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NCAAF: Banged-up Texas A&M prepares to face No. 1 Alabama

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There is never really a good time to play No. 1 Alabama, but Saturday night seems like a particularly bad time for Texas A&M.

Not only have the Aggies lost two consecutive Southeastern Conference games — 20-10 at home against Arkansas, 26-22 at home to Mississippi State last week — but they also have lost three key players for the season.

Two of the missing are cornerbacks Myles Jones and Brian George. Jones (foot) was their top defensive back last year, but has played only 13 snaps this year. Jones was injured on his first play against Arkansas two weeks ago and didn’t play last week.

George was also injured against Arkansas and wasn’t able to suit up last week, while center Luke Matthews has also undergone season-ending shoulder surgery. Matthews was expected to start this year, but wasn’t able to take a single snap.

Add the continued absence of starting quarterback Haynes King (broken ankle) and two of the team’s leading receivers, and this has all the makings of a nationally televised beatdown. So what is coach Jimbo Fisher telling his team to inspire them?

“Move on. Eliminate the clutter,” he said. “When you have down times or bad moments, you have to circle the wagons and make sure you have the right people there with you in the trenches with you and play ball. It takes maturity.”

All the maturity in the world won’t help Texas A&M (3-2, 0-2 SEC) unless it can get a big game from Zach Calzada, who will start his fourth game at quarterback since King went down. Calzada went 12 of 20 for 135 yards last week against Mississippi State while absorbing three sacks for the third straight game.

While the Aggies try to find answers, the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0) continue to ask questions no opponent can solve. Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin told viewers in a CBS pregame interview they should get out their popcorn, but the only thing that popped last week in Tuscaloosa was the Rebels’ balloon as Alabama administered an old-school 42-21 beating.

Now the Tide turn their attention to Texas A&M.

“This is all around a really, really good team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of the Aggies, “maybe the best team we’ve played to this point from a personnel standpoint. So this is a game that we’ve really gotta get our mind looking forward to the challenge that we have, which is going to be pretty significant.”

Alabama’s Brian Robinson Jr. enjoyed the game of his life vs. the Rebels, rushing 36 times for 171 yards and four touchdowns. The senior never previously topped 78 yards in a game. No run was longer than 21 yards last week, but there were plenty of 4-, 5- and 6-yard runs as the Tide line consistently moved the Ole Miss front seven back.

Bryce Young was an efficient 20 of 26 for 241 yards and two scores with one interception. Through five games, he has completed 73 percent of his passes for 1,365 yards with 17 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

This will be the 14th meeting between the teams, with the Tide having won the past eight for an 11-2 advantage in the series. The last Texas A&M win occurred in November 2012 when Johnny Manziel led the Aggies to an upset in Tuscaloosa that helped propel the quarterback to the Heisman Trophy.

–Field Level Media

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