The pole position in the SEC West will be on the line this Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium when the Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Texas A&M Aggies in a matchup of unbeaten division foes. There will be NFL talent all over the field in this game, which means we’re bound to see some exciting individual matchups play out on the field.
Here are three matchups to keep any eye on.
1. Alabama OT Cam Robinson vs. Texas A&M DE Myles Garrett
For third and likely final time, these two potential first rounders will go at it all game long. Garrett is the reigning SEC defensive player of the year and considered by some to be an early favorite to be the first player selected in next year’s NFL Draft. He’s totaled four sacks this season.
Robinson, despite the hype coming into the year, has had his struggles during the season, especially with penalties, but is coming off a game in which he held Tennessee’s Derek Barnett in check for most of the afternoon. Not to mention, he has gotten the best of Garrett in their previous duels.
In two games against the Crimson Tide, Garrett has totaled eight tackles and one sack. However, Garrett is one of two excellent pass rushers on this Aggies team, meaning Robinson and right tackle Jonah Williams will each see a fair share of Garrett as well as his running mate, Daeshon Hall. In each case, keeping A&M’s dynamic duo away from freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts will prove crucial to the success of the Alabama offense.
2. Texas A&M Receivers vs. Alabama Secondary
The amount of talent in each of these position groups makes it nearly impossible to pick a one-on-one battle, but the clash between the two will play a large role in determining the winner of this game. As staunch as this Alabama defense has been at times, the poor performance of the secondary in games against Ole Miss and Arkansas suggest that this the most susceptible part of Nick Saban’s defensive unit.
The two things Ole Miss and Arkansas had in common were big, physical receivers that could attack the secondary deep and a quarterback that can deliver it to them. Texas A&M possesses those same elements in receivers Josh Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones and quarterback Trevor Knight. If Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Anthony Averett are able to put the clamps on A&M’s receivers the same way they did Tennessee’s, even a Texas A&M run game that leads the SEC in rushing yards might not be enough to move the ball effectively on this Alabama defense.
3. Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen vs. Avery Gennesy and Jermaine Eluemenor
As previously stated, the closest thing you’ll find to a weakness on this Alabama defense in on the back end, but the best friend of any secondary is a pass rush that doesn’t give quarterbacks much time to find open receivers — which is exactly what Tim Williams and Jonathan Allen have done all season.
Williams uses his speed off the edge to get around and through offensive tackles with ease, while Allen has the versatility to play outside or on the interior of the defensive line. The two have combined for 9.5 sacks this season and are equally stout against the run.
The A&M offensive line has been one of the best in the conference in pass protection this season, allowing only six sacks all year. This Alabama pass rush has shown the ability to completely shut down an offense if they can’t be contained, a burden that will fall squarely on the shoulders of Gennesy and Eluemenor.