Where: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
Line: Alabama by 7.5
TV: CBS 42
Radio: 95.5 FM
1. Out the gate: Alabama can’t afford to get down early. The Crimson Tide must come out and make a play or two early to take the rowdy crowd out of the game.
2. Eye discipline: Alabama’s defense spent much of the week talking about eye discipline when defending reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel. In short, the Tide’s defenders can’t get caught peeking in the backfield at Manziel when in coverage or receivers will burn them for a big play.
3. Second level: Alabama’s offensive line struggled against Virginia Tech. The unit never established a solid running game and quarterback AJ McCarron had little time in the pocket. The key for the Tide’s offense will be can the line get to the second level when run blocking. If they can, look for T.J. Yeldon and others to have a big performance. If not, Alabama is in for a long day.
4. Get off the field: In last year’s game, Manziel gained nine first downs on 13 third-down dropbacks. That can’t happen again. The best way to stop Manziel is to keep him on the sideline. While the offense will need to sustain long drives, the defense needs to force some three-and-outs.
Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel vs. Alabama’s linebacker C.J. Mosley: On Wednesday, Mosley said he’ll be the main “spy” against Manziel. It wouldn’t be surprising if Alabama uses a similar game plan to its 2009 defense against Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Rolando McClain spent a lot of time spying Tim Tebow, and while Manziel is a different player, Mosley is capable of running Manziel down in the open field. It’s easier said than done, but Mosley and the Crimson Tide ’s defensive line will have to keep Manziel in the pocket to make him one dimensional.
This will be one of the few games that actually lives up to the hype. College football fans couldn’t ask for a better matchup. Texas A&M wants to prove last year wasn’t a fluke and that they are serious national championship contenders. Alabama is seeking revenge against the one team that beat them while chasing an unprecedented three-peat. Johnny Manziel will make it interesting and he’ll put up points, but it’s hard to believe Nick Saban and Kirby Smart won’t figure out a way to make a few key stops to give the Tide the edge. ... Alabama 31, Texas A&M 28.