Alabama-A&M: the Predictions

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Less than a day and a half from now, the curtain will have fallen on the Alabama-Texas A&M mega-rematch, one of the most hyped regular season matchups of at least the last decade — especially to those who have already forgotten the ‘Bama-LSU clashes the past couple of seasons.

Regardless, it’s easily the most highly-anticipated regular-season matchup of 2013, with storylines ranging from Johnny Manziel looking to repeat his 2012 coming-out party to the Tide seeking to avenge its only loss from its second straight title-winning season.  Already the highest-priced ticket for a regular season college football game in history, some that cover the television side of sports expect the game to attract a record number of eyeballs.

It’s being hyped as must-see TV, and rightly so giving the recent past between the two schools and the potential future BCS ramifications for each.

Since even Charles Barkley is offering up a quasi-prediction, we here at CFT figured we’d do the same.  So, without any further or unnecessary ado, here’s how Chris, Kevin and I see the instant classic shaking out.

And, as if you needed any prompting, flame away in the comments section — and offer up your own predictions that can be openly mocked as well.

CHRIS HOUSTON
The take: With the Tide having an extra week to prepare, I can’t see a repeat of last year happening, when the Aggies jumped out to a 20-0 first-quarter lead. Instead, I see this as a back-and-forth slugfest that will be close most of the way, with the winner being the team that can produce the most explosive plays during crunch time. Alabama will run the ball well with TJ Yeldon and keep it away from Johnny Manziel just enough to prevent him from dominating the game. This one should go down to the wire, with the Tide holding off the Aggies in the end.

The prediction: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 24

KEVIN MCGUIRE
The take: Neither team comes in to this game looking to have much of an advantage on the line, but given an extra week to correct the shortcomings we saw against Virginia Tech should bode well for Alabama. Much has been made about how important it is for Alabama to have Nick Saban get an extra week to prepare, and I suspect that does come in to play, but just how much will this defense be able to slow down Johnny Manziel? Manziel will have to be Superman once again, and he is capable of being just that, but I can’t imagine Alabama digs a hole the way did last year when Manziel and the Aggies stunned them early in Tuscaloosa. Neither team runs away with this one, but I think Alabama picks up their revenge this time around.

The prediction: Alabama 27, Texas A&M 23

JOHN TAYLOR
The take: For me, it’s “simple.”  Alabama’s defense plus the revenge aspect — elephants never forget, right? — plus Nick Saban and his coaching staff having an entire offseason to get a handle on Texas A&M’s offense trumps the raucous Kyle Field homefield advantage and the electrifying playmaking of Johnny Manziel.  It won’t be easy for the Tide — I can see a kicker deciding it late (shudders on both sides) — but it’ll be a markedly different outcome for the two-time defending BCS champions than it was 10 months ago; having it come on the road, after being beaten in their house last November, will make it all the sweeter.

The prediction: Alabama 30, Texas A&M 27

Tennessee hanging around with Alabama — and trailing by three TDs

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It feels like Tennessee is hanging decently well with Alabama, and yet the score is 21-0 Tide at the break in Tuscaloosa. Such is life in the Third Saturday in October rivalry.

Bo Scarborough lodged Alabama’s first two scores on identical plays, diving over a pile of humanity for 1-yard scores. The first came to end Alabama’s first drive of the day and the second came at the 4:48 mark of the second quarter. Damien Harris added the third on an 11-yard carry at the 1:18 mark.

Jalen Hurts has completed 9-of-17 passes for 144 yards, but the numbers look better than his performance has. The sophomore has been late and/or off-target with a handful of throws thus far.

It hasn’t mattered, though, as Alabama has racked up 108 yards on the ground and benefitted from a pair of drive-extending penalties by Tennessee.

Tennessee’s offense has avoided a critical mistake but hasn’t seriously threatened the Alabama defense. John Kelly has carried four times for 21 yards, and Jarrett Guarantano completed 7-of-11 passes for 38 yards while rushing eight times for 13 yards. As a team, Tennessee amassed 75 yards of offense and five first downs in the half.

Alabama will receive to open the second half.

Jimbo Fisher allows he ‘shouldn’t have said something’ to heckling fan

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Florida State’s off to a rough start on the field, which means have gotten a little bit tougher — and louder — off of it.

FSU lost to Louisville 31-28 Saturday afternoon in Tallahassee to tumble to 2-4, its worst start to a season since Bobby Bowden‘s final year in 2009.  After the game, as Jimbo Fisher was headed into the postgame locker room, he was greeted by a fan who shouted down from the stands “get new coaches.”

The head coach’s response? “Walk your ass down here and say it.”

After the game, Fisher was, of course, asked about the exchange. While he allowed that he “shouldn’t have said something” to the heckling fan, he passionately defended his struggling football program, from the football players on the roster to his coaching staff.

From the Orlando Sentinel:

It’s not frustration, just, ‘Hey, listen, be supportive,’” Fisher said of the interaction after the game. “There’s no reason to be nasty. I shouldn’t have said something.

“But at the same time, [I’m] defending players and people you’re with. I’m in charge of them, and I love them like a father. If they say something about your family, you take up for it. …

“Are you going to be a real fan or not?” Fisher said of general fan reaction following the poor start to this season. “Just keep fighting with us. We ain’t quitting on you. Please don’t quit on us. We’re going to keep fighting, scratching, coaching and playing, and you see the heart and desire of those kids.

“I understand you’re going to get on us [coaches]. That’s part of the business. That’s part of life. I understand that. … There ain’t no quit in us either. We’re right there. We just have to find a way to get it.

With this latest loss, FSU now needs to win four of its last five contests to qualify for one. One win is practically guaranteed as they face FCS Delaware State Nov. 18. Beyond that, their work is cut out for them as they have road trips to surging Boston College, Clemson and Florida, as well as a home game against a much-improved Syracuse squad that upset Clemson earlier this month.

Army officially accepts Armed Forces Bowl invitation

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The calendar may say October, but we’re already talking bowl bids.

Specifically, it was announced Saturday afternoon that Army has officially accepted a bid to play in the 2017 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.  The service academy’s sixth win of the season came courtesy of a 31-28 overtime win over Temple.

“We are absolutely delighted that Army West Point has accepted an invitation to play in the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl,” bowl executive director Brant Ringler said in a statement. “Coach Jeff Monken has been outstanding since his arrival at West Point, and again reaching the post-season is a tremendous accomplishment. We are thrilled to be able to host the Army West Point football team and the cadets in Fort Worth.”

“To return to the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl is very special for our football program and the U.S. Military Academy,” Army athletic director Boo Corrigan said in his. “The bowl did an exceptional job in 2010 in our win over SMU and we are looking forward to another great experience for our players, coaches and staff in Fort Worth in December.

The bid acceptance is contingent, though, on Army not being selected for the Group of Five’s slot in a New Year’s Six Bowl.  The Black Knights are currently 6-2 on the season; as of this posting, there are two G5 unbeatens (USF, UCF) and four with one loss (Memphis, Navy, Marshall, Toledo).

As we noted this week, Army will be making its first back-to-back bowl appearances since the 1984-84 seasons.

Rutgers wins back-to-back B1G games for first time since joining the conference in 2014

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I don’t know which one specifically, but this has to be one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

Entering Week 8, Rutgers was 5-23 in conference play — 2-18 the last two-plus years — since joining the Big Ten for the 2014 season.  Exiting Week 8, that mark has been bumped up to 6-23 as RU held off Purdue 14-12 in Piscataway.  The Boilermakers had a chance to tie the score with 25 seconds remaining after a David Blough touchdown pass, but the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful.

Making this win even more impressive is the fact that the Knights were outgained 474-217 in total yards by the Boilermakers — and 279 of those yards for the visitors came on the ground.  The bend-but-don’t-break defense, though, forced six punts, two turnovers and three turnovers on downs in holding a Purdue offense that came in averaging 26.9 points per game to a pair of field goals and one touchdown.

Combine this victory with the Week 7 road win over Illinois, and this marks the first time RU has won back-to-back Big Ten games becoming a B1G member three years and three-plus seasons ago.  Not only that, but it’s also the first time they’ve won back-to-back conference games in any league since 2012, when they were a member of the defunct Big East.

This mini-streak will seemingly face a stiff test to extend as they travel to Ann Arbor next weekend to face No. 19 Michigan in the Big House.