With the college football season essentially at its midpoint, Alabama, despite starting a true freshman quarterback, again has clearly established itself as the nation’s gold standard.
One week after Texas A&M needed two overtimes at home to defeat Tennessee, the Crimson Tide took to the road last week to face the Volunteers. While A&M was gashed for 684 yards and needed seven Tennessee turnovers to escape with a 45-38 win in double overtime, Alabama dominated the Vols in all phases, winning the total yardage battle by more than 400 yards (594-163) on its way to a 49-10 victory.
Top-ranked Alabama (7-0) faces sixth-ranked Texas A&M (6-0) in a battle of Southeastern Conference West unbeatens Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
The Crimson Tide are getting better play from quarterback Jalen Hurts each week, have no obvious weaknesses and seem to score in every way imaginable. Through seven games, Alabama has scored 11 nonoffensive touchdowns — two more than South Carolina’s offense.
Texas A&M is coming off a bye week, but the Tide appear to be riding a tidal wave of momentum after the undressing of Tennessee. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who rarely sheds his game face, said last week’s performance was his club’s “most complete game to date.” Without blinking, however, he challenged his troops, saying they could “either build on it or rest on it” against the Aggies and other challengers.
Alabama has defeated three talented teams — Southern California, Arkansas and Tennessee — by more than 100 combined points (150-46). Texas A&M is next in line. Lay the 18 points with the Tide.
Six more plays (home team in CAPS):
Wisconsin (-4) over IOWA — Off back-to-back seven-point losses to Michigan and Ohio State, Wisconsin will be looking to avoid a three-game losing streak when it travels to Iowa City. The Hawkeyes scored a total of 28 points in victories over Rutgers and Minnesota, and they simply are not in the Badgers’ class.
Hawaii (+17) over AIR FORCE — Coming off losses to Wyoming and New Mexico as a double-digit favorite, Air Force finds itself in the same role against an ever-improving Hawaii squad. The Falcons are 3-5 straight up in their past eight games against FBS opponents.
NAVY (+2) over Memphis — Navy got an unplanned off week when its game at East Carolina was postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Winds are forecast to be 20 to 30 mph, which could hinder Memphis’ passing game. Navy has been a moneymaker as an underdog, going 35-15 ATS in the role since the start of the 2009 season.
ARIZONA STATE (+7½) over Washington State — Washington State coach Mike Leach is a pirate-like character and part of what makes college football fun. Leach recently accused the Sun Devils of stealing the Cougars’ signals. Arizona State has a six-game home win streak, and Washington State is a conference road favorite for only the second time in the past 10 seasons.
Louisiana-Monroe-NEW MEXICO (Over 62) — Four of New Mexico’s six games have resulted in 65 or more combined points. The Lobos’ option attack keyed by quarterback Lamar Jordan has scored 45 points or more in three of their six games in 2016. The Warhawks lost veteran quarterback Garrett Smith for the season because of injury last week, but Will Collins is a capable replacement.
Arkansas (+11) over AUBURN — Razorbacks quarterback Austin Allen continues to grow each week. These teams are essentially even on paper.
Last week: 2-4 against the spread
Paul Stone of VegasSportsAuthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @paulstonesports on Twitter.