Since the Texas A&M Aggies joined the SEC in 2012, all three of their matchups against Alabama have featured both teams ranked inside the top 25, posting a 2-1 record against the Tide in that time.
It’s always expected a high-profile battle anytime the Tide and Aggies get set to square off against each other, but the matchup between the two this weekend will have greater postseason implications for both teams that any of the previous encounters.
Both Texas A&M and Alabama will come into Saturday’s game ranked inside the top 10. The Aggies are sitting 9th with a perfect 5-0 record while the Crimson Tide are directly behind them rounding out the top 10 and currently 5-1 on the season. Nick Saban and Kevin Sumlin’s squads have both put themselves squarely into the mix for a spot in the second annual College Football Playoff, but for one team at least, that could change on Saturday.
That one team is Alabama. The early-season loss to the Ole Miss Rebels put Alabama behind the eight ball in the playoff race and caused many to count the Crimson Tide out early. However, a dominant performance on the road against No. 8 Georgia and a subsequent victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks has Alabama right back in the thick of things, but the margin for error is razor thin.
A second loss to an SEC West team would just about kill Alabama’s chances of making it to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game. Alabama would be two games behind current division leader LSU and be one the short end of potential tiebreakers against the Aggies and Rebels. But even if Alabama were to somehow make it out of the SEC West with two losses, there would still be little to chance of making a return trip to the College Football Playoff, even as a conference champion.
It’s just difficult to see a scenario where a two-loss team gets selected by the committee for the Playoff, especially when you take into consideration that each Power 5 conference still has at least one undefeated team and all but the Pac-12 feature two or more unbeaten squads.
However, a win for Alabama would keep it right on track and leave only one more ranked opponent between the Crimson Tide and winning out.
For the Aggies, a loss Saturday wouldn’t eliminate them from contention, as it would be their first blemish on the season. But with road trips to Oxford and Death Valley left on the schedule, the matchup against Alabama at home almost looks like a must-win, but not quite. The Aggies could afford to take a loss against Alabama and still have a chance to make it into the playoff.
But while the Aggies have been hovering around the College Football Playoff conversation for the past few weeks, a win over the Crimson Tide would springboard them right into the middle of it. Texas A&M might be undefeated, but it has yet to pick up a signature win over a highly-ranked team in 2015, keeping poll voters cautious of putting the Aggies too high in their weekly rankings.
Alabama provides the opportunity for the high-profile victory Texas A&M needs just two weeks before the playoff committee releases its initial rankings of the 2015 season.
As much as this game means to both teams for this season, last year’s 59-0 thrashing might still be running through the minds of a few players on the Texas A&M side. Regardless of the motivation, the stakes are set for this one and it should be an exciting game to watch come Saturday afternoon.