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Since opening up as a 13-point favorite, the Crimson Tide have seen money pour in and find themselves as high as 17-point favorites as they visit College Station to play the Aggies on Saturday afternoon. Johnny Manziel was tearing up the NCAA the last time Texas A&M pulled the upset in this matchup, a 29-24 win over then-No. 1 Alabama led by AJ McCarron. In this season’s contest, Tua Tagovailoa leads the way for the once again No. 1 Crimson Tide and this year goes against Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond led by second-year head coach Jimbo Fisher. In what will be both team’s toughest test of the season as we approach the halfway point, let’s take a deeper look to see where we can find an edge.
Alabama Crimson Tide @ Texas A&M Aggies
Saturday, October 12th, 2019 – 3:30 pm EST
Texas A&M +17, O/U 61 (via PointsBet)
Led by a Heisman candidate and his FBS-leading 23 touchdowns to zero interceptions, the Crimson Tide have had no issues putting up buckets of points, ranking third in the nation at 51.8 per game. In typical Alabama fashion, their toughest test to this point in the season came in Week 3 at South Carolina, where they were 25-point favorites and failed to cover (47-23). The last time this Alabama team saw the field, a home game against Ole Miss, Tagovailoa and junior wide receivers Donta Smith made history with the quarterback throwing for six touchdowns and Smith catching five of them, both school records. On the defensive side of the ball, this Nick Saban unit lead by second-year coordinator Pete Golding has been uncharacteristically pedestrian. Through their first five games, this Crimson Tide defensive unit has allowed 325.4 yards per game (35th FBS) which includes 477 yards and 31 points to Ole Miss two weeks ago. As the corner turns toward SEC play, I expect Saban to take more control of the defense as the ramp-up for the College Football Playoff begins yet again.
In a sport known for the teams at the top taking on cupcake schedules to preserve pristine records late into the season, the Aggies have taken a different approach this year. In addition to taking on the No. 12 and then-undefeated Auburn Tigers in Week 5, the Aggies went on the road in Week 2 to play defending champion Clemson. Given the talent disparity, the Aggies largely held their own in that contest, losing 10-24 but covering the spread with a touchdown in the final seconds of regulation. While the Aggies have improved each week since, if they plan to compete against Alabama, junior quarterback Kellen Mond needs to limit his mistakes against a defense starving for turnovers. In his last time out against the Crimson Tide, Mond had one of his worst games of the 2018 season throwing two interceptions and finishing the game with a rating of just 96.26. I expect Mond to play better in this contest with a full year to learn under Fisher.
While Alabama’s offense is humming along against well below-average teams to start the season, their defense is a concern against those same bottom feeders. Last season’s matchup between these two was the first year Fisher had to work with Mond and this Aggies’ offense, and we are starting to see what a full 18 months of work can look like. While Texas A&M doesn’t have offensive stats or rankings that jump off the page, it’s important to keep in mind they’ve faced easily one of the toughest schedules in the FBS to start the season. Since Fisher has been in College Station, his Aggies teams are 8-2 ATS at home dating back to last season, a trend worth noting in the gauntlet that is the SEC West. Ultimately, giving two of the best coaches in college football a full 14 days to prepare screams close contest to me, so I’m grabbing the points.