We are finally here. The game of the year kicks off in only a few hours. Somehow we made it.
At 3:30 p.m. ET, No. 1 Alabama will face off against Johnny Football and his sixth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies. The drama surrounding this game started the moment Deshazor Everett intercepted AJ McCarron's pass at the goal line to seal the Aggies' upset of the top-ranked Crimson Tide last year in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Now, the rematch is in Johnny's backyard, as Kyle Field will be rocking when the Tide strolls in. Nick Saban and Johnny Manziel have said all week that this is just another game, but it's not. It's Alabama-Texas A&M. The winner of this game will take a major step forward in the national championship race. The loser has a lot of ground to make up.
Both teams still have some questions that need to be answered. Alabama's offensive line had major issues in Week 1 against Virginia Tech, while Texas A&M's defense is giving up 449.5 yards a game. The good news is that the Tide had an extra week to work out the line kinks and A&M gets three starters back on defense.
And for the first time in a while, the off-field drama actually surrounds Alabama, not A&M. Earlier this week, a Yahoo! Sports report said that former Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker was one of five SEC players who allegedly received impermissible benefits prior to completing their collegiate careers.
Try as he might, Saban has attempted to keep this story away form his players' thoughts as much as possible.
It should be a fun one in College Station, but it isn't the only game on the SEC slate with some drama surrounding it. Ole Miss travels to Austin, Texas, to take on a wounded Texas team, Auburn hosts Mississippi State in a critical conference game and South Carolina hosts scrappy Vanderbilt.
For the Rebels, they are hoping their high-powered running game, which is averaging 239 yards per game, will duplicate the problems BYU's running game caused the Longhorns last week. Manny Diaz was fired as defensive coordinator this week after Texas surrendered 679 yards, including 550 on the ground, in its 40-21 loss at BYU. Can new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson help his team control an Ole Miss offense that looks eerily similar to BYU's? Also, how fired up are the Rebs to take on an opponent that waxed them by 30 at home last year?
For South Carolina, tonight's matchup with Vandy is crucial. If the Gamecocks want back in the SEC East race, they'll have to beat a team hungry for a major SEC upset. The Commodores have the tools on both offense and defense to take the Gamecocks out, but you have to think that Steve Spurrier and his guys will be ready to prove that they still have a lot of fight in them after losing 41-30 at Georgia last week.
That was a game in which South Carolina's defense gave up 538 yards. Vandy isn't as explosive as Georgia, but the Commodores have a sweet one-two punch in quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels and wide receiver Jordan Matthews. In two games, Matthews has 289 yards and two touchdowns on 16 receptions.
Auburn-Mississippi State has been a big game for both schools over the last few seasons, and today isn't any different. We still don't know a ton about either team. The Tigers have been able to run the ball pretty well to start the year, but the quality of opposing defenses hasn't been stellar. As for the Bulldogs, the defense has been pretty impressive. It held Oklahoma State to just 21 points and dominated an overmatched Alcorn State team last week. This game will go a very long for both teams as the conference season continues.
Also, don't forget about Tennessee's cross-country trip out West to take on No. 2 Oregon. The Vols have been riding high off the start of Butch Jones' tenure, but things will get kicked up a notch out in Eugene, Ore., against the Ducks.
We'll really see what the Vols are made of today.
Here's the lineup for today's games:
Louisville at Kentucky, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Southern Miss at Arkansas 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
Alabama at Texas A&M, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Tennessee at Oregon, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Mississippi State at Auburn, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Kent State at LSU, 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Ole Miss at Texas, 8 p.m. ET, Longhorn Network