One of the most anticipated games of the season takes plays in Week 3 of the college football year, when Alabama and Texas A&M battle for an early season edge in the SEC West.
Johnny Manziel and the Alabama defense will be headlining this game, but here are some other things to look for during Saturday’s contest.
The Aggies have been atrocious defensively in their first two games of the season, surrendering 31 points to Rice in the opening week and 28 to Sam Houston State last Saturday. Texas A&M ranks 84th in points allowed and has given up nearly 900 yards of offensive production in its first two games.
While the offense has been productive, playing against Alabama will be a different story. If the Aggies can’t get the Alabama offense off the field, it will be a long afternoon in College Station for Kevin Sumlin.
A.J. McCarron’s accuracy
In the season opener, McCarron completed just 10 of his 23 passes for 110 yards against Virginia Tech. McCarron isn’t on any Heisman Trophy lists or known to be a “game-changer,” but his ability to manage a game has made him successful in Nick Saban’s offense.
The offense doesn’t need to spectacular on Saturday, especially against a bad Texas A&M defense, but Alabama will need to be consistent.
In last year’s meeting, McCarron finished 21-for-34 for 309 yards and a touchdown, but threw two costly interceptions that hindered the Crimson Tide. He doesn’t have to record big numbers on Saturday, but hovering around a 60 percent completion rate and taking care of the football will be essential to keeping Texas A&M’s offense on the sideline.
Christion Jones in the return game
In the Week 1 win over Virginia Tech, Jones returned a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns, proving that Alabama is dangerous in every aspect of the game.
Jones has the capability to break a game wide open and was a game-changer against the Hokies.
If Alabama’s special teams unit is sound and Jones is weaving in and out of tacklers as he was two weeks ago, it could leave a short field for the Alabama offense and can separate the Crimson Tide from the Aggies.
Texas A&M’s running game
Even though the Aggies have last season’s Heisman Trophy winner under center, it doesn’t take away from a solid rushing attack they’ve had through the first two weeks of the season.
The backfield duo of Ben Malena and Tra Carson has combined for 300 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
The running backs won’t have as much success against Alabama, as the Crimson Tide’s defensive line will be able to make some plays, but providing a balanced offensive attack will prove beneficial for the Aggies in this contest.
Look for a healthy dose of Malena and Carson in addition to the passing game from Manziel.
Time of possession
This may be the most interesting aspect of the game.
Texas A&M is going to want to keep its offense on the field for as long as possible on Saturday. However, Alabama doesn’t need to win the time of possession battle to win the game. With the biggest question mark of the game surrounding A&M’s defense, the only way the Aggies can win is if Manziel is on the field, taking care of the football and putting up points.
Alabama, on the other hand, has the ability to create turnovers and put itself in good field position thanks to big plays on special teams.
If the Crimson Tide control the ball for more than 28 minutes, it will spell sweet revenge for Nick Saban and the defending champions.