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The Campus Read Option: Kevin Sumlin’s Texas A&M Squad Is Coming For Alabama’s Crown

Another college football weekend brings us another playoff-caliber matchup with the No.

Another college football weekend brings us another playoff-caliber matchup with the No. 6 Texas A&M Aggies (6-0, 4-0 in conference) traveling to Tuscaloosa to challenge the NCAA version of Debo: Nick Saban’s No. 1 and defending national championship squad, the rough and rugged Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 in conference). 

En route to last year’s title, Alabama faced nine ranked opponents. This year’s gauntlet will be similarly challenging. And Texas A&M will be their stiffest challenge to date.

The last time Aggies quarterback Trevor Knight faced the Tide, he was playing for Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl and had a career day, completing 32 of his 44 pass attempts for 348 yards and four touchdowns.

A similar effort will be needed this weekend in order to topple Saban’s juggernaut. The Tide already owns four wins over AP ranked teams this year and they’re enjoying a current winning streak of 11 consecutive games against ranked opponents.


The most intriguing aspect of why Kevin Sumlin’s Texas A&M squad has a puncher’s chance in this game is that their offense in incredibly balanced.


Knight averages 250 yards per game passing, but their true strength comes in their ability to run the ball. They’ve surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark in every game thus far, averaging over 274. And the only QB with more rushing touchdowns than Knight is Louisville’s superfluously talented Lamar Jackson. 

Freshman running back and Houston native Trayveon Williams is the truth. He’s putting in work to the tune of 117 yards a game. If you haven’t seen him yet, you’re missing a rising gem.

He’s a small, compact bundle of muscle with an insane burst and deceptive strength. My man has quicks and speed to go along with natural vision. Once he finds the crease, it’s showtime. His balance, body control and ability to make people miss in the open field are next-level.


I can’t wait to see how he looks against Bama’s exceptional defense, which leads the country by giving up a stingy 63.9 rushing yards per game. Ole Miss is the only opponent who cracked 100 yards in total against them, and the Rebels only managed 101 on 33 attempts. 

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Speaking of running the ball, Alabama has been putting up some Steve McQueen-running-through-Hollywood-starlet type numbers on the ground. Last week, they rushed for a mind-boggling 438 against Tennessee.


When the Tide has the ball, the magic starts and ends with true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. The Aggies defensive mantra will be, “Don’t Hurt Me!”, as Hurts, at the midway point of the regular season, has accounted for 17 total touchdowns, 428 rushing yards and 1,385 passing.

A Nick Saban team has never had that type of dual-purpose threat at the QB position, which makes this year’s squad so much fun to watch. Alabama looks to be without any discernible weakness. Let’s see if Texas A&M can expose some.

Don’t be so hypnotized by Hurts’ stylistics that you’re not paying attention to A&M’s special defensive linemen Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall, as well as safety Justin Evans, whose play this year has been stronger than James Evans on Good Times. 

Evans leads the team with 48 tackles and three interceptions, is second in passes broken up and wallops in run-support like Mike Tyson against Pinklon Thomas in ’87! He could wind up with a few Defensive Player of the Year awards if he continues to play lights out. 

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Sumlin’s crew is coming for Alabama’s crown this weekend. But coming for, and taking it, now those are two entirely different things altogether. This one should be a doozy.



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Best of the weekend’s rest:

N.C. State vs #7 Louisville – The Wolfpack almost knocked off Clemson last week while the Cardinals had their hands full with a scrappy Duke squad. But who am I kidding, I’d watch Louisville play against Sojourner Douglass College simply to marvel at QB Lamar Jackson.

Memphis vs #24 Navy – Pivotal conference matchup of undefeated teams. Navy has won 13 in a row at home in Annapolis. Navy’s triple-option continues to confound and astound.

TCU vs #12 West Virginia – The undefeated Mountaineers are among this year’s early surprises. Known for their prolific passing offense, they’ve been playing some strong defense behind their unique 3-3-5 stack alignments. TCU’s version of the spread offense is always fun as well, and West Virginia QB Skylar Howard is very good. TCU QB Kenny Hill, a Texas A&M transfer, is no joke either. 


#17 Arkansas vs #21 Auburn – The Tigers have been experiencing a resurgence on offense and their defense has only given up ten touchdowns all year. Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen is tough, as is sophomore running back Rawleigh Williams III, who ran for 180 yards against Ole Miss last week.

#10 Wisconsin vs Iowa – Wisconsin’s two consecutive losses to #4 Michigan and #2 Ohio State were valiant efforts that have kept them ranked in the Top Ten. If the Badgers win, next week’s game against #8 Nebraska is gonna one dance that’s hotter than Drake’s joint.

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Oregon State vs #5 Washington – If you have not seen the Huskies play this year, you’re missing out like folks who tripled up on their Blockbuster stock once Netflix hit the scene. They score 50 points per game while only giving up 14. Their defense is stocked with top future NFL Draft picks while receiver John Ross, running back Myles Gaskin and quarterback Jake Browning lead an offense that I’ve nicknamed “Kool G. Rap!”, because they’re steady giving teams the Ill Street Blues!

#2 Ohio State vs Penn State – The Buckeyes barely escaped getting snuffed by Wisconsin last week. In Happy Valley, they’ll try to extend its road winning streak to 21 games, the longest in the country. Two years ago at Penn State, the Nittany Lions pushed them in a double-overtime thriller. The team with the most boring uniforms in football has one of the best running backs in college football today, Sequon Barkley, who has rushed for 582 yards and eight touchdowns thus far. Is this the game where coach James Franklin’s team turns the corner and scrambles up the soon-to-come playoff rankings?


#23 Ole Miss vs #25 LSU – Running back extraordinaire Leonard Fournette returns from injury after missing the last two games. Rebels’ QB Chad Kelly has the best arm in college football. 


Ali

Alejandro “Ali” Danois is the Editor-in-Chief of The Shadow League. His features “Humble Beginnings”, and “Rocky Flop” were mentioned in the Best American Sports Writing Anthology as among the country’s most notable stories of 2014 and 2015 respectively.

Ali is the author of the critically acclaimed book, The Boys of Dunbar, A Story of Love, Hope and Basketball, and he served as a Producer on the ESPN Films 30-for-30 documentary “Baltimore Boys”.

Follow him on twitter @alidanois