Joe Namath Talks Tide, Aggies
By BJ Bennett
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As top-ranked Alabama prepares for yet another opponent's best effort, their first meeting with Texas A&M since 1988, the country will soon be gathering to watch.
Saturday afternoon's SEC West clash between Alabama and Texas A&M has all the makings of a thrilling contrast of styles. This is a game that also has the nation's focus. With the 7-2, 15th ranked Aggies in Tuscaloosa, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon, all of whom play night games, will be paying close attention to the tussle between the SEC's top offense and the league's top defense. Statistically, it's one of the best pairings of the season. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 9.1 points per game. The Aggies will counter with the game's fourth-best scoring offense, a unit totaling 44.7 points an outing.
Alabama solidified their position atop the national polls last Saturday night after a storybook, game-winning drive late at rival LSU. For Nick Saban's Crimson Tide, one of the biggest tests will be avoiding an emotional letdown after a draining, primetime showdown against the Tigers one week ago. For Texas A&M, this will be their third game against a conference foe currently ranked in the top ten. So far, the Aggies are 0-2 with losses to Florida and LSU coming by a combined eight points. After toppling Mississippi State in Starkville last weekend, Texas A&M enters their most high-profile game in years with considerable momentum. This challenge though, playing on the road at the top-ranked team in the country, will be unlike anything these Aggies have ever seen.
In addition to enticing pannelists and poll-watchers, this game has peaked the interest of many fans around the country.
"Are you kidding me? I know they can," answered former Alabama quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer Joe Namath on The Drive with B.J. Bennett on The Fan Sports Radio 103.7, ESPN Radio Southeast Georgia, when asked if Texas A&M could present some problems for Alabama. "First of all, they have only lost two games and to two top ten teams: Florida and LSU. I was surprised to learn than Kevin Sumlin is in his first year there. He's got an offensive coordinator in Kliff Kingsbury and Mark Snyder the defensive coordinator, they've been around positive programs for a number of years. They've got a very impressive coaching staff."
Namath, like most, is interested to see if Aggie quarterback Johnny Manziel and an offense averaging over 559 yards per game (less than two yards fewer than Oregon) can produce against a Crimson Tide defense that has allowed just ten touchdowns all season long.
"He's not just a scrambler and he's not just a passer, he's a fine one. Coach Saban says this young man, he's got some kind of inate ability to do a lot of things. He creates a lot of plays and extends a lot of plays. Coach Saban even compared him somewhat to Doug Flutie," Namath continued, speaking of Manziel. "The Tide knows they are going to have their hands full with that offense and with that quarterback. They have good receivers and running backs, they have a good team. They have a very good team."
Texas A&M's collective best effort will be put to the test against a group of Alabama players that have competed nearly flawlessly together this fall. The Crimson Tide have been played within 19 points just once this season and have won consecutive games over nationally-ranked competition entering this weekend. Led by a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback A.J. McCarron, Alabama is playing with great confidence and cohesion.
"Like the big game, life, football is a team game. A.J. has been blessed with some fine teammates and some great instructions and coaching. We talk about coach Saban, but you can go right to the offensive coordinator. He's in his first year there, Doug Nussmeier. He's also the quarterbacks coach. A.J.'s got some great direction. A.J. is a fine young man and he has an excellent core of players around him," Namath explained. "It is a team game. I promise you, not any of we quarterbacks could do anything worth a darn if we didn't have that offensive line and those backs and receivers as well as the defense playing good ball."
As top-ranked Alabama prepares for yet another opponent's best effort, their first meeting with Texas A&M since 1988, the country will soon be gathering to watch. The outcome will speak volumes about two star quarterbacks, two talented teams and a defense some have called modern history's best. Saturday's game will also tell us a lot about the BCS National Championsnip race. The rest of college football will eagerly be listening.