The vaunted Alabama defense has made victims of countless quarterbacks in recent years, but Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight is not one.
The lone previous meeting between the quarterback and the Crimson Tide occurred at the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Knight, a redshirt freshman playing for Oklahoma at the time, shredded the Alabama defense for 348 passing yards and four touchdowns on his way to claiming Sugar Bowl MVP honors.
Knight has a chance to join some rare company on Saturday. With a victory over the Crimson Tide, he would become just the second quarterback, along with LSU alum Jordan Jefferson, to defeat Nick Saban twice since the legendary head coach came to Alabama in 2007.
The sixth-ranked Aggies face an uphill battle against the No. 1 team in the country this weekend. They do have a chance to pull off the upset, though, which would rank among the greatest moments in program history.
Fortunately for Texas A&M, Knight possesses one thing that has given Alabama headaches throughout Saban’s tenure, and that is mobility at the quarterback position.
Jefferson was, at best, an average quarterback during his four years at LSU. Yet somehow, he managed to play key roles in back-to-back victories over the Crimson Tide. Each of the last eight quarterbacks to defeat Alabama — Knight, Jefferson, Chad Kelly, Cardale Jones, Bo Wallace, Nick Marshall, Johnny Manziel and Cam Newton — have all presented a legitimate rushing threat.
Alabama has blown out every opponent it has faced this season, with the exception, unsurprisingly, of Ole Miss.
Led by Kelly at quarterback, the Rebels were able to build a 24-3 lead late in the second quarter. They would crumble down the stretch, losing 48-43, but Kelly would finish the game having compiled 469 total yards and three touchdowns. Until the Oct. 8 game against Arkansas, no team this year had matched Kelly’s individual totals against the Crimson Tide.
Kelly and Knight share nearly identical skill sets, which should concern Alabama.
Unlike Ole Miss, Texas A&M has a consistent rushing attack to take pressure off of its dual-threat quarterback. A major factor in the Rebels’ collapse was the one-dimensional nature of their offense. The Crimson Tide will be afforded no such luxury on Saturday, and the attention that will be placed on containing freshman running back Trayveon Williams — the workhorse of the nation’s No. 7 rushing attack — will open up opportunities for Knight to find wide receivers Christian Kirk and Josh Reynolds for big plays down the field.
Make no mistake, Texas A&M is a long-shot to upend an Alabama team that has been throttling opponents on both sides of the ball this season. The Crimson Tide rank among the top-10 in the country in various statistical categories, including rushing offense, scoring offense, scoring defense and total defense, and lead the nation in sacks, rushing defense and defensive touchdowns. They are also beating opponents by an average of 30.4 points.
With a weapon in place capable of exploiting Alabama’s consistent weakness, though, a program-altering victory is within reach for the Aggies.