The rematch between the Texas A&M Aggies and Alabama Crimson Tide is one of the most anticipated games of the 2013 college football season. Join us as we take a quick peek at the match up which is just under two months away.
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 14; 2:30 pm CST
WHERE: Kyle Field (College Station, Tx)
LAST SEASON: 11-2 (6-2 Southeastern Conference, third place in West division, defeated Oklahoma 41-13 in AT&T Cotton Bowl)
CURRENT PRESEASON RANKING: Consensus Top 5
CURRENT BETTING LINE: Alabama by 6
RADIO: Crimson Tide Sports Network
SERIES HISTORY: Alabama leads 3-2 (Last meeting: Texas A&M defeated Alabama 29-24 in Bryant-Denny Stadium)
OFFENSE: Johnny Manziel returns off of a Heisman trophy-winning campaign. He rewrote the SEC offensive record books during the 2013 season. Unfortunately, Manziel is only one of six returning starters for the Aggie offense.
The two tune-up creampuff games before the Tide come for a visit will give new players a chance to gel, but replacing receiver Ryan Swope, a consistent safety blanket, will prove problematic. A&M did sign a strong skill position recruiting class, highlighted by athletic freak Ricky Seals-Jones, but it is an exceptionally tall order to ask any freshman to carry the load in their first SEC game against the defending BCS Champions.
On top of the aforementioned skill position losses, The A&M offensive line lost Outland Trophy winner Luke Joeckel and understated center Patrick Lewis. Lewis started every game from the moment he walked on campus, whether at center or guard. Joeckel will be replaced by Jake Matthews, potentially a better prospect than Joeckel, who went No. 2 overall in the 2013 NFL Draft. Lewis will be replaced by Mike Matthews, an untested sophomore.
Conclusion: If the game was later in the year, the replacements would not be such a glaring concern, but since there will not be any sort of true battle test before ‘Bama, it raises some eyebrows. Johnny Manziel will have to be excellent to make up for deficiencies as replacement starters acclimate.
DEFENSE: The A&M offense looks like a group of grizzled veterans compared to the A&M defense. The defense only returns four starters from a unit that ended the 2012 season ranked 57th in total defense. On top of that, defensive backs Deshazor Everett and Floyd Raven, both expected to play an expanded role for the Aggie D, were recently suspended indefinitely following assault charges.
The truly noteworthy loss from a middle-of-the-pack A&M defense is second-team All-American defensive end Damontre Moore. Moore was responsible for 21 tackles for loss and 12.5 sacks during the 2012 campaign. A potential replacement rests in Julien Obioha, but the defensive line is peppered with underclassmen.
Conclusion: The Aggie defense was mediocre last year, and is full of new faces this year. Exactly like the offense, if the game was later, it wouldn’t be such a problem. Unfortunately, it is in week 3 after two weak opponents that won’t come close to what the defense will see from the Tide.
SPECIAL TEAMS: PK Taylor Bertolet is the headliner for the specialists. He was only 13 of 22 on field goals in 2012, but three of those hits were from over fifty yards. He ranked third nationally with 65 touchbacks last year on kickoffs. Drew Kaser has punted twice in his collegiate career. Return man Trey Williams held a 22.7 yard average for kick returns for the 2012 season. He has yet to run a kick back, but did record a 76 yard return against LSU.
Conclusion: Bertolet gives the Aggies a threat to score from anywhere inside the 40. Against an Alabama defense that is sure to be chomping at the bit to stop the vaunted Aggie offense, any points are good points for Texas A&M.
COACHING: Kevin Sumlin is a rising star in the coaching world. He was linked to NFL openings earlier in the spring. The major loss on staff was offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury leaving to take over as the Texas Tech head coach. He was replaced by Jake Spavital, who brings experience from working with noted offensive minds including Dana Holgorsen and Gus Malzahn. Spavital will share coordinator duties with Clarence McKinney.
Conclusion: While Sumlin is still on the rise, Nick Saban is on top of the college football mountain. How the offense evolves under co-offensive coordinators, generally a recipe for disaster, bears watching in the first two games of the year.