Saturday will be a big day for the Southeastern Conference and the state of Texas with Texas A&M in the middle of the action. The 24th-ranked Aggies will play top-ranked Alabama at 2:30 p.m. at Kyle Field in the CBS’ game of the week.
The day’s action will kick off with sixth-ranked Oklahoma and 11th-ranked Texas at 11 a.m. in the Cotton Bowl in the annual Red River Showdown. The Big 12 Conference’s second marquee game will have 22nd-Baylor hosting Texas Tech at 3 p.m. The unbeaten Bears were last ranked in 2016. Saturday is also Baylor’s homecoming.
Saturday’s prime-time game on ESPN will be No. 7 Florida at No. 5 LSU. ESPN’s College GameDay opted for the SEC’s battle of unbeatens, though it was at Florida on Saturday for the Gators’ 24-13 victory over Auburn.
Saturday’s games will have trouble living up to the hype. Alabama opened as a 17-point favorite and the line jumped to 19. LSU is a 13.5-point favorite, Baylor an 11-point pick and Oklahoma a 10-point favorite.
A&M (3-2, 1-1) remains the only two-loss ranked team. The Aggies, who had been tied with Michigan State for 25th, moved up a spot in the AP poll while remaining No. 21 by the coaches.
Alabama last week leapfrogged Clemson after the Tigers held on for a 21-20 victory over North Carolina by stopping a two-point conversion. Despite both teams having a bye the Crimson Tide widened its lead over Clemson in both polls.
“I don’t think it really matters at all where you’re ranked or rated at right now,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said on the SEC coaches teleconference Wednesday. “It only matters when it’s January when the season’s over, that’s all that matters. And it can slip away very, very quickly as it did this last week it wasn’t even because the team didn’t win, it must have been someone’s perception of how they played. So it’s not even about winning, it’s about how you play.”
Baylor cracking the Top 25 gives the Lone Star state four ranked teams. SMU, which hadn’t been ranked since 1986 until last week, moved up three spots to 21st after a 43-37 victory over Tulsa in three overtimes. The Mustangs looked highly overrated as Tulsa built a 30-9 lead, but SMU rallied to head into its bye week at 6-0.
Second-year Arkansas coach Chad Morris was head coach at SMU from 2015-17 improving from 2-10 to 7-5.
“I’m just excited for those players that bought into the vision and the direction that we had for that program when we were recruiting them,” said Morris, adding that all the credit goes to current coach Sonny Dykes and his staff.
Morris said Arkansas played “extremely well” in a 31-27 loss to the Aggies and that effort will be the standard moving forward.
Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts is the early favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, but Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa has ridiculous numbers. Tagovailoa has 23 touchdowns with no interceptions and only 35 incompletions. By comparison, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond had 36 incompletions combined in losses to Clemson and Auburn.
Tagovailoa has completed 113 of 148 (76.4%) passes for 1,718 yards. He has a passing efficiency of 225.1 second best in the country to Hurts (231.3). LSU’s Joe Burrow is third at 216.2. Georgia’s Jake Fromm is ninth at 182.7. The Aggies will play all three of them.
A&M’s offensive line probably worked on blocking last week because the Aggies have rushed for less than 100 yards in three games.
“At times, I think we play too high,” A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said. “We’re very big guys, I think we have to get down to pad level and play at a lower pad level in some things that we do.”
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel will be signing autographs from 4-8 p.m. Thursday at Aggieland Outfitters.