The unveiling of the Alabama–Texas A&M game Saturday has unified college football goers, no matter their favorite team or conference affiliation, one day out of this year. This has given height to the beginning of this new great rivalry in the SEC.
Alabama coach Nick Saban is scheming out ways to slow Johnny Football down. In the meantime, A&M is digging into their tool chest, using a Craftsman wrench to begin tightening down their early deficiencies on stopping the run.
Saban is locked-in with this rematch, that he wants to talk about this game, not lose focus on who he thinks might be the best college quarterback of all time, Johnny Manziel or that so-called problem he can’t control, the D.J Fluker situation. Okay, Saban, you have our word.
No matter the conversation, everybody will echo the same sentence about the upcoming game: What will Saban or his right-hand man, Kirby Smart, look into in order to effectively shut down Manziel?
That’s great that Bama has garnished this much attention on one player and one game. We have noticed this week that sophomore wide receiver Amari Cooper isn’t buying into the hype of the game. Right or wrong, that’s up to him. But come game time, the Texas A&M secondary better buy into the hype of this kid.
Cooper gave the Aggies’ secondary fits in 2012, going for a team-high six grabs and 136 yards in the Tide’s lone loss. Cooper, later in the year, led all Tide receivers with two touchdowns on 105 yards against Notre Dame in the national championship game in his hometown of Miami.
What could itch many heads of Aggie fans is the fact that Cooper faces the exact same corners as last season, which are just shaking off the rust. A&M cornerback De’Vante Harris has missed the team’s first two games for a violation of team rules. Deshazor Everett, A&M’s other corner, has been suspended for the first half in the first two games with a suspension in Week 1 and last week for a targeting penalty that happened the week prior. A&M’s defense has allowed two passing touchdowns in each of those games. Tide fans remember Everett after pulling out AJ McCarron’s fourth down pass in last season’s meeting, to close the upset. Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron threw three interceptions last season, two coming in the A&M game.
Both corners face a resurging and even better Cooper from their first meeting. Facing Virginia Tech, Cooper caught four passes for 38 yards as Alabama had just 206 yards of total offense. Cooper has shown to be an above average route runner as a sophomore, it’s on his plate to break containment against Harris and Everett. McCarron won’t throw for a pair of picks this time out. Tide ranked dead last in the SEC in total offense, only scoring one touchdown on Virginia Tech, there were two special teams returns for touchdowns by Christion Jones. ‘Bama offense averaged only 3.3 yards a play from scrimmage. Cooper will allow a soft spot to open up underneath, with how fluid he can stretch a team vertically.
It’s no joke that Alabama offense will have the edge; the wholesale changes in A&M’s defensive master plan won’t bail them out here with a No. 1 darling. Saturday’s collision might be more of a Tide gang powering the rock than expected, over 500 yards given up in the first two games by Aggies defensive coordinator Mark Snyder. Alabama is 53-0 when running for more than 150 yards in a game since 2008.
A&M can’t get dialed in on just that. McCarron has too many big play threats to be carried away with just Cooper, McCarron’s No. 1 option, seen best by 59 snags in his first season in the league. McCarron has just the strong enough arm you need to create big plays. Georgia has yet to forget about that 45-yard game-winning bomb in Alabama’s 32-28 win in the SEC Championship Game, to guess who … Cooper.
Alabama now has a 15-game win streak on the road, Cooper will flash the No. 9 enough for McCarron Saturday to make it 16 games.