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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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6 players to look for in A&M-Alabama

Photo by Photo by Robert O’Brien

Sophomore quarterback Zach Calzada on his way to scoring the first rushing touchdown of his college career.

The past two weeks have been nothing short of disappointing and frustrating for Texas A&M football.

Still searching for their first SEC victory, the now unranked Aggies take on the top ranked Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. Coming off a 26-22 upset loss to Mississippi State, A&M looks to right the ship against the No. 1 team in the country. Last week, the Crimson Tide took down the Ole Miss Rebels, 42-21, at home.

Here are six players to look for as the Aggies begin their biggest challenge of the season against the top-ranked Alabama:

Isaiah Spiller – Texas A&M

As a result of the passing game’s poor performances this season, junior running back Isaiah Spiller had to step up to carry the A&M offense. The team’s leading rusher amassed an even 100 yards on 16 carries versus Miss. St. With just three total touchdowns on the season, Spiller hasn’t had as productive a season as many expected, but he has still found ways to contribute to the team, accounting for 551 total yards. Spiller has the ability to give the Aggies a boost of momentum every time he touches the ball, anchoring a dual-running back system along with sophomore running back Devon Achane.

Key season stats:

445 rushing yards

Three total touchdowns

89 rushing yards/game

6.5 yards/carry

106 receiving yards

Brian Robinson Jr. – Alabama

Leading the Crimson Tide’s rushing attack, the redshirt senior running back tallied four rushing touchdowns and 171 yards to power Alabama to its 42-21 win over Ole Miss. Robinson, who earned the Walter Camp National Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance, has been a key part of the Crimson Tide’s offense, which evenly balances its running backs and receivers. With seven total touchdowns this season, he provides Alabama a versatile weapon on offense, meaning the A&M rushing defense must have a strong showing on Saturday.

“It was an opportunity for the offense to establish our run game, be physical and just show them how physical our offense can play and how consistent we can play,” Robinson Jr. said of Alabama’s victory over Ole Miss. “It was a great opportunity for us to show how physical we can play for 60 minutes.”

Key season stats:

379 rushing yards

Six rushing touchdowns

94.8 rushing yards/game

5.2 yards/carry

One touchdown reception

Antonio Johnson – Texas A&M

Looking to rebound from a subpar performance in which the A&M defense allowed Miss. St. quarterback Will Rogers to pass for 408 yards and three touchdowns, the sophomore defensive back will face the No. 21 passing offense in the nation in Alabama. Three Crimson Tide players have accounted for three receiving touchdowns each this season, led by redshirt junior tight end Cameron Latu with five. If there’s a bright spot, it’s Johnson setting a career high in tackles with 15 against Miss St., with fellow defensive backs Demani Richardson and Leon O’Neal Jr. recording four each. The success of A&M’s secondary, and defense as a whole, will be crucial to keeping this game within reach. 

Key season stats:

41 total tackles

29 solo tackles

2.5 tackles for loss

4 passes broken up

15 tackles against Miss. St.

Christian Harris – Alabama

The Crimson Tide’s junior linebacker has been the anchor behind an Alabama defense that has wreaked havoc on its opponents, allowing an average of 18.2 points per game this season. Harris enters Saturday’s matchup with 27 total tackles and five tackles for loss so far this season, posing a major threat to opposing quarterbacks. A&M’s Calzada has not been successful in consistently escaping pressure from opposing defenses, meaning he could be in for a rough outing versus the Crimson Tide.

“It makes it tough for us to communicate when the crowd gets loud and momentum is shifting,” Harris said about playing in hostile environments such as Kyle Field. “We’re going to focus on communication and playing faster and handling whatever happens this week.”

Key season stats:

27 total tackles

Five tackles for loss

One sack

One pass broken up

One quarterback hurry

Zach Calzada – Texas A&M

There’s no debate the redshirt sophomore quarterback has struggled mightily since being thrust into the starting quarterback position in the second game of the season, and things won’t get any easier as the Aggies take on Alabama. The Georgia native enters the matchup with 744 passing yards, six total touchdowns and four interceptions this season. Going up against a Crimson Tide defense that capitalizes on mistakes and has given up an average of only 177.2 passing yards per game, Calzada will need to play at the top of his game in order to help this contest stay competitive.

“I think [Calzada’s] learning, growing,” A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “As you watch film with him, he understands things and he’s getting better and better each play. I think he believes in himself whole-heartedly, and I think our players believe in him.“

Key season stats:

Six total touchdowns

Four interceptions

744 passing yards

69-128, 53.9 percent completion rate

32 rushing yards

Bryce Young – Alabama

The No. 1 quarterback recruit in the Class of 2020, sophomore quarterback Bryce Young has lived up to the hype, leading the Crimson Tide to a 5-0 start with three wins over ranked opponents. Surrounded by dangerous receivers and rushers, the Heisman favorite has thrown for 1,365 passing yards and 17 touchdowns with just two interceptions. Mentored under the tutelage of 2020 National Champion and current New England Patriots quarterback Mac Jones, Young had at least 240 passing yards and two touchdowns in each of Alabama’s first five games this season. Unless the A&M secondary can play excellent defense, Young’s arm will terrorize the A&M defense.

Key season stats:

17 passing touchdowns

Two interceptions

1,365 passing yards

108-148, 72.3 percent completion rate

94-yard touchdown pass against Miami

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