TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama just etched an entry into Crimson Tide lore with a stomach-twisting road win over No. 9 LSU after the national title hopes went on life support.
Now, the top-ranked Crimson Tide face another huge, and much different, challenge. No. 15 Texas A&M visits Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night with a versatile quarterback and a high-speed offense that seldom takes a break.
Such is life in the Southeastern Conference.
“That wasn’t the national championship game,” Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said. “We’re not done. We’ve got more work to do. And we’ve got a different animal this week. That’s how we approach it. “
Alabama (9-0, 6-0) can secure a spot in the SEC championship game with a win.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) have already made a big splash in a league that’s won six straight national championships. They have taken top 10 teams Florida and LSU down to the wire before losing both games by a combined eight points.
“The first game against Florida was a pretty big event,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. “We’ve had some pretty big games already. If anything, the atmosphere going on the road will be different. These guys have put us in a position, by their play, to make these games meaningful. It’s not a one-game season. It never has been and it never will be.”
He said the Aggies gained confidence from their close calls with the Gators and Tigers that they can handle the league’s physical style. They were hurt by nine penalties against Florida and five turnovers against LSU.
Now, their pedal-to-the-medal quarterback and offense take on a more old-school SEC football team.
It’s run-and-gun Manziel versus AJ McCarron, who thrust himself more prominently into the Heisman Trophy conversation by engineering a swift game-winning touchdown drive against the Tigers. McCarron still hasn’t thrown an interception this season.
Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart figures it will take a much more pristine performance to beat an Alabama team with two national titles in three years and a third in its sights.
“We know that we’re going to have to play up to the part,” Stewart said. “We’re going against the No. 1 team in the nation. As we saw when we lost to Florida and we lost to LSU, our two losses this year, we can’t beat ourselves. When we’re going against top 10 teams, they don’t beat themselves. Unfortunately, in our two losses, we beat ourselves.”