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Aggies Limping into Matchup with No.1 Alabama

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Texas A&M Helmet | Image by USA Today Sports

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The Texas A&M Aggies will play their third straight game away from home when they visit Tuscaloosa to play the No.1 Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday night.

The teams enter the game in almost the exact situation as last year’s meeting between the SEC rivals. A top-ranked Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) once again is playing a Texas A&M (3-2, 1-1) team coming off an upset loss to Mississippi State that knocked them outside the Top 25.

“We could say it was the same situation a year ago,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.

The Aggies managed to pull off the upset and beat the Tide at home last year 41-38 on a last-second field goal, giving Alabama its lone regular season loss.

This year, however, A&M enters with an offense ranked last in the SEC and 105th in the nation in total offense averaging 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.

The A&M offense will face an uphill battle against an Alabama defense that ranks fourth in the nation by allowing just 236.4 yards a game.

To make matters worse, A&M’s starting quarterback Max Johnson is reportedly set to miss the rest of the season with a broken bone in his throwing hand.

Johnson was injured in the Aggies’ 42-24 defeat at the hands of Mississippi State.

A&M’s Haynes King is the most experienced option to replace Johnson, as he opened the past two seasons as the starting quarterback.

However, King has struggled with turnovers, throwing a pair of interceptions after entering against Mississippi State.

Texas A&M also has highly touted 5-star freshman Conner Weigman as an option at QB.

Alabama also enters with questions about its quarterback position due to injury. Heisman-winning QB Bryce Young was knocked out of his team’s 49-26 win over Arkansas this past Saturday with a shoulder injury.

Saban said Young has done “some things” in practice this week but has not said whether he will play against the Aggies.

Redshirt freshman QB Jalen Milroe will be the quarterback if Young cannot go, having played most of the Arkansas game after the starter went down and delivering a two-touchdown performance, including a 77-yard run.

Aggies head coach Jimbo Fisher is quite familiar with Milroe, having recruited the Katy, Texas native and watching him up close at a football camp at Texas A&M.

“Athletic, competitive, and was just a tremendous high school player,” Fisher said.

On the other side of the ball, the Aggies are equipped with a top-25 defense, but it may still be overmatched against the Crimson Tide, who have the No.1 offense in the SEC.

Alabama has averaged 48.4 points per game behind a dominant run game. Alabama has rushed for 1,257 yards and 13 touchdowns as a team led by junior running back Jahmyr Gibbs’ 378 yards and two touchdowns.

Aside from Gibbs, the Tide has five other running backs who have tallied at least 120 yards on the ground this season.

This year’s matchup also includes some added spice dating back to an offseason war of words between Saban and his one-time assistant Fisher.

When Saban said Texas A&M “bought” its top-ranked recruiting class via name, image, and likeness (NIL) money, Fisher angrily fired back, calling his old boss a “narcissist,” among other things.

At press conferences this week, both coaches downplayed their summer feud that drew reprimands from the SEC.

“That’s over with,” Fisher said. “He and I are in great shape … and we’ve moved on.”

More pressing to Fisher than the summer conflict is correcting an Aggies offense that has seriously faltered in upset losses to Appalachian State and Mississippi State.

One of the main things dragging the offense down is the failure to convert for first downs. A&M has only 91 first downs on the season while allowing 105 from opponents.

Running back Devon Achane has been the only consistent Aggie on offense, with 466 yards and three touchdowns.

If the offense cannot right its ship and start moving the chains, A&M’s defense will eventually wear down against the high-powered Alabama offense.

At his weekly press conference, Fisher said he is optimistic his offense will execute come Saturday; after all, his team pulled off the unexpected upset against the Tide last year.

“Because I know the guys in practice,” said Fisher. “I see them practicing, I see them do it. They’ve just got to take it to the field. I’ve been in the business long enough to have young players and have had teams that done this before.”

The game will kick off at 7 p.m. CT and be broadcast on CBS.

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