Story Poster
Jimbo Fisher
D. Crownover
McKinnley Jackson
Max Wright
Ainias Smith
Texas A&M Football

A&M retaining same 'nameless & faceless' approach vs. No. 11 Alabama

October 2, 2023
10,043

Ever since Jimbo Fisher arrived at Texas A&M, he’s trained the Aggies to enter every football game against a nameless, faceless opponent.

That’s fine. Except, the next opponent — Alabama — is still the biggest name in college football. Its coach, Nick Saban, is the face of the sport.

Therefore, with No. 11 Alabama (4-1, 2-0) coming to Kyle Field on Saturday, you’d think the Aggies (4-1, 2-0) would relax that nameless, faceless approach.

And you’d be wrong.

Not even sole possession of first place in the SEC West division race magnifies the importance of the game for defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson.

“The best game is the next game,” he said. “I’m kind of excited for this one, just like I was excited last week. I could’ve said the same thing three weeks ago. I just know the next one is the best one.

“You could ask me that every Monday from now on, and it’s going to be the next one.”

“The best game is the next game. I’m kind of excited for this one, just like I was excited last week. I could’ve said the same thing three weeks ago. I just know the next one is the best one. You could ask me that every Monday from now on, and it’s going to be the next one.”
- A&M DT McKinnley Jackson

Clearly, Jackson has bought into Fisher’s philosophy, which stresses playing to a high standard regardless of the opponent or stakes.

But not every opponent has won six national championships since 2009. Alabama has.

Basic human nature, it seems, would elevate Alabama’s profile.

“Not if you understand what success is about and understand about winning and how you have to prepare,” Fisher said. “If you can get distracted by that and listen to the clutter to all that stuff, you can.

“But what you have to focus on is you have to control yourself. Alabama is Alabama. They’re a great team.

“But what we have to do is get prepared to play Alabama or whoever you’re playing because each game is a big game.”

Fisher has a point. In 2021, the Aggies defeated Alabama 41-38 at Kyle Field. That started a four-game winning streak.

But A&M’s hopes of winning the SEC West or reaching a prominent bowl game were dashed by late losses to Ole Miss and LSU.

“Every single game is a big game in this conference,” senior tight end Max Wright said. “Every single game can be a game that decides the future of the year for any team.

“So, this is just another game for us.”

Well, maybe for most of them.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
Ainias Smith led the A&M receiving corps with six receptions for 85 yards and two TDs in a 41-38 win over Alabama in 2021.

Senior receiver Ainias Smith, who has caught 12 passes for 208 yards and scored four touchdowns in two previous games against Alabama, admitted he has additional motivation when facing Saban’s team.

His older brother, Maurice, played there from 2013-15 before transferring to Georgia.

Alabama reportedly first tried to block him from transferring. The Southeastern Conference ultimately approved the transfer.

Maurice Smith later claimed his locker at Alabama was cleared out, his personal belongings were thrown away, and he was not allowed to enter the Alabama football facilities.

“I feel like this game is always more personal every time I play them,” Ainias Smith said. “What happened … that’s in the past now. Not able to control it.

“But every time I do look on that sideline, I do think about what happened. I’ll definitely be thinking about it. It’s more personal, for sure.”

Disrespected

Although A&M and Alabama have identical 4-1 records, the Crimson Tide is ranked No. 11 in the Associated Press Top 25, and the Aggies are unranked.

Alabama's loss was at home to No. 3 Texas, 34-24. A&M fell on the road to No. 17 Miami, 48-33.

Alabama has posted SEC victories over Ole Miss and Mississippi State. A&M has beaten Auburn and Arkansas.

Jamie Maury, TexAgs
The Aggies last appeared in the AP Top 25 in Week 2 as No. 23.

Based on those results, the Aggies don’t understand the wide disparity in how the programs are viewed this season.

“I feel like a lot of those guys (teammates) feel a little disrespected in a way,” Smith said. "I feel like everybody in that locker room plays with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders whether they’re the starters, whether they’re the backups, whether they’re the walk-ons.

“With us being unranked or whatever… yeah, that’s cool. We’ve been brought up in discussions on TV and whatnot. But at the same time, go ahead. Keep talking bad about us. That’s just going to make us go harder.”

Pressure Cooking

A&M’s pass rush has sacked opposing quarterbacks seven times in each of the last two games.

That onslaught has increased A&M’s sack total to 20 — one more than all of last season. The Aggies are now tied with Penn State for the third most sacks in the nation.

It appears A&M defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin has gotten more aggressive with blitzes. Indeed, linebacker Edgerrin Cooper leads the team with four sacks, all of which have come in the last two games.

But Jackson said he doesn’t feel the Aggies have gotten more aggressive.

“Everyone is just getting better,” he said. “We’re not complacent. We’re taking the (practice) drills as individuals onto the field. We practice like we play. So what you see on the field is what you see every day. It’s nothing new, honestly. It’s not a surprise in the (defensive line) room.”


Notes:

  • Fisher said Evan Stewart, who took a big hit on the sideline in the fourth quarter of the win over Arkansas, is healthy and expected to play against Alabama.
  • Smith was named the SEC’s Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance against Arkansas. He returned a punt for an 82-yard touchdown. He returned another punt 43 yards. He finished with three returns for a career-high 131 return yards.
  • Kickoff has been set for A&M’s game at Tennessee on Oct. 14. The Aggies and Vols will start at 2:30 p.m. CT. The game will be televised on CBS.
Discussion from...

A&M retaining same 'nameless & faceless' approach vs. No. 11 Alabama

7,626 Views | 2 Replies | Last: 5 mo ago by CapCityAg89
laruejd
How long do you want to ignore this user?
AG
We have not won a road game in two years and we just had a 5 - 7 season. All that has to be considered when ranking.
CapCityAg89
How long do you want to ignore this user?
AG
Why should last year's team impact this year's ranking?

I'm not saying we should be ranked but that's ridiculous.
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