By defeating Alabama, the Aggies have proven once and for all that they belong in the SEC. They've also put the conference's greatest achievement in jeopardy
It's tempting to say that it's just too much to ask Alabama, or any team, to go 26-1 over the course of two seasons, including winning two BCS National Championship Games. It's tempting to say that fate just caught up with Alabama, or that going undefeated takes a smattering of luck no matter who you are.
But that would take away too much of the credit from Texas A&M, and the Aggies deserve all the credit in the world for their stunning upset against Alabama on Saturday. Stunning perhaps not because A&M won the game -- it was easily the most dangerous one left on Alabama's schedule -- but stunning because of the way A&M took the lead and never gave it up. And maybe, just a little bit, stunning because of the moment that sealed Alabama's fate.
By the time the first quarter had run down, you knew the Crimson Tide was in some serious trouble. A&M led 20-0, A.J. McCarron's interception-less streak was over, and Alabama had put together drives of 2 yards, 23 yards and 1 yard. Even Texas A&M's epic ability over the last two season to choke away games was going to have a hard time giving up a 20-point lead, even in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama, nonetheless, started to chip away at the margin in the second quarter. T.J. Yeldon and Eddie Lacy each scored on a two-yard run in the second quarter, and a field goal in the third cut the deficit down to 20-17.
Then, Texas A&M found a way to get back the momentum. The Aggies put together a field goal drive on their next possession. Alabama went three-and-out. Texas A&M drove down to the Alabama 19 -- and missed the field goal. And that's when you started to think that maybe Texas A&M wasn't going to win this thing after all.
The next drive started out on the way to confirming that. On second down, McCarron hit Amari Cooper on a 50-yard pass to move the ball down to the A&M 38. McCarron then handed the ball to Yeldon -- who lost it on the tackle. The fumble was recovered by A&M, which cashed in on two long completions by Johnny Manziel to seemingly put the game out of reach.
Seemingly. Because Alabama had one rally left in it. The Tide drove 94 yards, capped off by another long pass to Cooper, to whittle the lead back down to five. The famous Alabama defense took over from there, forcing a three-and-out to give the offense one last chance.
And it looked for all the world like A&M was dead. One play later, after a McCarron pass to Kenny Bell, the Tide had first and goal. A&M stuffed two straight runs, so the Tide went to the air. The first pass, McCarron was forced to scramble and ended up at the A&M 2. On the second, he rolled to his right and threw the ball right into the arms of a waiting A&M defender, who picked it off and essentially ended the game.
There was one last gasp, when the Tide forced A&M into a punting situation with 40 seconds left. But Alabama, coached by none other than Nick Saban, jumped off-sides and gave A&M the first down the Aggies needed to run out the clock.
Manziel has now had his Heisman moment, whatever that is, taking down the No. 1 team in the nation by going 24-of-31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns while running for another 92 yards on 18 carries. This against one of the best if not the best defense in the country. There are worthy competitors for the award out there that someone could vote for as opposed to Manziel, but Manziel has given no one any reason to vote against him.
The more pressing question when it comes to hardware for the SEC: Is the streak over? There are three more undefeated teams remaining -- Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame -- and three games left for each of them. If at least two of those teams lose, the Tide and perhaps an SEC Champion Georgia is likely to beat out any one-loss team in the nation on the SEC's reputation (and pollsters' usual voting patterns) alone. But if at least two of them win, there is no chance that Alabama or any other SEC team will be in Miami for the last game of the season.
But all of that is likely irrelevant to Texas A&M right now. If there was anyone out there that was still questioning whether the Aggies belong in the SEC, taking down the Tide resoundingly answered that question. And if the streak had to end, it's best that it come to an end because of the kind of high-caliber SEC team that Texas A&M has shown itself to be.