Two historical programs go head to head this week. Texas A&M and Alabama have a lot in common, namely Paul Bryant, Gene Stallings, and Dennis Franchione.
Paul Bryant coached the Crimson Tide from 1958 through 1982. During that time period, he was known as a great but bitter coach. He had some great teams in Alabama but never fully basked in their glory. Bryant detested recruiting and left that part of the job up to boosters. The boosters did a fair job, but Bryant, who was mostly a figurehead for the last ten years of his career, had a constant battle with boosters about the quality of recruits showing up on the Alabama campus. In a state as small as Alabama, the boosters weren’t powerful enough to bring in the best players. Bryant had to rely on his staff to develop the players. He was fortunate enough to win two national championship in 1961 and 1979. These days, a coach in Alabama would not last five years without winning a national championship.
At Texas A&M, Bryant took over a small program in disarray. He decided to find some football players and drive away everyone else in his infamous Junction camp. Those players, when seniors, were ready to win the national championship when Paul quit on his team. In 1957, the Texas A&M Aggies were a given for the national championship when Bryant decided to go to Alabama due to a lack of pussy in College Station. Apparently, coaching at an all male military academy didn’t allow him to hang his fedora on enough hooks. The Crimson Tide sent a couple of sorority girls to College Station, and Bryant spent the last few weeks of the season deep inside the Greek alphabet instead of the playbook. He quit on his team.
Gene Stallings was a follower of Paul Bryant. Gene wanted to be just like Paul. He is just like Paul, except Gene just says more stupid things than Paul.
Dennis Franchione was a little different. He came along later, when Texas A&M was a more powerful school than Alabama. By the time Franchione was coaching at Alabama, Texas A&M was a school that had more money, more alumni, and more marketing appeal than Alabama. Franchione was the most loved figure in Alabama since Paul Bryant while he was there, but he jumped at the chance to move to College Station. Of course, Franchione was not a good coach, and he probably should have stayed in Alabama where he was a God, but he made the move and now lives in a really nice house in Austin.
There’s a great history between these two universities. Let’s analyze the matchups:
Aggie Running Game vs Bama Run Defense
The restructured Aggie offensive line is still a work in progress. The Alabama front seven has proved to be effective, but only against ground oriented teams. Teams like the Aggies that like to mix it up can have some success, but the advantage lies with the Crimson Tide. The Crimson Tide won’t face running backs as good as the Aggie group all year, but they should hold the Aggies to under 200 yards rushing.
Aggie Passing game vs Bama Pass Defense
Advantage: Texas A&M
The Aggie passing attack will be an advantage against all but fifteen or so teams in the nation. Jerrod Johnson and his team of receivers seem to be on the same page, and Alabama has given up some touchdown passes to weak passing teams. North Texas even had a long touchdown against Alabama.
Bama Running vs Aggie Run Defense
The Aggies have struggled in the running game against speedy quarterbacks. They won’t have that problem against Alabama, but the weakness has been exposed. If Alabama goes strictly with a wildcat type of offense and pulls McElroy out of the game, they can have some success against the Aggie defense. Expect Alabama to get at least 100 yards rushing.
Bama Passing Game vs Aggie Pass Defense
Advantage: Texas A&M
Unless Alabama goes to some sort of wildcat offense and throws the ball with a running back on a misdirection, the Aggies will shut down the Tide’s passing game. The normal Bama quarterback was not even recruited by most schools in Texas. He didn’t start until he was a senior, and he will struggle against quality opponents. Auburn didn’t offer.
SEC schools are historically weak in the third phase of the game. The Aggies are throwing too many freshman out there to not expect some problems this early in the season.
Intangibles: Texas A&M
The more powerful program always has the advantage. Texas A&M is able to hire coaches away from Alabama these days. Alabama was cremated by Utah in their last game last year, so every player on that team has a head filled with doubt. Both teams have cruised through their easy schedule thus far.
Line: Texas A&M by 15
Prediction: That line is too high. I’ll still predict an Aggie victory, but it will be a defensive struggle. Take Bama and points, although they’ll lose 34-24.