No. 1 Alabama faces road test at No. 24 Texas A&M

Field Level Media

October 08, 2019 at 6:59 pm.

Top-ranked Alabama will face its first ranked opponent of the season Saturday when it visits No. 24 Texas A&M in a matchup of SEC West Division teams in College Station.

The Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) will be coming off the first of two open dates on their schedule after cruising through September by winning games by an average margin of 37 points.

The Aggies (3-2, 1-1 SEC) also had an open date last week after closing out the month with a bounce-back 31-27 win over Arkansas. This will be the second time this season they have been up against the nation’s No. 1 team after losing 24-10 at Clemson on Sept. 7.

The Tigers later lost their No. 1 ranking after escaping with a one-point win at North Carolina, allowing the Tide to move up from No. 2 in the polls.

“You’ve just got to look at it as an opportunity to go play,” Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher said. “You’ve been in that environment once, and now you get to do it at home. Hopefully, you learn from those situations and learn those No. 1 teams are No. 1 for one reason. They play well.

“That’s what we have to do. Go play well. You can’t get caught up in the emotion of the game.”

Texas A&M has beaten the Tide only once in the seven meetings since the Aggies moved into the SEC, but that was a big one. Their 29-24 win in 2012, fueled by Johnny Manziel magic, was Alabama’s only loss in a national championship season.

Alabama won last year 45-23 in Tuscaloosa, but Tide coach Nick Saban holds a healthy respect for the Aggies and quarterback Kellen Mond.

“Their quarterback runs actually hurt us a lot last year in the game,” Saban said.

Mond rushed for a team-high 98 yards despite losing 31 yards on seven sacks. He struggled passing, completing only 16 of 33 attempts for 196 yards and a touchdown with a pair of interceptions. He has completed 64.6 percent of his attempts this season for 266.6 yards per game.

“He played really well against us last year, so we have a lot of respect for him as a player,” Saban said. “His total understanding of what they are trying to do has enhanced his performance.”

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has had a sensational start to his junior campaign, completing 76.4 percent of his passes for nearly 343.6 yards per game. He has 23 touchdown passes and has yet to throw an interception in 148 pass attempts.

“You’ve got to challenge and mix it up,” Fisher said of the defensive approach the Aggies will take. “Maybe you bat some balls, get some balls and get great coverage and turn guys loose and get some hits on the quarterback.

“I don’t care who you are, when you get hit you get affected in everything you do. But he’s as good as there is in college football.”

So is a receiving corps led by Jerry Jeudy, who has 38 catches for 488 yards and six touchdowns. DeVonta Smith has 31 catches for 537 yards and eight scores, while Henry Ruggs III is averaging 21.2 yards per catch on his 17 receptions.

“Playing on the road is going to take a lot of focus on our part, a lot of discipline on our part,” Saban said.