The week is finally here. Two college football titans are set to collide in a rematch of the biggest upset of the 2012 season. Last year, Johnny Manziel became Johnny Heisman before the eyes of the nation in leading his Aggies to an unbelievable upset win over the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide – and he did so playing under the pressure of 100,000 screaming fans in Tuscaloosa.
Forget the last two weeks. Forget the wins over Virginia Tech and some no-names. Forget the suspensions. Week 3 of the 2013 college football season is finally upon us. Alabama, after winning yet another national championship, is finally making the trip to College Station to take on A&M as members of the SEC for the first time.
The world has been waiting for this weekend and for this matchup, but who will be the team to win it?
A season ago, Alabama barely managed to hold off an excellent LSU team the week before it hosted A&M. Many people pointed to the lack of preparation, physical healing and emotional recovery time as reasons why the Aggies were able to sneak out of Bryant-Denny Stadium with a win. This year there is no such excuse. After opening the season with a win over the Hokies, coach Nick Saban, as well as senior leaders A.J. McCarron and C.J. Mosely, took Week 2 off. Bama was able to chill in its sparkling new players-only lounge and watch coach Kevin Sumlin’s Aggies hang 65 points on Sam Houston State.
They also saw Sam Houston State score 28 points on the Aggies, however. A year ago, A&M boasted star pass rusher Damontre Moore at defensive end. Moore is gone, and the strength of Sumlin’s defense now lies in its young linebacking corps and secondary. Eleven true freshman defenders saw the field in the team’s opening weekend win against Rice.
Will A&M’s new-look defense be able to contain all the skilled weapons McCarron has at his disposal? Everyone points to running back T.J. Yeldon and wide receiver Amari Cooper, the Tide’s superstar sophomore tandem. The roster runs far deeper than that, however. Senior Kevin Norwood and juniors Christian Jones and DeAndrew White can all get open against pretty much any defense in the country. Aggies cornerback Deshazor Everett intercepted McCarron in the end zone to salt away last year’s big win. Will he have the magic with him against Alabama’s elite receivers yet again?
Not that Alabama’s vaunted defense won’t be pushed to the limit themselves. Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is an All-American in the making for Saban’s squad, but so are A&M wideouts Mike Evans (sophomore) and Ricky Seals-Jones (freshman).
Beyond Yeldon in the running game, Alabama boasts two elite freshmen in Altee Tenpenny and Derrick Henry. Beyond Ben Malena, A&M boasts a slew of sophomores in Tra Carson, Trey Williams and Brice Dolezal.
Which skill position groups will rise to the occasion? Will Alabama’s championship-caliber defense prove to be enough in its second crack at Manziel, Evans, Malena and the Aggies’ great offensive line?
Last year, Sumlin’s defense proved opportunistic, picking off McCarron twice – he only totaled three interceptions all season. Sometimes, yardage totals do not matter. Big runs mean nothing. If one team can force another to turn the ball over, the entire game may tilt in its favor.
That is what happened last season. A healthy dose of the gunslinging, magic-making Manziel coupled with a defense that rose to the occasion was enough to take down the juggernaut.
Can it happen again? With two whole weeks to watch film, practice, game plan and prepare, will Nick Saban, his staff and his players even allow it?
We have no idea, but perhaps you do. At long last, the time for blustering before boosters is over. The time for hypothetical situations, water cooler jibber-jabber and roster breakdowns are finally at an end.
No more talk – this is the most highly-anticipated game of the year. It’s time to settle it.