By Brad Fauber
Can you feel that? That's the collective rumble of excitement from the entire college football fanbase as the next "Game of the Century" prepares to hit our television screens this afternoon.
OK, so ESPN hasn't been so bold as to bestow such a lofty title on today's highly anticipated rematch between Alabama and Texas A&M, but if there was one regular season match-up that could be labeled as a "must-see" in college football this year, this one would be it.
The SEC showdown between the Crimson Tide and the Aggies in College Station, Texas, represents everything that makes college football what it is.
National championship hopes, Heisman Trophy statements, one of the greatest college football coaches of all time, arguably the most dynamic athlete the sport has ever seen, and even a little bit of controversy will all be brilliantly bottled up into Kyle Field this afternoon.
These are the types of games that last long after the final seconds tick off the game clock, and the outcome of the game will have a major impact on the legacies of many of the players and coaches involved.
So much has been made about Alabama's motivation to avenge last season's loss to the Aggies, but how much vengeance can really be sought by a team that still went on to win its second straight national title last year? If Alabama is looking for the motivation to leave the state of Texas with a win this afternoon, it isn't looking back to the past -- it's looking at that possible trip to Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 6, 2014, for the BCS National Championship.
I'm not interested in whether or not the Crimson Tide gets its revenge over Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M. I'm far more intrigued by the national title implications that the outcome will have for both teams involved.
A win against Texas A&M would be a big step in Alabama's quest for the three-peat. Outside of a Nov. 9 home meeting with LSU in Tuscaloosa, this is the one major obstacle standing between the Tide and college football immortality.
On the other hand, there is Texas A&M hoping to do the unthinkable by pulling off back-to-back upsets over the mighty Crimson Tide. Should the Aggies defend their home turf, they will be thrust into the role as front-runner to win this year's BCS title. And that's not to mention what a win over Alabama will do for Manziel's Heisman hopes.
Johnny Football can make a big Heisman statement in this game and increase his stock early in the season. Texas A&M doesn't necessarily have to win for Manziel to get a boost in the Heisman race as long he performs well and keeps the game close, but this week could be a make or break moment for Manziel's run at a second straight Heisman Trophy.
No one has ever won the Heisman Trophy in the third week of the season, but you can certainly lose valuable ground in the race with a poor performance. Manziel needs to play well against the Tide, especially since he is slightly behind other Heisman front-runners after being suspended for the first half of Texas A&M's season opener against Rice. You can bet Manziel understands this and will do everything in his power to carry his Aggies to victory.
Therein lies the fuel behind one of the great below-the-surface storylines to this match-up. Is there a more tantalizing chess match in college football than what we are going to see today?
The contrast between Alabama head coach Nick Saban and college football bad boy Johnny Football is too beautiful to miss. Manziel's style is brilliantly chaotic, zigging and zagging through defenses in ways that make your jaw drop, while Alabama prefers to use its size and physical strength to blow teams off the ball.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M is the latest edition of the classic battle between old school and new era that makes the sport so entertaining. Add in the fact that the Crimson Tide could be facing possible sanctions after a former player received impermissible benefits, and it doesn't get much more "college football" than this.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @BradFauberNVD