One of the most anticipated games of the 2022 college football season is Saturday night –although it might be a blowout– as unranked Texas A&M visits No. 1 Alabama.
Which way to lean at OddsTrader’s top-rated sportsbooks?
Saturday, October 08, 2022 – 08:00 PM EDT at Bryant-Denny Stadium
CBS has the national telecast of this SEC game, and it’s all about the coaches Jimbo Fisher of Texas A&M and Nick Saban of Alabama. Fisher was Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU years ago, and the two were …if not buddies, at least friendly acquaintances for years.
That all ended in May when, while meeting with local business leaders in Birmingham, Alabama, Saban claimed that Texas A&M “bought every player”, its top-ranked recruiting class with name, image, and likeness deals.
Fisher took exception and held a news conference the following day, calling Saban’s comments “despicable.” Fisher also implied some fishy business on Saban’s part and called on reporters to look into Alabama’s recruiting practices. Supposedly the two have moved on, but that’s likely only what they are saying publicly.
Fisher’s biggest win at A&M so far was last year’s 41-38 home upset of No. 1 Alabama. Seth Small made a 28-yard field goal as time expired and Texas A&M ended the Crimson Tide’s winning streak at 19 games. Zach Calzada was the Aggies’ QB then and threw for 285 yards and three scores, but he’s now elsewhere. Bryce Young threw for 369 and three scores for the Tide, and he’s of course still there but might not play (see below).
Alabama leads the all-time series 11-3 and 5-1 in Tuscaloosa. The total has gone over on the NCAAF picks in the past four.
Fisher On Hot Seat?
Could Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher actually be fired if his team is routed on Saturday? I highly doubt it, but it’s not impossible, as A&M has hugely disappointed at 3-2 and really has had only one excellent season under Fisher: 9-1 in the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Fisher would be owed about $95.6 million if fired before December 1st. No coach besides Fisher has ever had a buyout north of $50 million.
There are some mega-rich boosters at Texas A&M, but I can’t see anyone paying that much to dump Fisher.
The coach is considered a quarterback guru, but frankly, not having an excellent one other than Kellen Mond a few years ago has been the issue in College Station. The Aggies started this year with Haynes King, and he was benched after a shocking home loss to Appalachian State. LSU transfer Max Johnson has been slightly better.
Last week, the Aggies were routed at Mississippi State, 42-24. Johnson finished the game with 203 yards on 19-of-26 passing, and one touchdown before leaving with a hand injury, but it’s not thought to be anything major. If Johnson can’t play here, it would be King again.
Devon Achane registered the seventh 100-yard game of his career and second of the season in the loss, tallying 111 yards on 16 carries. He’s one of the SEC’s better backs, ranking third in the conference at 93.2 rushing yards per game. Achane leads all Power 5 players with a 34.25 kickoff return average.
Do They Have a Chance?
The only way A&M can stay close here is if it scores at least one non-offensive touchdown. The Aggies also better score first to have a shot. They are 28-4 when scoring first and 26-0 when leading after the first quarter under Fisher.
A&M does have a good defense, ranking 24th nationally in scoring at 17.8 points per game and allowing just 5.8 yards per pass, good for 12th in the country. The Aggies are 1-5 ATS on the NCAAF picks in their past six road games. The under is 12-5 in Texas A&M’s past 17 away.
Will Bryce Young Play?
The big question for the Tide is whether 2021 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Bryce Young will play. He left last Saturday’s 49-26 win at Arkansas with a shoulder injury and is being called day-to-day.
You didn’t actually think Nick Saban was going to provide inside information, did you? It reportedly is an AC joint sprain, which would affect his throwing. I would be stunned if Young doesn’t play. The sportsbooks have shifted his odds of winning another Heisman from +500 to +1000 after the injury.
Redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe, a Texas native, presumably would start if Young can’t. Last week in relief vs. the Hogs, Milroe passed for 65 yards and a touchdown while racking up 91 yards and another score on the ground. The offense wasn’t as sharp, though, which is to be expected.
Defensive lineman Justin Eboigbe didn’t travel to Arkansas due to injury and will not play. Defensive back Brian Branch left the game but is likely to go Saturday. Branch has made 22 tackles, two tackles for losses, and a sack this season. Eboigbe has made 11 stops in four games.
During his tenure at Alabama, Saban has suffered 25 total losses. Of those 25 losses, the Crimson Tide have had the opportunity to face the team that beat them at a later date on 21 occasions.
In those 21 rematches, Alabama owns a 19-2 mark when avenging its previous loss. Saban is 26-2 all-time against his former assistants. Both losses were last year, to Fisher and then Georgia’s Kirby Smart in the SEC title game.
Texas A&M vs. Alabama: The Betting Pick
Just about everyone in the country thinks the Tide are going to just embarrass the Aggies because of the feud with Fisher.
Maybe, but I simply can’t give 24.5 points to a decent team that plays good defense. Plus, if Young doesn’t play, I love taking the points …and the under.
NCAAF Pick: Texas A&M +24.5 (-110) at BetMGM (and play the under only if Young doesn’t play)