By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – No. 1 Alabama looks to clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division crown on Saturday, but standing in its way is a very talented No. 15 Texas A&M team. The two squads square off at 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The game will be televised by CBS.
Both schools share a former legendary coach in Paul “Bear” Bryant, who left Texas A&M following the 1957 season to take over at Alabama. This weekend, the University of Alabama is honoring members of Bryant’s Texas A&M teams and more than 20 members of his 1954-57 Aggie squads will be recognized in a pregame ceremony at Bryant-Denny.
The Crimson Tide (9-0, 6-0 SEC) are starting a three-game homestand to close out the regular season and are coming off a dramatic 21-17 comeback victory against then No. 5 LSU last Saturday in Baton Rouge. Alabama needs just one conference victory in its remaining two league contests to claim its first SEC Western Division Championship since 2009.
”After reviewing the LSU game, it was a great job of the players showing a lot of competitive character, overcoming adversity, playing through a lot of tough situations in the game and playing in a tough atmosphere,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “Some of the situations we had to overcome we created with a bit of our lack of execution and mental errors, which are things that we definitely need to correct so that we can play with more consistency in the future. We have a really good opponent this week, so it’s going to be really important that our players put that game behind them, as emotional as it may have been. As I said afterwards, games like that can either bring out the best in you or the worst in you, and it’s all your choice in terms of how you view the future and what you need to do relative to the challenges that the next team presents, which is pretty significant in Texas A&M’s case.”
The Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) are in their inaugural season of SEC football, but have been impressive in their opening year, holding a top-15 national ranking and four league victories. Texas A&M has won two consecutive games and seven of its last eight. The Aggies are coming off a 38-13 win against then-No. 15 Mississippi State last Saturday in Starkville.
"Philosophically, everybody is a bit different,” Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “I think if there's anything out of it that we've gotten as a team, even though we were disappointed to lose those games, there was a little bit of confidence out of our football team of being able to handle the physical nature of this league. The guys also understood that the Florida and LSU games had a lot to do with our mistakes and we can certainly play better. Our guys understand that. We haven't played a complete game yet.”
The Crimson Tide and Aggies meet for the fifth time in the history of the two programs with Alabama leading the all-time series 3-1 … This will mark the first time that Texas A&M has travelled to Tuscaloosa … Alabama won the last meeting between the two teams 30-10 in College Station in 1988, in a game famously dubbed the “Hurricane Bowl” … Texas A&M’s lone win in the series was a 20-16 victory in the 1968 Cotton Bowl when Gene Stallings’ Aggies defeated Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide.
1988 – Alabama 30, Texas A&M 10 (College Station, Texas)
1985 – Alabama 23, Texas A&M 10 (Birmingham, Ala.)
1967 – Texas A&M 20, Alabama 16 (Dallas, Texas – Cotton Bowl)
1941 – Alabama 29, Texas A&M 21 (Dallas, Texas – Cotton Bowl)
A LOOK AT THE LAST MEETING
Alabama defeated Texas A&M 30-10 in College Station in a game that was played on Dec. 1 after its original Sept. 17 date was cancelled due to Hurricane Gilbert, which at the time was the most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. Alabama’s David Smith threw two touchdown passes and Murray Hill ran for a 10-yard score for the Crimson Tide.
PLAYMAKERS – OFFENSE
Texas A&M – Johnny Manziel, R-Fr., Quarterback
Manziel has posted an historic freshman campaign for Texas A&M, as he is on pace to become just the fifth FBS player ever and the first freshman to reach 1,000 rushing yards and 3,000 passing yards in a single season. He has generated 3,449 yards of total offense through his first nine games, which already ranks No. 18 in SEC history. Manziel is the only player in NCAA FBS history to log three games with 300 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a single season.
Alabama – AJ McCarron, Jr., Quarterback
McCarron leads the SEC in passing efficiency with a 173.5 rating, and has completed 136-of-204 passes for 1,849 yards with no interceptions. His streak of 289 consecutive passes without an interception is the longest in Alabama history and ranks second in SEC history behind Kentucky’s Andre Woodson, who went 325 attempts between interceptions. His 19 touchdowns this season ranks tied for second on the Alabama single-season passing touchdowns list. He needs two more scoring strikes to surpass Greg McElroy (20) for the school single-season record. No other quarterback in Alabama history has thrown for 19 touchdowns to start the first nine games of a season.
PLAYMAKERS – DEFENSE
Texas A&M – Damontre Moore, Jr., Defensive Lineman
Moore leads the SEC with 1.28 sacks per game, which is more than 19 teams in the NCAA FBS. He also ranks tied for 11th in the SEC this season with 7.7 tackles per game and 69 total stops on the year. His 2.11 tackles for loss per game ranks No. 2 nationally and his 1.28 quarterback sacks on the year rank tied for second nationally. He is leading the Aggies in tackles, which has been achieved by a defensive lineman just twice in the last 40 years.
Alabama – C.J. Mosley, Jr., Linebacker
Mosley currently leads his team and ranks tied for 11th in the SEC this season in tackles per game (7.7) and he has logged 69 total tackles on the year. With his INT return for touchdown against Michigan this season, Mosley tied the Alabama career record for career interception returns for touchdown with three, matching Antonio Langham.
• Alabama and Louisiana Tech are the only two teams in college football that have not thrown an interception this season. It has been 12-and-a-half games since a Crimson Tide quarterback threw a pick, the longest streak in the nation by three games.
• Texas A&M is one of just three teams in the NCAA FBS that ranks in the top-20 statistically in rushing, passing, total offense and scoring offense. The others are Louisiana Tech and Oklahoma State. The Aggies rank No. 4 in scoring offense (44.7 ppg), No. 5 in total offense (559.6 yards per game), No. 10 in rushing (251.3/gm.) and No. 17 in passing (308.2/gm.).
• Alabama enters Saturday’s game 36-for-38 in its red-zone chances this season, tied for second in the nation in that category at 95 percent. The Crimson Tide have scored 28 touchdowns in the red zone in 2012 and kicked eight field goals.
• Texas A&M has scored 402 points through its first nine games of 2012 and are one of just five teams nationally with 400 or more points so far this season.
• Alabama kicker Jeremy Shelley is the only kicker in the nation yet to miss an extra point or field goal in 2012. He has hit all 43 of his extra-point attempts and all nine of his field goals.
• Texas A&M is 1-10 all-time vs. teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll at the time of the game. The Aggies’ lone win against a top-rated foe came against Oklahoma in 2002.
• Alabama has won 57 games dating back to the start of the 2008 season, which is tied with Boise State for the most in the FBS during that span.
• Texas A&M’s highest-ranked road victory in program history was a 27-14 win against No. 6 Penn State in State College in 1979.