• Nick Saban's Alabama team has completely destroyed its first three opponents this season, but a Texas A&M squad that nearly knocked off Clemson could give the Tide a real test in Tuscaloosa.
By Scott Gramling
September 17, 2018

Texas A&M Aggies at Alabama Crimson Tide (-27)

Sat. 9/22, 3:30 p.m. ET

Three things you need to know before betting on Texas A&M-Alabama:

1. Alabama is the clear No. 1 team in the nation this season, having pounded its three opponents by a total score of 170 to 28. Texas A&M, however, is just two weeks removed from nearly upsetting the nation’s second-ranked team. The Aggies trailed Clemson by 15 points in the fourth quarter, before missing a two-point conversion in the final minute of a two-point loss. An argument could be made that A&M outplayed the Tigers, outgaining them 501 to 413 in total yards, holding an advantage of 25 to 14 in first downs and possessing the football for nearly 34 minutes. The difference in the game was a pair of costly second-half A&M turnovers: a fumble that led to a Clemson touchdown four plays later and a fumble near the Tigers’ goal line that ended up being ruled a touchback. Although the Aggies couldn’t get much of a ground game going (32 carries, 71 yards) against Clemson’s outstanding front four, sophomore quarterback Kellen Mond made up for it with 430 passing yards and three touchdowns.

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2. As good as the Crimson Tide have been stopping the run at 3.2 yards per carry allowed, they have been nowhere nearly as effective through the air, ranking No. 58 in the nation by giving up 201 passing yards per game. In the home opener versus Arkansas State, Alabama allowed 391 total yards to the Red Wolves, including 218 passing. Louisville threw for 252 yards on the Bama defense in the season opener. The Tide have been very fortunate with three defensive touchdowns, and they have also shown a lack of discipline with 206 penalty yards (33rd-most yards in FBS). Despite the big leads, Alabama's 32:24 average time of possession hasn't been all that impressive, especially compared to the 36:36 average clip for Texas A&M, which is the sixth-best mark in the nation this season. Despite three giveaways in last year's narrow 27-19 loss to Alabama, Texas A&M dominated time of possession (32:28 to 27:32) and threw for nearly twice as many yards (237 to 123) in just seven more pass attempts. Since taking over the Tide program, Nick Saban has not fared well against the spread when playing opponents that have the ability to control the ball, as his Alabama teams are just 8-14 ATS when facing an opponent that’s averaging at least 32 minutes of possession time per game.

3. Although Alabama has won five of the six meetings between these teams since A&M joined the SEC, only one of the victories has been by 20 or more points. This is the moment of the season in which the Aggies have been at their best in recent seasons, as their 3-0 record against the spread this season gives them nine ATS victories in 10 September games since the start of the 2016 season. And if you’re looking for a betting system to try to size this one up, consider that road underdogs with defenses that allow an average of at least 5.8 yards per play are 63-27-1 against the spread since the start of the 2014 season when coming off a game in which they gained 525 or more total yards. The suggestion here is that although A&M will struggle to stop Alabama’s offense, the Aggies appear to have the ability to score enough points to keep the final outcome of this one far closer than any of Alabama’s previous three games so far this season.

Pick: Texas A&M +27

Confidence Level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)

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