Alabama has won two consecutive BCS national titles despite having one blemish on their final record. For Alabama, the goal is simply not to win but to do so displaying excellence in every way possible. Deep down Alabama players and coaches know they can afford to take a hit in conference play, but this week’s road trip to Texas A&M is about much more. The Aggies were the only team to manage to out-score Alabama last season, and they did so in eye-opening fashion by jumping out to a big first quarter lead and celebrating on Alabama’s storied field with the fans that made the trip to Tuscaloosa last November.
This one has to be a little more personal for Alabama. It is the hottest ticket in College Station perhaps in program history and even the most casual college football fan has probably had this game circled on the calendar since the calendar changed from 2012 to 2013. The hype machine has been in full force all week, but is it worth it? What would be the fallout if Alabama happened to lose? Would Texas A&M automatically pass Oregon, Ohio State and Clemson on their way up the rankings with a win? What exactly does this particular game mean in the grand scheme of the college football world?
Let’s explore both possible outcomes in a little more detail…
If Alabama wins…
Should the Crimson Tide overcome the 12th Man and Johnny Manziel’s latest performance, not too much will change as far as the college football world is concerned. Alabama will remain on top of the polls and could very well gobble up what few first-place votes do not already belong to them. A win on the road against a top ten SEC team tends to speak loudly, which is ironic as it would come at the home of the Midnight Yell and Yell leaders. For Alabama, it will continue to be business as usual, which means the next most important game on the schedule could be November 9 when LSU comes to Tuscaloosa. Alabama’s schedule is favorable leading up to that game, and with a win over Texas A&M the Crimson Tide could be in a position to afford a late loss in division play.
Depending on what happens with LSU, it would be possible Alabama could lose to LSU and still advance to the SEC Championship Game if they manage to win the other games on their schedule, including a regular season finale at Auburn. Texas A&M would likely need Alabama to lose twice in order for the Aggies to make a trip to Atlanta, and that is under the extreme scenario in which LSU loses twice. So for Alabama, a win in College Station may give the defending SEC champs a much easier path back to Atlanta.
But should we write Texas A&M off so soon? Absolutely not. A loss to the top-ranked team, if close, should not result in a significant drop in the polls for the Aggies. With plenty of games still to be played, there will be plenty of time for Texas A&M to work their way back up the polls if they can manage to pick up some key wins along the way. Texas A&M’s schedule is less favorable than Alabama though. The Aggies still have road games at Arkansas, LSU and a surprisingly hot Ole Miss. Texas A&M may need a lot of help to get to Atlanta, but the Aggies could very well play in to the BCS at-large equation by the end of the year.
If Texas A&M wins…
If Texas A&M once again proves they can control the Tide, the Aggies could grab a large handful of first place votes in the polls. The question would then become how many first place votes do they grab away from Oregon, Clemson, and Ohio State? Given the schedule this weekend, a Texas A&M victory could score major points from the voters, so it is entirely possible Texas A&M could become the top-ranked team for the first time since 1957, when Paul “Bear” Bryant was the head coach. Maybe this is a stretch, but it is certainly a realistic possibility despite entering the weekend ranked sixth in the AP and coaches polls.
Like Alabama, Texas A&M would jump out in front of the SEC West division race and take a Texas-sized step toward Atlanta. But this is where it begins to get fun. If the game happens to be close, decided by a single score, it is not at all likely Alabama drops very far in the polls. Alabama would likely remain a top five team and they almost certainly would fall no lower sixth unless Manziel goes off and rewrites all of the offensive record books. And just like Texas A&M, Alabama would have plenty of time to work their way back up the rankings. In fact, it would hypothetically be possible Alabama could ascend back to number one by the end of the regular season and still get shutout of the SEC Championship Game. A lot would have to happen, but it is possible once you take a closer look at the rest of the season and the SEC division tiebreaker rules. Of course, a top-ranked Alabama, SEC championship game appearance or not, would be a virtual lock to own one of the top two spots in the BCS rankings as well to send them back to the championship game.
So does this game really matter all that much?
This match-up certainly matters, but if the main objective is to win a BCS championship then this game may not be quite as important as you may think. After all, Alabama has won the past two BCS titles with a loss on their record so if any program knows it is more about the marathon and not the first couple of miles it is the Crimson Tide. The winner gets the edge in the race to Atlanta, so there is plenty riding on the outcome, but if you are focused on a crystal football at the end of the year, there will be many more important games to come.