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Pick - Analysis
Everyone's been looking forward to this game for a while; in fact, probably since last year's matchup when the Aggies upset the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa, 29-24. This year, if Texas A&M plan on getting another win, it will be another upset, this time at home. This game opened at Alabama -7 at 5 Dimes Sportsbook and has been bet up to -9 with the early betting action all going one way, on the Tide.
Johnny Manziel was the man of the game last year, as he was in many of the Aggies' games in 2012. Against one of the nation's best defenses, Manziel went 24-for-31 for 253 yards and two TDs to go with 92 yards on the ground. A&M didn't turn the ball over and scored three touchdowns in the first quarter. That's how you beat Alabama, but can they do that again?
Manziel has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons lately, but there's no reason to think he'll take a step back from last season. He hasn't really faced much competition yet, so it's hard to see where he's at against a viable defense. Nevertheless, his top wide receiver Mike Evans (already with 239 yards and two TDs) will be looked at early and often.
The Aggies defense might be the bigger question mark after allowing 59 points in its first two games. If Rice and Sam Houston State can score 30 points per game against A&M, what will Alabama do?
AJ McCarron tossed two picks in last year's game, which is a main reason they lost. McCarron didn't really have much to do in the Crimson Tide's first game and didn't look all that great as it was. He went 10-for-23 for 110 yards, one TD and one INT against Virginia Tech. Expect those numbers to look a little different in a more back-and-forth game. The Aggies haven't looked great against the run, allowing 300-plus yards to Rice and a 170-yard rusher to SHSU, so T.J. Yeldon will probably be in line for plenty of touches. Amari Cooper torched the Aggies last season for 136 yards and will be a problem for them again.
Can Alabama's defense put a stop to the Manziel madness? Maybe they were taken off guard by him last year, but with plenty of preparation, Nick Saban won't want to lose another to the kid known as Johnny Football. The Crimson Tide destroyed Logan Thomas last week (5-for-26 passing), but allowed Va. Tech's top runner to go for 132 yards on 6.6 yards per carry. Alabama will need to contain RBs Ben Malena and Tra Carson, which will make it harder on Manziel.
Last season the Aggies won as 13.5-point underdogs on the road. As sizable home underdogs, they are once again playing with a chip on their shoulders. Can Manziel lead them to another upset?
Texas A&M Is 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and has covered in four straight conference games. Alabama has mostly solid trends, excluding being just 2-5 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. Looking at the Aggies first couple games, one should expect a pretty high-scoring game due to Texas A&M's less than stellar defense. The over is 5-1-1 in the Crimson Tide's last seven road games and 4-1 in the Aggies last five home games.
If you're not a subscriber to our score prediction model, you ought to strongly consider it. It will be your most useful handicapping tool as the season progresses, bar none and more economical than anything like it on the market. One of the things we do, is add additional predictions based on different time frames as we head through the 2nd half of the season and into the bowls and NFL playoffs. No one else offers that anywhere in this industry. So, for example, if this game were being played at the end of last season, we'd tell you that our model has Alabama on top 30-21 in this one using full season stats. However, when only using stats from the last quarter of the season for both teams, that gap closes to 30-26, Bama still on top, but not by enough to cover this number.
Of course this is not last year. Both teams have talent and key personnel in place from a year ago, but also have lost a few players. Bama will always recruit talent. Texas A&M, maybe not to much. With the circus surrounding Johnny Football, it's safe to say there are more question marks on the A&M sidelines than the Tide's.
Word is, Alabama has been playing last years game, on a loop, in their weight training rooms all summer long. Since spring actually. Over, and over, and over again. Revenge in college football is huge. It works, providing the line cooperates. In this case, the line is what keeps this from becoming a strong play for us. At a touchdown or less, we'd become interested here.
Revenge only works if the team seeking it, is capable. Alabama is capable. Alabama -7.5
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