Top 5 Showdown and Marquee Match-up of the Week with SEC Powers Texas A&M at Alabama
The marquee match-up of the week features #1 Alabama (7-0) vs. #6 Texas A&M (6-0) with both teams entering undefeated for this tussle in Tuscaloosa. Both teams are 4-0 in the SEC West and each team has been a solid money maker for their betting backers with 'Bama 5-2 ATS and the Aggies 4-2 ATS at the top-rated sportsbooks.
Alabama has won six games by 19 or more points this season while scoring a remarkable 11 touchdowns on defense and special teams. The 'Tide have scored a non-offensive TD in nine straight games. But Texas A&M has a solid situational edge this week as the Aggies enter off a bye in preparing for this first place showdown. The Aggies, like the Crimson Tide, feature a powerful, balanced and efficient offense. Can they move the ball efficiently on the tremendous 'Tide defense that ranks No. 1 in the country in run defense?
Saturday, October 22, 2016
Alabama Crimson Tide -18
Texas A&M Aggies +18
Kickoff 3:30 ET, Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL.
This is the largest point spread any team has been favored over a Top-10 team since 2013. The betting line is not a sign of disrespect, but we're going to take full advantage of the market inflation. The bookmakers have been getting whacked by 'Bama bettors, and they have no choice but to 'tax' the line to entice more two-way action. But with such a solid situation for Texas A&M off a bye, combined with their powerful, balanced and efficient offense, we step in with the Aggies.
Alabama is holding opponents to 15 points per game, 275 yards per game and 4.0 yards per play; all top-5 in the country. The 'Tide also feature the nation's No. 1 run defense allowing just 64 rushing yards per game; 30 yards better than the No. 2 team in the country Ohio State. Alabama is averaging a remarkable 230 yards per game more than their opponents. Coach Nick Saban has another terrific team and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has the offense playing 'fastball football' at a faster pace while rushing for 265 YPG and passing for 239 YPG.
Texas A&M is averaging 144 YPG more than their opponents and better than 500 YPG with a strong, balanced attack. The Aggies have both run and passed the ball for at least 200 yards in every game this season with QB Trevor Knight No. 10 in the SEC in rushing and freshman Trayveon Williams No. 3 with 703 rushing yards. But the A&M defense has been deficient, allowing 484 YPG and 90 more per game than their opponent's average. Still, the scoreboard tells a better story as the Aggies are allowing 23 points per game and top-6 in the country in yards per point (bend don't break).
Turning the Tide
Teams have been unable to run against 'Bama, and once they fall behind it's a one-dimensional pass heavy attack. Both Ole Miss and Arkansas passed for over 400 yards on Alabama. Tennessee was completely shut down last week by Alabama, as the 'Tide were dominant at the point of attack with a 438-32 rushing advantage in a 49-10 blowout on the road. But the Vols were hurting with injuries and their QB is incompetent. Texas A&M is so balanced, rushing for 274 yards per game at 6.7 yards per rush and passing for 231 while scoring 35 points per game. Recall too the Texas A&M quarterback Trevor Knight, an Oklahoma transfer, had his career game against Alabama ins the 2014 Sugar Bowl passing for 348 yards and 4 TD's as Oklahoma shocked Alabama as a 17-point 'Dog, 45-31.
No team goes through a college football season and tough schedule without some solid challenges. Alabama true freshman QB Jalen Hurts is likely to experience his own tough challenges the next two games vs. Texas A&M and LSU. We trust Aggies defensive coordinator John Chavis will be prepared for the dual threat with extra time to prepare, and dial up some additional press coverage and pressure up front knowing that Texas A&M ranks top-15 in the country in sacks and has one of the best defensive players in the country this season in senior safety Justin Evans.
Few will be willing to fade the No. 1 Crimson Tide, but 'Bama has been a losing bet more than 65% of the time at home the last 2 years. They may not get upset by the Aggies like in 2012 when 'Bama was ranked No. 1, but we'll take the added value, situation and rely on Texas A&M's balance on offense to tilt the edge in our favor with a contrary call on the Aggies.
FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay