When Alabama plays Texas A&M on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the college football world will get a glimpse into how the Crimson Tide might match up with Clemson.
Alabama has played Clemson in the postseason in the previous last three seasons: twice in the national championship game and last year in a College Football Playoff semifinal. The Aggies took Clemson to the wire two weekends ago in College Station, Texas, falling 28-26.
If top-ranked Alabama and the third-ranked Tigers are headed toward another showdown, Texas A&M’s games against each in a three-week span will be scrutinized for insight into which is better.
Jimbo Fisher, first-year coach of the Aggies, has studied both teams in preparation. He saw Clemson up close and also coached Florida State against Alabama in last year’s season opener. If anyone has a handle on how the teams compare, it’s Fisher.
“Both of them are sound in all three phases,” he said. “Their styles are a little bit different in how they go about it, but they get the same results, that’s for sure.”
As top-ranking teams how are they different, and in what ways are they similar?
“Now they both have great players, both understand how to win, both expect to win right now,” Fisher said. “They’ve got their programs established with the culture and the things that go on, I think they’re very similar in that way.
“The styles on defense are different. Alabama will rely on a little more two-gap stuff up front, with the multiples of things in which they do and how they cover on things is a lot different, and they really challenge you in every way, shape or form just like Clemson did.
“On offense both have dynamic quarterbacks. Alabama’s quarterback right now is probably playing as well as anybody in the country. Have dynamic skill guys, Alabama runs the ball, the backs are very strong and power. And the one thing Alabama has this year, too, is a tight end who gets vertical (downfield) and is very athletic.”
A&M gained 501 yards against Clemson, including 430 through the air, while giving up 413. The Aggies tallied 25 first downs to 14 for the Tigers, but also committed two turnovers while failing for force any.
Clemson jumped out to a 21-6 lead in the third quarter and held on to win.
“We got hit in the mouth a couple of times, we got behind, kids didn’t fold,” Fisher said. “They just kept playing the next play and they played themselves back to have a chance to have success in the game.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban took note of A&M’s prowess in that game.
“Obviously that was pretty much the indication when they played Clemson,” he said. “Probably had, arguably, a lot of opportunities to win the game and at the end it didn’t really work out for them.”
Fisher has an idea of how this Alabama team compares to other during Saban’s tenure.
“They look as good as they’ve ever been,” he said.
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.