No. 1 Alabama visits Aggies after steamrolling 2 SEC teams
By JOHN ZENOR
Texas A&M has sweated out two close Southeastern Conference wins. Alabama has barely broken a sweat at all in batting aside its first two league opponents.
Now, the top-ranked Crimson Tide visits Kyle Field as nearly four-touchdown favorites, trying to maintain that hot streak without letting those utterly one-sided games lead to overconfidence or complacency.
Enter Nick Saban, motivational speaker/Crimson Tide coach.
"Success is not a continuum, it's momentary," Saban said. "So what we did in the last two games really doesn't mean anything in terms of what we're going to do in the next game."
Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) obliterated Vanderbilt and Mississippi by a combined 125-3 to open its pursuit of a fourth consecutive league title. The offense and defense both lead the SEC in a number of statistical categories, including fewest points allowed and most points scored. Saban said the Aggies (4-1, 2-0) are the strongest all-around team the Tide has faced so far this season.
Besides the home field, if Texas A&M has an advantage it's that the Aggies have been in close games. They've beaten Arkansas (in overtime) and South Carolina by a touchdown apiece and also rebounded from a tough-to-swallow opening loss at UCLA .
Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin said the mind-set shouldn't change for his players just because a top-ranked opponent is coming to College Station.
"They're going to hear from everybody walking around that this is a different week when the reality is it's not," Sumlin said. "No matter what happens Saturday, we're playing football the next week."
Alabama has won the last four meetings since the Johnny Manziel-led Aggies upset the top-ranked Tide in 2012, 29-24.
Here are some things to watch in this game:
Both Alabama's Jalen Hurts , who's from Houston, and Texas A&M freshman Kellen Mond are threats to run. Hurts is the SEC's No. 5 rusher while Mond has also gained 252 yards. Mond has totaled 204 yards in the last two games.
Texas A&M's defense has 13 sacks in the last two games, and Landis Durham is tied for the league lead with 5 1/2. Alabama quarterbacks have only been sacked once in the last three games.
Two years ago, the then-freshman defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick became the first Tide player to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game - against Texas A&M. Sumlin gives him high praise.
"Minkah Fitzpatrick, I think, should be not just on the Thorpe Award list, I think he should be on the Heisman list," the Aggies coach said. "I think he's one of the best players in the country."
Alabama is wary of Texas A&M's Christian Kirk as both a receiver and a return man. Kirk burned the Tide for a 68-yard touchdown on a punt return two years ago. He already has a 100-yard kick return this season and leads the Aggies in receiving once again.
Saban gives Texas A&M credit for resiliency for winning four straight after blowing a 34-point second half lead against UCLA.
"When you have a loss like A&M did in the opener and bounce back to get to 4-1, what does it say about them to get over that?" Saban said.
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Updated October 6, 2017