Texas A&M fell to Alabama in an instant classic on Saturday, but by no means are the Aggies out of the national championship race.
Johnny Manziel and Co. fought the Tide for the entire 60 minutes, from their eye-opening first quarter to their heart-pounding comeback attempt. They were unable to beat ‘Bama like they did in 2012, but A&M proved it can hang with any team in the nation.
Manziel was perhaps even more brilliant than last year, completing 28 of 39 passes for 464 yards and five touchdowns. He also shredded the ‘Bama defense with his signature scrambling ability, rushing for 98 yards on 14 carries.
Manziel did throw two interceptions, but the first occurred because his wide receiver cut the route short and the second landed in the arms of a ‘Bama defender after it bounced off of a teammate’s helmet. The mistakes hurt, but they weren’t exactly egregious.
The Aggies also proved they are more than just a one-man team. Wide receiver Mike Evans exploded into the national spotlight, catching seven passes for 279 yards and a touchdown. The 6'5" Evans was dominant all game long, and his 95-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter was the longest passing play Alabama has given up in 10 years.
Even in defeat, the Aggies delivered a valiant effort and proved they are one of the most dangerous teams in the country. And although the loss is a major blow to their championship hopes, it is far from a death sentence.
As Alabama showed last year, the voters will overlook a close early-season loss if it came against elite competition. Given that the Tide are the No. 1 team in the nation and back-to-back national champions, I think this loss can be excused.
The Aggies will have to run the table from here on out, and they will likely need someone to beat ‘Bama in the SEC title game for them to land on college football’s biggest stage. Simply put, their chances aren’t great.
But if Saturday was any indication, Johnny Football and Texas A&M are capable of anything, and it would be foolish to scratch them out of the national-title picture this early.