Playing on the road against an SEC opponent didn't do anything to slow down the Alabama Crimson Tide. The nation's top-ranked team went into Kyle Field and earned a 47-28 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday.
Head coach Nick Saban has had his team operating like a well-oiled machine all season. Alabama scored at least 42 points and outscored its opponents by at least 24 points in each of its first five games.
Texas A&M was the first ranked opponent for the Crimson Tide in 2019, though the result remained the same for the reigning SEC champions. Alabama has now won seven straight games against the Aggies dating back to 2013.
Lost in all the glitz of Tua Tagovailoa, who was excellent yet again, has been the performance of Alabama's defense in 2019. Saban's program has been defined by defense for most of his 13-year tenure, so it's not a surprise to see that unit dominant again.
The Crimson Tide ran their record to 6-0 by racking up 448 yards against Texas A&M's defense. The Aggies dropped to .500 overall with a 3-3 record and have to dig themselves out of a hole in SEC play after dropping two of their first three conference games.
- QB Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama): 21-of-34, 293 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT
- WR DeVonta Smith (Alabama): seven receptions, 99 yards, 1 TD
- RB Najee Harris (Alabama): 20 carries, 104 yards; three receptions, 19 yards, 1 TD
- QB Kellen Mond (Texas A&M): 24-of-42, 264 yards, 2 TDs; 16 carries, 90 yards, 1 TD
- DB Demani Richardson (Texas A&M): 1 INT
Tagovailoa's Record-Setting Day Highlights Bama Victory
It's hard to nitpick anything about an Alabama offense that entered this week ranked third in the nation in passing yards and points per game.
The Aggies did become the first team to intercept one of Tagovailoa's passes in 2019:
That turnover is about where the good vibes ended for the Aggies defense. Tagovailoa's first touchdown pass of the day set a new Alabama record with 78 for his career:
One of the reasons Tagovailoa is so difficult to stop is he doesn't rely on one receiver to make plays. His first four touchdowns against Texas A&M went to four different players:
Another problem that Alabama's offense creates for other teams is the way running backs are deployed. Tagovailoa's emergence over the past two years has turned the program from a run-first group to a pass-first unit.
The Crimson Tide have more pass attempts (204) than carries (191) at this point in the season. As a result, they entered Saturday ranked 54th nationally in rushing yards per game (174). For comparison, last year they averaged 198.4 yards per game on the ground.
Texas A&M did a decent job of holding Alabama's rushing attack in check with 155 yards on 31 carries, the bulk of which came in the fourth quarter. It still allowed 47 points because Tagovailoa is using the passing game to get his running backs involved.
This is the best and most consistent offense in the nation. The only defense that has been able to slow down the Crimson Tide over the past two seasons was Clemson's in last year's College Football Playoff Championship Game.
There's still a lot of time between now and the end of the regular season, but Tagovailoa is doing everything possible to get Alabama back to the title game in January.
Leaky Defense Leaves Tide Vulnerable
While Tagovailoa continues to roll, Alabama's defense has had some concerns this season that popped up again Saturday.
The Crimson Tide have allowed at least 28 points in back-to-back regular-season games for the first time in Saban's tenure as head coach. As AL.com's Michael Casagrande pointed out, there's been a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde quality to the defense this season.
The good version of Alabama's defense sacked Kellen Mond five times. The bad version allowed three touchdown drives of at least 75 yards.
Tagovailoa told reporters earlier this week how important it is for the offense to sustain long drives to ease the defense's burden:
"As an offense, we need to be able to go out there and sustain drives to keep our defense off the field and to give them some rest and try to wear their defense out. Our mindset offensively never changes, but once Coach Saban says you need to slow down the tempo, then we kind of understand what he's asking of us.
"That's when we end up running the ball maybe first and second down, and third down becomes really important, because we hope to extend that drive. Once you get a first down, you kind of try and do the same thing."
Mond's 264 passing yards mark just the second time an opposing quarterback has thrown for at least 250 yards against the Crimson Tide this season. They haven't played a difficult schedule to this point; Texas A&M is their best win of the year.
Alabama's first test on defense figures to come in four weeks against No. 5 LSU on Nov. 9. Joe Burrow has put himself firmly in the Heisman discussion with Tagovailoa. If both teams stay on their current trajectory, next month's matchup could turn into a shootout that decides the SEC West champion and a potential spot in the College Football Playoff.
Alabama returns home next Saturday to host Tennessee. Texas A&M will play its first road game in five weeks next Saturday against Ole Miss.