Last week's come-from-behind win was supposed to be No. 1 Alabama's gut check - the one tough game that every top team has to go through to find out if their worthy to win a championship. In retrospect the game against LSU was only the warmup and Saturday's contest against Texas A&M was the true test for the Crimson Tide.
And they failed 29-24.
Texas A&M got out to a 20-0 lead and Alabama was never able to close the game. The Crimson Tide suffered its first loss of the season and made the chances of a repeat national title a tad bit tougher.
A&M came into the game a scrappy two-touchdown underdog. It had played well in all of its SEC games and though it lost to Florida and LSU, it led both teams early. And that's what happened against Alabama. The Aggies and quarterback Johnny Manziel used their speed offense to put the Alabama defense on its heels. This was an Alabama defense that was exposed a little bit against LSU and was seeing an up-tempo offense with a proficient dual-threat quarterback for the first time all season. Even the broadcasters calling the game said Alabama's defense had trouble running against an up-tempo offense in practice.
Even down as much as they were — and with Texas A&M seemingly answering Alabama's every threat — the Tide found itself with a chance to move ahead late in the game. But quarterback AJ McCarron, the hero of last week's game, threw an uncharacteristic interception in the end zone. It was his second interception of the game, and his second all year.
It was that kind of night for the reigning national champs.
Until the past two weeks, no one had been able to touch Alabama. Many pundits thought the Tide would cruise through the season and it was never a question of whether they'd make the national title game, but whom they would play. LSU was a challenge Alabama saw coming; A&M was not.
Yet A&M proved to be the most dangerous opponent simply because it was an unknown. Alabama knew what to expect from LSU, but A&Ms crazy style that came from Conference USA was an animal for which the Tide was not prepared. And both the emotional and physical strain of the LSU game seemed to take a little bit out of Alabama as well.
Alabama isn't out of the national championship race yet. As we've seen, a lot of bizarre things can happen and Alabama is clearly the best one-loss team in the country. It's going to take some luck and the Tide probably won't get that this week with Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all playing unranked opponents.
Texas A&M, on the other hand, won't challenge for the national championship. It won't even play for the conference championship. But the win is something A&M will celebrate and its players and coaches will talk about for years to come.
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