When Alabama hosts Texas A&M in a Southeastern Conference game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, we’l be watching from the opening kickoff, which happens about 2:37 p.m. CDT, until the last play, and we’ll watch more than the football, of course. If you’re not watching in the stadium, CBS will have it on television.
Specifically, other than the obvious “keep you eye on the ball,” there are things to watch for. Among them:
Two of the best freshmen in the SEC will be matched up head-to-head when Alabama is on offense. The Crimson Tide has been getting excellent play from left tackle Cameron Robinson (6-6, 323). He’ll have his hands full with A&M’s Myles Garrett (6-5, 255), who needs just one quarterback sack to break Jadeveon Clowney’s SEC freshman record of eight.
Is Bama quarterback Blake Sims going to be able to take advantage of the Aggies’ defense on Amari Cooper? Texas A&M may mix up the way the secondary plays, but a good bet is that Cooper – the league’s leading receiver with 54 receptions for 768 yards and five touchdowns – will have a cornerback and a safety nearby. If Sims can find other targets – wide receivers, tight ends, running backs --, he can make the defense pay.
The emphasis for the Crimson Tide defense is Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill. Hill broke Johnny Manziel’s single game record of 511 yards passing as he completed 44 of 60 passes for three touchdowns with no interceptions in his first start, a win at South Carolina. He’s come down a little, averaging “only” 358.7 yards per game passing, which leads the SEC. Bama Coach Nick Saban says the Tide secondary is getting better. We’ll see.
Alabama leads the SEC in rushing, but doesn’t have a runner in the league’s top ten. T.J. Yeldon is averaging 75.3 yards per game and Derrick Henry 63.7. A&M is in the bottom third of the league in rushing defense. Can Bama have a breakout day from its running backs?
How does Alabama handle punts? The question can have two meanings. One, how does Coach Nick Saban react to Christion Jones’ poor performance to date after Jones was the SEC’s best at punt and kickoff returns last year? And if Jones does get the call, can he put his past foibles behind and perform like the Christion Jones of 2013?
Yellow handkerchiefs. Saban teams have a reputation for not getting many penalties, but this year’s team has been flagged 39 times – over six per game – for 296 yards. A&M is even worse, the worst in the league in fact with 44 penalties for 413 yards.