In what was essentially a national title eliminator, Alabama and Texas A&M put on a performance for the ages on Saturday.
After winning in Tuscaloosa last year, the Aggies very nearly made it a double, falling 49-42 to the Crimson Tide. Defense was at a premium, as both offenses were routinely able to drive downfield for scoring drives.
Johnny Manziel had a huge performance, throwing for 464 yards and five touchdowns on 28-of-39 passing and adding 98 yards on the ground. However, when you win a Heisman Trophy in your freshman year, there's not a lot more that you can do to have your stock rise all that much.
Everybody knew a QB like Manziel could take advantage of the holes in Alabama's defense, and that's exactly what he did.
There were plenty of other stars whose stock rose even more in College Station on Saturday. Conversely, there were also players who did themselves no favors by having poor performances.
Here are a few of the biggest winners and losers from Saturday's massive game.
AJ McCarron, Alabama
So much of the hype centered on Manziel and how Alabama would stop the dual-threat quarterback. AJ McCarron kinda got lost in the shuffle.
The senior signal-caller is not going to win a Heisman Trophy, but he looked like one of the best QBs in the nation for the way he was able to manage the game. He finished 20-of-29 passing for 334 yards and four touchdowns. More importantly, he failed to throw an interception.
Playing Texas A&M seems to bring out the best in McCarron, per ESPN Stats and Info:
With the win, he was able to showcase an ability to to light up the box score when necessary.
McCarron doesn't have the same kind of big-play capability of Manziel, but when it comes to college football, there may not be a more optimal leader of your offense.
T.J. Yeldon, Alabama
T.J. Yeldon's fumble in the fourth quarter could have been the spark that ignited the Aggie comeback. Instead, McCarron led a scoring drive that essentially iced the game away.
It's a good thing that turnover didn't come back to haunt Yeldon too much, as he was spectacular for most of the game, with 149 yards on 25 carries. Time and again, the sophomore running back helped to set the tone for the Alabama offense. His ability to eat up yards on the ground helped to take pressure off McCarron and open up the passing game.
Every college football fan knew coming into the year that Yeldon was a talented back. However, playing with Eddie Lacy last season meant that he didn't have the full spotlight and his rushing abilities weren't fully appreciated. Following the Texas A&M game, it's no secret just how talented the sophomore is, even if he does have to cut out the fumbles.
Mike Evans, Texas A&M
There arguably wasn't a more important player for the Aggies than Mike Evans. Sure, Manziel had a huge game and was his team's best player. However, the former Heisman winner wouldn't have had such a fantastic performance unless his No. 1 target was regularly torching the Crimson Tide secondary.
Evans finished with seven receptions, 279 yards and a touchdown. It's the most receiving yards in a single game in Texas A&M history, according to ESPN Stats and Info:
Nick Saban and Kirby Smart simply had no answer for the sophomore wideout, who had his way with the Alabama defense.
Sammy Watkins and Marqise Lee are generally considered the two best wide receivers in college football, but they will have some competition now. After Saturday, Evans has firmly put himself in the Biletnikoff discussion.
Cyrus Jones/Deion Blue, Alabama
Over the last few seasons, the Crimson Tide have maintained a tremendous secondary. Guys like Kareem Jackson and Javier Arenas were lost to the NFL and replaced by Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron, who were then replaced by Dee Milliner.
However, it seems that Alabama has lost one too many corners, as it was dominated by Manziel and Evans.
Cyrus Jones and Deion Blue were two of the biggest reasons why, as they routinely lined up against Evans. It was Jones who lost track of and was burnt by the star wideout on the 95-yard touchdown pass that got Texas A&M back into the game.
Giving up a big game to a star wide receiver can sometimes be inevitable. With the continued rule changes, it's getting harder and harder for defenders to keep their opposing numbers to under 100 yards receiving. There's no excuse for surrendering 279 yards to Evans, though, and it nearly cost the Crimson Tide the game. Jones' interception in the end zone wasn't enough to cover up what was an otherwise bad performance.
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