October 13, 2015

Texas A&M is in a tight battle for the SEC West, and keeping pace this week might mean crippling Alabama's division hopes.

The ninth-ranked Aggies look to remain undefeated by handing No. 10 Alabama its first multiple-loss conference season since 2010 on Saturday at College Station.

Texas A&M (5-0, 2-0) is looking to win six straight to open a season for first time since starting 7-0 in 1995. The Aggies have been 5-0 twice since, including last year before stumbling to an 8-5 record.

The Aggies are looking for their third win of the season over a ranked opponent, and they're coming off a bye heading into their showdown with Alabama (5-1, 2-1). A&M defeated then-No. 21 Mississippi State 30-17 on Oct. 3.

The Crimson Tide have won the last two meetings, including a 59-0 romp Oct. 18 in Tuscaloosa. A loss would likely bury Alabama in the division race as it's tied for third behind 3-0 LSU and the Aggies.

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin refused to frame this game as a potential signature win for his squad.

"I'm not being smart here, but as you win every week, this game becomes the biggest game," Sumlin said. "This game is a big game because we're 5-0, and it's Alabama, and we're both top-10 teams, and we're both trying to win the division championship and get to Atlanta ... Is it a benchmark (game)? It's a benchmark in the SEC every week."

Prior to the win over Mississippi State, Texas A&M was 0-5 against ranked teams at home in Sumlin's three years as coach. Kyle Allen helped end that drought with his second straight 300-yard passing performance.

The sophomore went 25 for 41 for 322 yards with two touchdowns and added 12 rushes for a career-high 62 yards.

Allen's 169.0 passer rating is among the FBS leaders, but he'll face an Alabama defense that's sixth in the country with 264.5 yards allowed per game and has been even more dominant in the last three contests.

Since being stunned 43-37 by then-No. 15 Ole Miss at home Sept. 19, Alabama has allowed 24 points over three straight wins, the most recent a 27-14 victory over Arkansas last weekend. The Crimson Tide limited the Razorbacks to 220 yards and 44 rushing on 25 carries, prompting defensive back Eddie Jackson to say Alabama is "hands down" the No. 1 defense in the country.

The Tide are allowing 77.3 rushing yards and 264.5 yards of offense per game. Alabama has eight interceptions, three shy of last season's 14-game total, and nine players have recorded a sack.

Linebacker Reggie Ragland was named SEC defensive player of the week after totaling seven tackles, one sack, a forced fumble, a pass breakup and two quarterback hurries.

That defense will be tested by a balanced offense that's 20th in the FBS with 480.4 yards per game. A&M has rushed for at least 178 yards in all but one contest and passed for more than 300 in each of the past three.

''Confidence is the key to being a great defense,'' Ragland said. ''You've got to have confidence and Eddie's confident in our defense. But we've got to keep getting better each week. That's the thing for us to be that type of defense."

Self-assurance seems to have been lacking this season for Alabama kicker Adam Griffith, who missed two more field goals against Arkansas to leave him at 6 for 12 on the year. The 25-yarder he missed was his second misfire inside the 30 this season.

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