Alabama is fresh off a convincing win over Virginia Tech in its opener a few weeks back and got last Saturday off to rest up for the much-anticipated trip to College Station this week.
The time off was surely a good way for the top-ranked Crimson Tide to reflect on last season’s game against Texas A&M. It’s rematch time as Alabama plays No. 6 Texas A&M and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel on Saturday (3:30 p.m., CBS).
Manziel and the Aggies stormed into Tuscaloosa last November, jumped out to a 20-0 lead and held on for a 29-24 shocker. That ruined Alabama’s quest for a perfect season (Of course, Alabama did end up winning the BCS national title by demolishing Notre Dame in January).
Texas A&M’s win came in the school’s first season as an SEC member and came against the best college football program in the land – on their home turf. It also catapulted Manziel to the Heisman Trophy in December. Manziel, the first freshman to win college football’s top individual prize, threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 92 yards in the upset of Alabama.
This year’s game has generated plenty of hype, as it should. Tickets are going for big money. There’s also the revenge factor from the 2012 game for Alabama.
Revenge, however, is not on the minds of the Alabama players. For Alabama, the focus is on No. 1 vs. No. 6 on the road, with last year’s game not part of the equation.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron downplayed the rematch earlier this week, choosing to focus on this year’s game. Wide receiver Amari Cooper said earlier this week that Saturday’s game is not about revenge.
Well, Alabama may not be saying it, but this game has likely been circled on the calendar since last November. You can be certain that head coach Nick Saban and the Alabama defense will remember and learn from last year’s game as they prepare for Manziel.
Saban was asked during his Monday press conference with reporters whether he expects any trash-talking.
“It’s never a part of our game,” Saban said. “There’s no circumstance where you need to talk to another player, and there’s been very little of that with our team. Businesslike is the way we’d like to approach this game. It’s going to be emotional, don’t get me wrong. And I'm not trying to minimize the importance when I use the term businesslike.”
Texas A&M is a very good team. All eyes will be on Manziel – literally. CBS will have a camera focused solely on Manziel during the game. Manziel already has 497 passing yards and six touchdowns this season. The Aggies are ranked in the top 10 nationally in total offensive yards (600 per game), passing yards (380.5 per game) and points scored (58.5 per game).
This game has all of the elements to be a great one.