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TRips: Monday morning thoughts

Random thoughts and observations as Alabama enters Western Carolina week.

Assuming he returns for his senior year, McCarron will likely take a backseat to Manziel as far as preseason hype goes.

Following its upset win over Alabama, Texas A&M vaulted seven spots in the BCS standings, moving from No. 15 to the eighth spot. Spurred by what will likely be a strong finish to the 2012 season, the Aggies will be ranked even higher next August.

Make no mistake about it, like Ole Miss and Arkansas before it, A&M will be the darlings of the SEC West during the upcoming offseason. Given that quarterback Johnny Manziel, a good bet to take first-team All-SEC honors as a redshirt freshman, is just getting started in College Station, it makes perfect sense.

As the Crimson Tide found out, the guy is capable of putting his team on his back and carrying it to unexpected heights. Still, if the past has taught us anything, it's that the next big thing in the West doesn't always live up to expectations (remember when Jevan Snead was going to go No. 1 in the NFL Draft?).

And where the Aggies are concerned, there will be more to factor into next season's projection than Manziel's return.

Like Alabama, A&M's 2013 squad could be heavily impacted by the NFL Draft. As we told you last week, the Aggies have three juniors -- defensive end Damontre Moore and offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews -- who will likely be first-round picks in next April's draft should they decide to forgo their senior seasons.

Of course that won't matter come SEC Media Days, when a panel consisting of everything from legitimate media to fans disguised as reporters will cast their votes for division winners and all-conference teams.

By that time, Manziel mania will be closing in on Tebow territory. In reality, the pieces around him and the exposure the rest of the league will have had to Kevin Sumlin's offense will play large roles in A&M's ability to justify the hype.

In other words, don't write off Alabama and LSU just yet.

While the Crimson Tide and Tigers won't be going away anytime soon, the programs in the West that will continue to feel A&M the most are Arkansas, Auburn, Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

The Aggies' fertile recruiting base will likely keep them ahead of those schools from a personnel standpoint and assuming Sumlin's staff remains relatively intact, they'll compare favorably with others in the division for the foreseeable future.

*Seems to be a lot of trumped up confidence coming from the UGA camp where its likely SEC Championship Game matchup with Alabama is concerned. Nevermind that UA is coming off a two-game stretch against opponents -- LSU and Texas A&M -- ranked in the top 10, while the Bulldogs are riding high following wins over two teams -- Ole Miss and Auburn -- who are a combined 2-11 in SEC play.

*Speaking of awful records, Alabama's final two opponents of the regular season -- Western Carolina and Auburn -- have a combined mark of 3-17. Amazingly, neither has won a conference game in 2012. The Tigers currently sit at 0-7 in the SEC, while the FCS Catamounts finished Southern Conference play at 0-8.

*Of Nick Saban's 13 losses as head coach at Alabama, seven have come in the month of November, proving that unless you're Tennessee, the schedule typically gets tougher as the season progresses. By the way, four of those November losses came in Saban's first season.

*Between them, LSU, Alabama and Texas A&M have five losses this season, with four of those coming at home.

*With a win over Western Carolina, the Crimson Tide will reach the 10-win mark for the fifth straight season. The last time that happened at Alabama was 1971-1975.

*If Alabama wins out from here, it will have posted a school-record 49 wins over the last four seasons, a total that would exceed the 2008-2011 cycle by a single victory.

*Hard not to feel for Tyler Hayes, the reserve linebacker who jumped offsides on what would have been an A&M punt with 40 seconds remaining in Saturday's game, We all love to see true freshmen on the field ... until they make a mistake that negatively impacts a potential national title run.

*As my UA-A&M pick proved, I won't be setting up shop in Vegas anytime soon. That said, here's guessing punter Cody Mandell will pick up special teams player of the week honors from the UA coaching staff. Mandell was terrific against A&M, netting 44 yards per punt.

While we're at it, go ahead and give defensive player of the week honors to Mandell as well. After all, he was Manziel's biggest obstacle in the Aggies' 20-point, first-quarter onslaught.

*Following a sweep of South Dakota State and West Alabama over the weekend, I'd love to be able to make some definitive statements about the Alabama men's basketball team. But wins over a 2012 NCAA Tournament team and a Division II team from just down the road didn't provide enough of a glimpse to do so.

I did see enough to think lead guard Trevor Lacey is ready to take his game to an all-conference level. What I still don't know is how legitimate UA's post players and overall depth will be. The trip to New York City this week should tell us a good bit more.

*Of the five UA players who went in the first 35 picks of the 2012 NFL Draft, Alabama has missed Mark Barron the most the past two weeks. LSU and A&M both had a great deal of success against Crimson Tide dime backs and safeties.

*I'm all for the SEC getting a shot at a seventh-straight BCS national championship, but i just can't root against Kansas State. The physical and efficient Wildcats remind me of how another team used to play.

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