Texas A&M Is the Only Team That Can Give Alabama Fits Next Year

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterJanuary 8, 2013

In case you've been living in a college football cave for the last 24 hours, you already know that Alabama topped Notre Dame 42-14 in Monday's BCS National Championship Game to claim the 2012 national title. You also probably know that this score isn't indicative of how brutal the beatdown was by the Crimson Tide.

It was a 60-minute thrashing by head coach Nick Saban's crew that the Tuscaloosa News called the "Four Leaf Clobber."

Saban has become a master at getting his team prepared with more than a week to go before games, which is a big reason why he has been so successful on college football's biggest stages. 

But the Crimson Tide have lost two games in the SEC over the last two seasons and been tested in a few others.

They look like they're going to be tough to beat in 2013, but if any team is going to give the Tide fits, it will be the team that defeated them this season—the Texas A&M Aggies.

Alabama deserves the title, but you could argue that Texas A&M was the hottest team at the end of the season. The Aggies capped off their inaugural campaign in the SEC with a 41-13 dismantling of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl. Along the way, Kevin Sumlin's squad topped eventual national champion Alabama in Tuscaloosa and produced the first redshirt freshman ever to win the Heisman Trophy in quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Not a bad debut, to say the least. But the future looks even brighter.

The Aggies will get Manziel back for at least one more season, along with running backs Ben Malena, Trey Williams and Brandon Williams, wide receiver Mike Evans and a talented secondary that's loaded with potential stars like cornerback Deshazor Everett and Toney Hurd, Jr.

That's a lot of firepower, especially since every tough SEC home game for the Aggies outside of their Nov. 23 visit to Baton Rouge will be played within the friendly confines of Kyle Field.

Saban has made his feelings towards the up-tempo style that A&M employs widely known, including in his postgame appearance on ESPN's College GameDay set after beating Notre Dame on Monday. 

And with good reason. A&M's up-tempo offense nearly cost Saban a shot at the title in 2012, and a similar system played a part in Auburn's epic 28-27 come-from-behind win in Tuscaloosa in 2010.

Sure, the Aggies are going to lose defensive end Damontre Moore, offensive tackle Luke Joeckel and possibly offensive tackle Jake Matthews, but have you seen the talent coming to College Station in the 2013 recruiting class?

Texas A&M's offense was drastically different than the one Sumlin employed with quarterback Case Keenum at Houston. Sumlin successfully altered his offense to fit the skills of his personnel in 2012, so who's to say he can't in 2013?

If commits Ricky Seals-Jones (6'5") and Derrick Griffin (6'7") sign on the dotted line in February and join the Aggies in 2013, that will give Manziel two more tall receiving targets to throw to in addition to Evans (6'5") and prep-school signee JaQuay Williams (6'4"). Double-team one or two of them, and Manziel will run roughshod over opposing defenses. Single-cover them, and Johnny Football can play "500" all over the field.

Make no mistake, Alabama is a runaway freight train and will be considered the favorite moving forward. But LSU is losing players left and right, Arkansas and Auburn are rebuilding. Ole Miss is still on its way up, and Mississippi State seems to be stuck in neutral.

The window is open for Texas A&M. Whether it walks through next season and knocks Alabama from its perch as the top team in the conference remains to be seen. But I certainly wouldn't dismiss the possibility.