At one point in this game, it looked like Alabama had all but obliterated all of the questions that the uninspired win against Virginia Tech had raised. At the end of the third quarter, Alabama held a 42-21 lead, A.J. McCarron was getting enough time to throw, and the running game was grinding out yardage. After falling behind 14-0, the Tide had scored 35 unanswered points, part of a 42-7 run.
That's when things got a little bit out of hand again. Texas A&M scored a touchdown early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 42-28. Alabama turned the ball over on a fumble near the goal-line on what could have been the game-ending touchdown, and the Aggies scored again to make it a game again. Eventually, Alabama weathered the comeback attempt, but only after scoring another touchdown, giving up another touchdown, and then recovering the on-sides kick to ice the win.
The thing is, it's hard to say what the Texas A&M offense could have done that it didn't already do. The Aggies generated 628 yards of total history, the most any Alabama team has ever allowed. Johnny Manziel (28-of-39 for 464 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions) had a higher passer rating this year (203.78) than last (167.26). And he made a ridiculous scrambling throw that almost broke Twitter. But Manziel's two interceptions were also back-breakers, one that came in the end zone and started an Alabama touchdown drive -- a 14-point swing -- and another returned for a pick-six.
And all those questions on the A&M defense? Well, let's just say that there have been better examples of defense in the annals of SEC history.
In fact, Alabama did extraordinarily well offensively. The Tide churned out 568 yards of its own. After looking shaky and inaccurate at times, McCarron ended up 20-of-29 for 334 yards and four touchdowns. The ground game gained 234 yards on 37 carries, including T.J. Yeldon's 25 carries for 149 yards and a touchdown. It was the kind of performance that removes questions about just how good the offensive line is.
But the win by Alabama also raises some issues of its own. Again, the Alabama defense allowed more yardage at Texas A&M that any Tide team has in the history of the football program. Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M are no doubt part of the reason for that -- MIke Evans' seven receptions for 279 yards and a touchdown is just staggering -- but it still makes you wonder just how good Alabama is. Can they handle an explosive offense like Ole Miss or Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, should they make it that far? If they get into an unexpected shootout against another team with a better defense -- say, LSU -- can the Tide come out unscathed on the other side?
Those worries, though, are for the future. And as Alabama showed in this game, it's entirely possible that it will answer those new questions in due course. Alabama didn't win this game last year, and almost paid for it with a lost chance at the championship. Better off to take each game one at a time, and deal with the tomorrow's problems tomorrow. For now, Alabama leads the SEC West and remains the No. 1 team in the land. That's enough for one week.