Was Nick Saban going to give the rival Texas A&M Aggies any bulletin board material during his Wednesday conference call with reporters? Heck no. However, no one expected him to take the love as far as he did.
With his defending national champion Crimson Tide headed to College Station to take on the Ags in the most highly anticipated game of the year, Saban gave extremely high praise to Kevin Sumlin and his offense.
“Texas A&M has an outstanding team, one of the best offensive teams probably in college football, maybe in this history of college football in terms of their quarterback’s ability to make plays and the great job of executing that they do,” Saban said. “They’re a very well-coached team.”
Saban has won four national titles, one with LSU and three with Alabama. He knows a thing or two about greatness – in the historic sense.
In his first year with the Aggies, Sumlin’s attack ranked third in the nation in total offense (558.54 yards per game) and fourth in scoring offense (44.46 points per game). His quarterback, Johnny Manziel, set an SEC single-season record with 5,116 total yards himself, topping both Cam Newton and Tim Tebow.
Obviously, A&M is deserving of some credit.
Saban wasn’t even done there. When asked about the film on Manziel he has watched from last season to this season, Saban was very impressed.
“Their team got more and more confident in his ability to effectively throw the ball, which he has just continued to improve in,” Saban said. “He has great athleticism. He’s a very instinctive guy. He does a really good job of executing their offense. He has a really good understanding of what they need to do and how to take what the defense gives.”
Finally, getting down a little bit more to the nitty gritty, Saban said he studied tape of the Aggies’ losses to Florida and LSU last year. The Gators held Manziel and Co. to a mere 17 points in their season-opener. That number also served as the team’s lowest output of the year. LSU only surrendered 19.
The common thread? The way Saban sees it, both teams trotted out elite, fast defensive ends to combat Manziel’s elusiveness.
“We studied it last year before we played them and I thought they did a fantastic job against them,” Saban said. “I think their athleticism on defense really helped them in that game. Having two really good edge rushers, being athletic, that’s really really the kind of game that it is.”
On Saturday, the world will be treated to the kind of game that creates champions.