, better at almost every position … that’s why our friends in the desert have installed Alabama as a 17-point favorite over the Aggies.
But we all know games aren’t played on paper, instead on the grid 100 yards long and 53 yards wide. The football bounces oddly (see: Ingram, Mark vs. Auburn in 2010) and the uprights are remarkably unkind.
Texas A&M will pack 102,733 people — many wearing some sort of pseudo-army uniforms — into Kyle Field. They’ll yell in unison and generally make a huge scene. CBS will be there with their cameras, and Gary Danielson will spend the better part of the afternoon griping about targeting and low-key telling the TV viewers how great he is.
But all that is irrelevant to the Tide. It’s pure distraction, akin to the rat poison produced about Alabama football here and statewide on the regular.
What is relevant is that Texas A&M represents Alabama’s most dangerous opponent to date. Will the Aggies end up being the most dangerous opponent the Tide face all season? Only time will tell, what with LSU and Auburn and (hopefully) Georgia/Florida and the College Football Playoff all looming.
There are 3 specific things that Alabama football — and Crimson Tide fans — should worry about Saturday. So here we go:
1. Kellen Mond channels his inner Johnny Manziel
If you’ve been even tangentially paying attention to Alabama football in the past 10 years, Johnny Football still serves as one of the potential nightmares for the Crimson Nation. Manziel carved up the Tide for 345 of the Aggies 418 yards of offense, including 2 passing TDs, as a freshman in a 29-24 upset victory over No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa in 2012. Manziel effectively won the Heisman Trophy that day, and anyone who saw it can’t ever forget it.
Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond is not Johnny Football. The junior is talented, though, having thrown for 1,333 yards and 10 TDs against 4 interceptions this season. The Aggies’ 2 losses (to No. 1 Clemson and No. 8 Auburn) weren’t necessarily his fault, though his stat line against Auburn looked better than the reality of his play through 3 quarters. But he has all the necessary tools.
Mond was just 16-of-33 for 196 yards and 1 TD against 2 interceptions in Tuscaloosa last season, and his freshman campaign (19-0f-29 for 237 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) was just marginally better. If lightning ever struck in in College Station, this could well be the moment…
2. Tua Tagovailoa twists an ankle
Alabama’s hopes and dreams for an undefeated 2019 hangs more and more on the shoulders of junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has passed for 1,718 yards (4th nationally) and is 3rd nationally (behind some kid named Jalen Hurts …) in yards-per-attempt at 11.6 yards.
Sweet is a great word to describe how well Tagovailoa has played this season, but Alabama’s offense undoubtedly would sour if he is rolled up friendly-fire style by a lineman or is tackled awkwardly on a scramble.
Hawaiian hearts would crumble if that happened, of course, as the island has only witnessed 1 Heisman Trophy winner. If Tagovailoa goes down against Texas A&M, much like he did late last season despite throwing up monster numbers, that could be all she wrote for Mr. Stiff Arm.
Prince himself would be hard-pressed to argue that Tagovailoa is the most electric quarterback in Alabama’s history. Without him, though, the Crimson Tide would find it difficult to overcome Texas A&M in Kyle Field.
3. Jimbo Fisher finally gets it all together for an entire 60 minutes
It is games like this that Texas A&M threw $75 million at John James Fisher Jr. 2 years ago as part of his divorce settlement from Florida State. Fisher was as done with Tallahassee as the Seminoles were with him — all that in spite of him successfully following the Hall of Fame tenure of Bobby Bowden by winning 83 times in 8 seasons and the 2013 national championship.
With 8 years remaining in his initial contract, however, Fisher hasn’t exactly delivered on the promise of an upgrade from Kevin Sumlin in College Station. Sure, Texas A&M went 9-4, including a Gator Bowl victory, last season. But those losses to Clemson and Auburn earlier this season have some in Aggieland wondering just what kind of upgrade they ended up getting.
A victory against Nick Saban, for whom Fisher was offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at LSU from 2000-2004, would be as sweet as it gets. Former Saban assistants are 0-for-17 against him, with Fisher eating losses at Florida State in 2017 and in his 1st season at Texas A&M last season.
Much like the Mond scenario, it would be akin to lightning striking … but lightning does strike somewhere all the time.
Is it Mond’s moment for a signature victory? Is Tua Tagovailoa due for a twisted ankle? Is it Fisher’s day Saturday?
Is it Texas A&M’s time once again to knock Alabama off the throne?