Texas A&M at Alabama highlights SEC Week 2 matchups

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports
Alabama linebacker Christian Harris (8) makes a tackle on Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller (28) during the first half at Kyle Field Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019 in College Station, Texas. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

GAME OF THE WEEK TEXAS A&M AT ALABAMA

When: 2:30 p.m. CT Saturday Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama TV: CBS

Keys for Texas A&M

Air Aggies: In nearly being upset by Vanderbilt to start its season, Texas A&M had little to offer in terms of big-play threats through the air. Only one pass play for more than 25 yards and none went for 30; the Aggies are one of just six teams that have played at least once to not produce a 30-yard completion.

Explosive passing plays were going to be difficult to find after All-SEC caliber wide receiver Jhamon Ausbon opted out of the season, but the Vanderbilt game (6.75 yards per attempt) was a disappointment even in the context of losing Ausbon.

Punch it in: In Jimbo Fisher’s first two games against Alabama as Texas A&M’s coach, the Aggies settled for a 31-yard field goal and two 32-yard field goals. Both games were decided by 19 or more points, thus four points here and there may not have made a big difference, but then optimism of a large crew of returning starters gives the Aggies optimism for a more competitive game.

If that dream comes true, the difference between seven points and three could plausibly be the difference between a win and loss, or at least maintaining a chance at winning as long as possible. Doing so would buck an early trend of the Fisher era: bad red zone offense, as the Aggies ranked 82nd in 2018 and 78th in 2019 in red zone offense touchdown percentage.

Keys for Alabama

Stop Spiller: Texas A&M running back Isaiah Spiller gained 117 yards on just eight carries against Vanderbilt, averaging 14.6 yards per rush. Alabama did a respectable job of containing Missouri’s Larry Rountree III (14 carries for 67 yards) but has a more challenging test with the sophomore ballcarrier.

Keep moving forward: The Aggies racked up 10 tackles for loss against Vanderbilt with only two sacks, meaning it stopped eight of Vanderbilt’s 36 runs behind the line of scrimmage. Avoiding a similar fate would go a long way for continuing Alabama/s streak of scoring 40 or more on the Aggies for what could be three years in a row.

Prediction

Alabama 34, Texas A&M 13: One game is not enough to speak in absolutes, but the Crimson Tide showed some of the explosive play potential it had last year, despite losing two wide receivers and a quarterback to the first round of the NFL Draft. That and an improved defense should be more than enough to win against a Texas A&M offense that has yet to muster consistent success against UA.

BEST OF THE REST This weekend’s other top conference games (all times Central) 

AUBURN AT GEORGIA 

When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday 

Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens, Georgia 

TV: ESPN 

Notes: Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett was thrust into action in the second half after redshirt freshman D’wan Mathis struggled in his first start. Georgia went on to defeat Arkansas 37-10 after trailing 7-5 at the half. Auburn won its season opener against Kentucky, 29-13, at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Quarterback Bo Nix passed 233 yards and three touchdowns. 

SOUTH CAROLINA AT FLORIDA 

When: 11 a.m. Saturday 

Where: Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, Gainesville, Florida 

TV: ESPN 

Notes: The Florida Gators got into a fireworks show last week with Ole Miss, as they came out on top, 51-35, behind quarterback Kyle Trask’s six touchdown passes. Tight end Kyle Pitts amassed 170 receiving yards and four touchdowns. The Gamecocks lost a close one last week to the Tennessee Volunteers, 31-27. 

OLE MISS AT KENTUCKY 

When: 3 p.m. Saturday 

Where: Kroger Field, Lexington, Kentucky

TV: SEC Network 

Notes: Both teams are looking for a first win of the season, as the Rebels lost to the Florida Gators and the Wildcats were defeated by Auburn. Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore garnered 227 yards with 10 receptions against the Gators. Kentucky signal-caller Terry Wilson passed for 239 yards with one touchdown pass.