No. 11 Alabama visits Texas A&M with each looking for a leg up in the brutal SEC West
The Texas A&M Aggies insist that they are treating Saturday’s visit from No. 11 Alabama the same as any other game.
“What you’ve got to focus on is learning that you have to control yourself,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “There’s nothing we can do about Alabama. Alabama’s Alabama. They’re a great team. What we have to do is get prepared to play Alabama or whoever you’re playing, because each game is a big game … you prepare for them like you would anybody else.”
Even so, it’s impossible for the Aggies to ignore the fact that a win over the Crimson Tide would give them a big push as they aim for their first SEC West title since joining the league in 2012.
Alabama and Texas A&M are tied for first place in the West after both have opened their seasons 4-1 overall and 2-0 in conference play. The Aggies have won three in a row, including SEC wins over Auburn and Arkansas, since a 48-33 loss at Miami.
The Crimson Tide also have a three-game winning streak with league wins over Ole Miss and Mississippi since a 34-24 loss to then-No. 11 Texas at home.
Texas A&M stunned top-ranked Alabama 41-38 on a last-second field goal in 2021 in the last meeting in College Station to snap a 19-game winning streak by the Crimson Tide.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was adamant that his team is not looking at or thinking about anything past this week’s game against Texas A&M.
“We’re trying to play one game at a time,” he said. “We’re trying to improve our team. I can’t tell you where we’re ranked. I can’t tell you what the standings are. I think everybody kind of realizes the importance of every game that we play. The whole focus is how can we play better. How can we play good? How can we improve not worrying about some outcome-oriented thing that may happen two months from now?”
JOHNSON VS. BAMA
Max Johnson has played Alabama twice before while at LSU. He hasn’t beaten the Tide yet.
In 2021, he completed 16 of 32 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while getting sacked five times in a 20-14 loss. A year earlier, he replaced TJ Finley in a 55-17 loss and went 11 of 17 for 110 yards.
Johnson will make his second start of the season Saturday after Conner Weigman sustained a season-ending foot injury against Auburn. Johnson threw for 210 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in last week’s 34-22 win over Arkansas.
MILROE’S FIRST START
Jalen Milroe figures he learned a lot from his first career start against Texas A&M. Milroe passed for 111 yards and three touchdowns but also threw an interception and lost two fumbles in the 24-20 Tide win a year ago.
“All the things that happened in that game, I don’t take anything for granted and also wouldn’t change anything,” Milroe said this week. “Those are learning moments for me and allow me to grow. Good or bad makes you stronger. Any areas where I messed up playing in that game, I take full ownership for it and I want to continue to work, work hard, grow and build.”
Texas A&M offensive lineman Dametrious Crownover believes his unit has made great strides since the loss to the Hurricanes. He said that game was a wakeup call.
“After the Miami game, it was a sickening feeling in your stomach, because we lost one that we shouldn’t have,” he said. “But we knew that we had to come together and be like, 'Hey, guys, we can’t afford to have any more games like this.’ So it was that chip on our shoulder I would say that just helped us improve.”
Alabama’s maligned offensive line is finally getting some kudos. Tide opponents have 20 sacks through five games, but the blockers paved the way for a balanced attack against Mississippi State.
“This is probably the best they played all year,” Saban said. “The offensive line as a whole played one of their better games against a difficult front that stunts a lot.”