Without a doubt the game of the day, and possibly of the regular season, is the Saturday afternoon (3:30pm ET) SEC tilt at Kyle Field in College Station, TX between the top-ranked Alabama (1-0, 1-0 ATS) Crimson Tide and 6th ranked Texas A&M Aggies (2-0, 1-1 ATS). 2012 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel (520 yards passing, 6 TDs, 1 INT) burst on to the national stage last November when the Aggies beat the 2012 National Champions 29-24 in Tuscaloosa as a 13.5 point underdog. Manziel threw for 253 yards and 2 TDs and ran for 92 more yards in a stunning upset that sets the stage for the much-hyped rematch this weekend.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron had a subpar game in last season’s meeting with the Aggies, throwing for 300 yards, but with 2 costly interceptions as A&M jumped out to a 20-0 lead that they would not relinquish. The Tide defeated Virginia Tech 35-10 in week 1 on a neutral field at the Georgia Dome, and come into this game off of a bye week. McCarron struggled in the opener, completing 10-for-23 passing and getting sacked 4 times behind a revamped offensive line that has had to replace two NFL first round picks. Wide receiver Amari Cooper will be a key weapon for McCarron in this game, as he had a huge game against the Aggies in 2012 catching 6 passes for 136 yards. Defensively Alabama will look to control the running of Maziel, they were successful in making adjustments to his scrambling ability last year when he was held to 10 yards rushing in the second half after running for 82 yards in the first half.
Texas A&M beat Rice 52-31 week 1 in College Station and tuned up for this game with a 65-28 shellacking of FCS Sam Houston State in week 2. Manziel threw for 403 yards and accounted for 4 TDs in less than three quarters of play last week. The Aggies played without several suspended starters on defense last week, and gave up multiple big plays as a result. The unit is expected to be back to full strength this week.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Spread, Line and Betting Odds:
Alabama Crimson Tide -7
@Texas A&M Aggies +7
Over 62 (-110)
Under 62 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Pick
Texas A&M is 4-0 against the spread in their last four SEC games, 5-1 against the spread following a win, and 4-1 against the spread against a team with a winning record. Alabama is 20-8 against the spread in their last 28 road games, 2-5 against the spread against a team with a winning record, and 7-2 against the spread against a team with a winning home record. Alabama is 12-6 ATS on the road since 2009, and 6-4 ATS after a bye. Under Kevin Sumlin, the Aggies are 4-4 ATS in College Station.
The early action has definitely favored the Crimson Tide, the line at the Wynn opened at Alabama -7.5 and quickly moved to -8.5 after a couple of large bets on the Tide. The Aggies are a tempting play as a home underdog, and dating back to 2010 Alabama’s last four losses have come against teams led by mobile quarterbacks (Jordan Jefferson; LSU 2010 and 11, Cam Newton; Auburn 2010, and Manziel 2012). The ability to move outside the pocket neutralizes the strength advantage that Alabama possesses upfront and forces their defense to defend the entire field.
If the line continues to move north towards +10, A&M becomes an attractive play. That being said, the safer play here is the total given A&M’s defensive issues, which include a propensity for allowing big plays (5 plays of 20 yards or longer against Sam Houston St.). Cooper and T.J. Yeldon could cause problems for A&M in that department, but this game does not appear to be a likely a shoot-out. The under came in last year at 53 total on a posted O/U of 54.5, and if A&M plays well they are not going to light up the Tide defense for a high point total. This game can likely go one of two ways: Alabama is in control throughout and the scoring is one-sided, or the game is close all the way through and is relatively low scoring. Either instance favors the under, and that is the recommended play here. Take the under in what is being hyped as the game of the year.