Preview | Alabama vs. New Mexico State

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CW / David Gray

Malachi Moore and Jordan Battle strategize during the game against LSU on Saturday.

Ashlee Woods | @ashleemwoods, Sports Editor

After a nail-biting 20-14 victory over the LSU Tigers, Alabama football will host the New Mexico State Aggies on Saturday, Nov. 13. This is the first meeting between the two teams since the 2019 season. 

A different world

Two programs can’t be more different than the two teams that will enter Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday. 

For starters, the Aggies are 1-8 this season. New Mexico State’s lone win is a 43-35 victory over South Carolina State. Alabama is 8-1 this season. 

Alabama hasn’t had a losing season since 2006, where the Crimson Tide went 6-7. New Mexico State has had one winning season since 2002. In 2017, the Aggies went 7-6, including an Arizona Bowl win over Utah State. 

That — at the time — was New Mexico State’s first bowl appearance in 57 years. 

Alabama has 18 national titles — six won under current head coach Nick Saban — and has an all-time win percentage of 72.9%. New Mexico State is fourth from the bottom, with a win percentage of 40.4%. 

The talent disparity is as different as the results on the field. 

Coming into this season, the Aggies had the No. 112-ranked recruiting class in 2021, according to 24/7. Alabama had the No. 1 recruiting class in 2021. 

“Everybody has people that can play football at a high level in college; it’s more so how many you have,” New Mexico State offensive lineman Eli Johnson said. 

Despite the vast differences between the two programs, the Crimson Tide is not overlooking the Aggies. Most thought Alabama would roll over the Tigers on Nov. 6. 

The outcome was surprising, as LSU stayed with the Crimson Tide until the last second before falling to Alabama and to 2-3 in the SEC. 

The Aggies could cause some problems for Alabama’s defense on Saturday. 

“I think New Mexico State is a dangerous team because they’re one of these teams that are going to pass the ball,” Saban said. “They’re one of the top 25 passing teams in the country. Their quarterback’s efficient. They’ve got good skill guys.”

New Mexico State is ranked No. 23 in the nation in passing offense, averaging 278.4 passing yards per game. They have five games with over 300 passing yards this season. 

Alabama is 46th in the nation in passing yards allowed, with 215.4 yards allowed per game so far.

LSU had 295 passing yards against the Crimson Tide on Nov. 6. 

The Aggies have scored 20 or more points in six games this season. The Crimson Tide will have to keep coverage tight to limit the Aggies’ passing attack. 

Run, Alabama, run

Alabama will also need a better performance on the ground. 

The Tigers held Alabama to just 6 rushing yards on Nov. 6. Offensive lineman Darrian Dalcourt hurt his ankle during the game, which caused some shifting in the trenches. 

“We need to be more prepared that if something like that happens, the guy’s going to be confident enough — and I think Chris [Owens] was confident enough —  that he can go in there and get the job done and do well,” Saban said. “But that’s no excuse. We need to be able to execute, and everybody’s got to be able to do the job.”

The Tigers had 8 tackles for loss against Alabama. The Aggies rushing defense is not as stout as some of Alabama’s other opponents this season. 

New Mexico State has given 200 or more rushing yards in five games this season. Alabama can’t have another rushing performance like the one against LSU — especially to a team that’s so vulnerable on the ground. 

Eyes on the prize

The Crimson Tide is taking a break from conference action on Saturday after a four-game stretch — and Alabama earned a 3-1 record during that stretch. 

Another loss all but ends Alabama’s playoff hopes and a chance to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, to defend their SEC title. 

“I think that your opponent should be faceless in terms of what you want to try to accomplish,” Saban said. 

The talent level and on-field production may not be the same, but college football is an any-given-weekend kind of sport. Few expected the unranked Texas A&M Aggies to upset the then-No. 1 team in the country. 

Even fewer expected the Crimson Tide to only score 20 against LSU. 

Alabama has yet to show consistency in all three phases of the game. With the postseason quickly approaching, now is the time to work out mistakes. 

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 11 a.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network. 

Questions? Email the Sports desk at sports@cw.ua.edu.