Jimbo Fisher and Texas A&M returned home Tuscaloosa, Ala. on late Saturday evening in the Fall of 2020. They had just suffered a 28-point loss to the No. 1 team, thus souring the Aggies' chances of representing the SEC West in the Atlanta title game come December.
Back in College Station, Fisher gave his team an assignment. It was a look ahead at the schedule, but really, it boiled down to "Beating Alabama.”
“We came back, and instead of being mad and upset, we sat down and wrote down every one of those issues,” Fisher said last October.
The Aggies vividly, painfully remember that loss as they prepare for the 2021 season. They still recall allowing Mac Jones throw for over 400 yards. They can still feel the sting of Tide running back Najee Harris tacking on two late scores.
A&M showed by the season's end they didn't lose to Alabama on that afternoon in Bryant-Denny Stadium — they lost to themselves. After all, look at the finish following Week 2.
Does that same Aggies team lose by 28?
“They didn’t mean any disrespect,” Fisher added. “They were (just) saying we could have won that football game. I know we got beat by four touchdowns.”
A new season means a new opportunity for A&M come Week 6 against the Crimson Tide. Multiple reporters around the league have circled Oct. 9 as the day the Aggies' make-or-break game of the season.
That same weekend, Texas takes on Oklahoma. Georgia heads to the Plains of Auburn. Both are marquee matchups in the history of the spot.
Both, however, will play second fiddle that weekend.
Saban is 23-0 all-time against former assistants, including 4-0 against Fisher. The Aggies have only beaten the Tide once since arriving in the SEC back in 2012. That was more so behind the theatrics of Johnny Manziel in front of 100,000 screaming Alabama fans.
Fisher told the the Touchdown Club of Houston earlier this month that A&M would "eventually" beat Alabama. Saban, without missing a beat responded: “In golf?”
This could be the Aggies' best chance, on paper. But it also should be remembered that there's another thing A&M is striving for — 11 more wins. Being consumed with beating the Tide shouldn't distract from the ultimate goal of making the College Football Playoff.
It was Alabama's passing attack that took down the Aggies last October. John Metchie, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith combined for 16 catches, 386 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Metchie had the highlight grab over then-freshman Jaylon Jones. This year, both players are stepping up as the No. 1's of their respective positions.
Waddle and Smith were selected top 10 in last April's NFL draft, while the Aggies' secondary is returning five of the six starters from that game. They perhaps are upgrading in the nickel with Antonio Johnson instead of Devin Morris.
There are still questions on both teams at quarterback. For now, former No. 1 recruit Bryce Young is expected to start in T-Town. Haynes King and Zach Calzada are neck and neck in line for QB1 in College Station.
Both quarterbacks could be at all-time highs entering the fall afternoon. One walks away a winner in the day. Both still should walk away with a chance at the postseason.
Keep in mind that prior to playing Alabama, the Aggies will host Mississippi State. Home-field advantage or not, Mike Leach's air-raid system will be in full effect in the second year. A COVID offseason plus the lack of players hurt the Bulldogs' 4-7 finish.
One week after the Tide, the Aggies travel to Columbia, Mo. to face the Tigers. Connor Bazelak should improve off his SEC Freshman-of-the-Year campaign. Eli Drinkwitz has had time to recruit. The Tigers are returning 14 total starters and now get the benefit of a full year in the new system.
Say A&M's focus is so much on Alabama, Will Rodgers wins in Aggieland? Say the team is exhausted from playing Saban's staff, they falter on the road?
It's happened before. It's bound to happen again.
The Aggies must prepare for Alabama like Alabama prepares for each week. Saban's philosophy on success is based on the idea of 'winning the week' not the season.
To be the best, one must beat them first. Fisher has a chance to be the first to outsmart the master, but in doing so, he also must remember that there's plenty of football still left ahead.
CONTINUE READING: Way-Too-Early Predictions: Texas A&M Vs. Mississippi State
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