No. 1 Alabama, Texas A&M set to meet again in grudge match
Alabama and Texas A&M have basically taken last year’s scenario and added some offseason spice.
Now, can they match the 2021 game itself?
The newly top-ranked Crimson Tide and now-unranked Aggies face off Saturday night in a grudge match forged by last season’s 41-38 Texas A&M upse t and the coaches’ infamous war of words.
Once again, Alabama (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) is No. 1 while the Aggies (3-2, 1-1) have plummeted from No. 6 to unranked. Texas A&M is coming off a loss to Mississippi State and struggling offensively, just like last season.
“We could say it was the same situation a year ago,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.
He’s hoping for a different result — and for a healthy Bryce Young, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who is nursing a shoulder injury. The coaches have listed both Young and Texas A&M starter Max Johnson (throwing hand) as day to day.
Texas A&M won last year’s meeting on a last-play field goal in Alabama’s only regular-season defeat.
“It left a really bad taste in my mouth, (and) other guys on the roster’s mouths,” Tide safety DeMarcco Hellams said. “It’s something we definitely remember from last year and it’s definitely helped in our preparation for those guys this year.”
Nobody on either team will say it publicly, but there’s some extra fuel given the contentious offseason for Saban and his onetime assistant, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher. By now, it’s a well-rehashed back and forth that started when Saban said Texas A&M “bought” its top-ranked recruiting class via name, image and licensing money. Fisher angrily fired back, calling his old boss at LSU a “narcissist,” among other shots.
This week, both coaches have predictably downplayed that ugly summer episode that drew reprimands from the SEC.
“That’s over with,” Fisher said. “He and I are in great shape … and we’ve moved on.”
Young has done “some things” in practice this week, Saban said. He hasn’t said if Young or redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe will be at quarterback for the Tide on Saturday. Milroe played most of the way against Arkansas after Young’s injury.
Like Saban with Young, Fisher has described Johnson as day to day after a hand injury late in the loss to Mississippi State.
ABOUT THOSE BACKUPS
Texas A&M’s Haynes King, who opened the past two seasons as the starter, has the experience edge over Milroe. King had a touchdown run after entering against Mississippi State, then threw a pair of interceptions. Texas A&M also has freshman Conner Weigman.
Milroe’s most substantive playing time came last weekend, including a 77-yard run on third-and-15. Fisher is quite familiar with him, though. He recruited the Texas native and had Milroe in camp at Texas A&M.
“Athletic, competitive and was just a tremendous high school player,” Fisher said.
The Aggies rank last in the SEC and 105th in the nation in total offense with just 335 yards a game. They are also scoring the fewest points in the conference at just 21.8, a total that is 108th in the country.
Things could get even tougher this week when they face an Alabama team that ranks fourth in nation by allowing just 236.4 yards a game.
At SEC media days, Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. said of the coaches’ offseason brouhaha that “everything will be addressed” on the field. He wasn’t interested in addressing that topic publicly this week, nor were other players from either team.
“I come here to play football. I don’t come here to write tweets,” Anderson said. “I don’t come here to go back and forth. People may try to make it a big thing, but at the end of the day, I have a scholarship to play football. Coach Saban brought me here to play football, he bought us all here to play football.”
PREP AND REPEAT?
It’s all about the preparation. That’s what Fisher says about the key to pulling off (another) upset of Alabama.
Defensive back Antonio Johnson said the main thing is “making sure everybody’s in the right headspace going into this game.
“We were in the same spot last year,” Johnson said. “You know, it’s all about just finishing the season.”
___ AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this story.
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