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Top-ranked Alabama looks to avenge last year’s loss to Texas A&M

Alabama coach Nick Saban (left) and Texas A&M's Jimbo Fisher had an infamous war of words in the offseason.Associated Press

Alabama and Texas A&M have basically taken last year’s scenario and added some offseason spice.

Now, can they match the 2021 game itself?

The newly top-ranked Crimson Tide and now-unranked Aggies face off Saturday night in a grudge match forged by last season’s 41-38 Texas A&M upset and the coaches’ infamous war of words.

Once again, Alabama (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) is No. 1, while the Aggies (3-2, 1-1) have plummeted from No. 6 to unranked. Texas A&M is coming off a loss to Mississippi State and struggling offensively, just like last season.

“We could say it was the same situation a year ago,” Tide coach Nick Saban said.

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He’s hoping for a different result — and for a healthy Bryce Young, the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback who is nursing a shoulder injury. The coaches have listed both Young and Texas A&M starter Max Johnson (throwing hand) as day to day.

Will Bryce Young be able to go this weekend?Michael Woods/Associated Press

Texas A&M won last year’s meeting on a last-play field goal in Alabama’s only regular-season defeat.

“It left a really bad taste in my mouth, [and] other guys on the roster’s mouths,” Tide safety DeMarcco Hellams said. “It’s something we definitely remember from last year and it’s definitely helped in our preparation for those guys this year.”

Nobody on either team will say it publicly, but there’s some extra fuel given the contentious offseason for Saban and his onetime assistant, Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher. By now, it’s a well-rehashed back and forth that started when Saban said Texas A&M “bought” its top-ranked recruiting class via name, image, and licensing money. Fisher angrily fired back, calling his old boss at LSU a “narcissist,” among other shots.

This week, both coaches have predictably downplayed that ugly summer episode that drew reprimands from the SEC.

“That’s over with,” Fisher said. “He and I are in great shape ... and we’ve moved on.”

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Meanwhile, Young has done “some things” in practice this week, Saban said. He hasn’t said if Young or redshirt freshman Jalen Milroe will be at quarterback for the Tide on Saturday. Milroe played most of the way against Arkansas last week after Young’s injury.

Like Saban with Young, Fisher has described Johnson as day to day after a hand injury late in the loss to Mississippi State.

Texas A&M’s Haynes King, who opened the past two seasons as the starter, has the experience edge over fellow backup Milroe. King had a touchdown run after entering against Mississippi State, then threw a pair of interceptions. Texas A&M also has freshman Conner Weigman.

Milroe’s most substantive playing time came last week, including a 77-yard run on third and 15. Fisher is quite familiar with him, though. He recruited the Texas native and had Milroe in camp at Texas A&M.

“Athletic, competitive, and was just a tremendous high school player,” Fisher said.