Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Texas A&M Aggies, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
It almost feels like a cliche to say anything about this game at this point. "Johnny Manziel is the kind of mobile quarterback that causes trouble for Alabama." Throw out the ridiculous Jordan-Jefferson-as-mobile-QB bullet point that ESPN has used to back up that argument and it's somewhat true. "Nick Saban usually defeats teams that have defeated him the last time." Nick Saban is 62-7 at Alabama since his first season, so he usually defeats whatever team he's playing on a given Saturday, but true enough.
In a way, there's almost no way that this game can live up to the hype that it has generated because of those storylines. Texas A&M was the only team to beat Alabama last year, Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy based at least in part on that game, and Alabama went on to win the national championship for the second year in a row. The kind of publicity that this game was going to draw was inevitable; because of that, almost nothing that happens on the field is going to match up to the build-up.
Which is unfortunate, because I think we're going to have a really good football game on our hands. The reasons that we might not seem to me to be a perfect example of people reading too much into early-season games. The Aggies haven't looked good on defense? They've had several key starters suspended and have likely been looking ahead just a bit. Alabama looked unimpressive on offense in its win against Virginia Tech? How much time do you think the Tide coaches spent on the Hokies over the summer, and how much time do you think they spent trying to crack the code of Johnny Manziel?
There are legitimate issues for both teams, of course. Whatever the reasons, the A&M defense didn't look particularly impressive in its first two games, and they still have to prove that it's because of the suspended starters and firestorm surrounding the team in those first two games and not because the defense is going to be bad. And Alabama's slow start against Virginia Tech did raise questions about the quality of the offensive line, particularly, which is going to have to play well if Alabama is going to pursue the kind of rushing-first attack that will be key to keeping A&M on the sideline and giving the Tide's defense a chance to rest.
Which means that the game is probably going to end up somewhere in between. The Tide offense will get just enough yardage on the ground to keep the Aggies from putting up too many points, but the A&M defense will be good enough to keep things within reach. Nick Saban wins this one and gets the A&M money off his back for now, but time will tell if his team is able to live up to its own hype.
Alabama 27, Texas A&M 21