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No. 1 Alabama awaits Manziel, No. 15 Texas A&M

No. 1 Alabama awaits Manziel, No. 15 Texas A&M

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama just etched an entry into Crimson Tide lore with a stomach-twisting road win over No. 9 LSU after the national title hopes went on life support.

Now, the top-ranked Crimson Tide face another huge, and much different, challenge. No. 15 Texas A&M visits Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night with a versatile quarterback and a high-speed offense that seldom takes a break.

Such is life in the Southeastern Conference.

``That wasn't the national championship game,'' Tide left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio said. ``We're not done. We've got more work to do. And we've got a different animal this week. That's how we approach it. ``

Alabama (9-0, 6-0) can secure a spot in the SEC championship game with a win.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel and the Aggies (7-2, 4-2 SEC) have already made a big splash in a league that's won six straight national championships. They have taken top 10 teams Florida and LSU down to the wire before losing both games by a combined eight points.

``The first game against Florida was a pretty big event,'' Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said. ``We've had some pretty big games already. If anything, the atmosphere going on the road will be different. These guys have put us in a position, by their play, to make these games meaningful. It's not a one-game season. It never has been and it never will be.''

He said the Aggies gained confidence from their close calls with the Gators and Tigers that they can handle the league's physical style. They were hurt by nine penalties against Florida and five turnovers against LSU.

Now, their pedal-to-the-medal quarterback and offense take on a more old-school SEC football team.

It's run-and-gun Manziel versus AJ McCarron, who thrust himself more prominently into the Heisman Trophy conversation by engineering a swift game-winning touchdown drive against the Tigers. McCarron still hasn't thrown an interception this season.

Texas A&M linebacker Jonathan Stewart figures it will take a much more pristine performance to beat an Alabama team with two national titles in three years and a third in its sights.

``We know that we're going to have to play up to the part,'' Stewart said. ``We're going against the No. 1 team in the nation. As we saw when we lost to Florida and we lost to LSU, our two losses this year, we can't beat ourselves. When we're going against top 10 teams, they don't beat themselves. Unfortunately, in our two losses, we beat ourselves.''

Alabama hadn't looked particularly beatable all season until last weekend in Baton Rouge - before McCarron, wide receiver Kevin Norwood and tailback T.J. Yeldon produced a rapid-fire string of big plays en route to Yeldon's 28-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 51 seconds left.

``If we finish out like we're supposed to, probably one of the greatest wins I've been a part of in my life,'' McCarron said. ``The win only means so much if you finish out strong. If we don't finish out strong, it really doesn't factor in, really. Just another win.''

Tide coach Nick Saban said that was easily his team's worst defensive performance of the season. Alabama's defense gave up 435 yards and got stuck on the field for 85 plays.

The Aggies would love to maintain that kind of staying power on the field and keep the nation's top scoring defense out there and McCarron & Co. on the sideline.

That sets up a battle between the swashbuckling Johnny Football and a physical, disciplined defense that would love to make the Aggies look like Johnny Come Lately. That's much easier said than done.

Manziel is leading the SEC in rushing, scoring and total offense. He's averaged 10 points a game not even counting his 16 touchdown passes. Alabama, by contrast, is only allowing opponents to score a tad over nine points per game.

Saban said Manziel reminds him more of Doug Flutie than Michigan's Denard Robinson or former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, now with the Carolina Panthers.

``I had to play against (Flutie) a long time ago,'' the former Kent State defensive back said. ``But he's a really good player, a really good competitor and that's who this guy reminds me of. He can throw it, he's not great big in stature or anything like that, he's extremely quick. He's very instinctive. Has a unique ability to extend plays and seems to know when to take off and run it. And he scrambles and makes plays throwing the ball down the field.

``But this is a unique guy in terms of his playmaking ability and his size, quickness and speed and ability to make people miss in space.''

The Aggies will complete a three-game SEC road swing with this trip to 101,821-seat Bryant-Denny, and they're hoping to do it in style.

``I think that in playing college football, and playing football in general, this is going to be the Saturday you live to play for,'' Texas A&M offensive lineman Patrick Lewis said. ``Going up there on the road, I think their stadium holds well-over 100 thousand people. It's probably going to be packed to capacity.

``We look forward to the challenge they're going to present.''

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Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

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USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Durant commits $10 million to Prince George's County public schools

Kevin Durant continues to give back to the community that raised him. 

Durant, who calls Prince George's County, MD., home, recently announced a partnership with Prince George's County public schools. 

The partnership, which comes with a $10 million dollar commitment from Durant, will help fund a program called College Track. Essentially, it's a 10-year program that provides basic infrastructure — test prep, tutoring, college selection and how to get financial aid — that kids from less-advantaged families often times don’t have.

Durant's money will go towards building College Track's Maryland center. There are nine other College Tracks across California, Colorado, and Louisiana, and the program has helped over 3,000 students get to college and beyond. This Maryland center will be the first of three that are planned to go up in the DC area. 

You can read the entire article about Durant and College Track right here. 

RELATED: WHAT THE SESSIONS SIGNING MEANS FOR TOMAS SATORANSKY

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Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

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USA TODAY Sports

Martavis Bryant could make sense for the Redskins, at the right price

A 2017 midseason trade for Martavis Bryant made no sense for the Redskins. A 2018 offseason trade for Martavis Bryant, however, might make sense for the Redskins. 

Bryant is on the trade block, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, and will be an intriguing prospect for receiver-needy teams across the NFL. In parts of three seasons with the Steelers, Bryant has 17 touchdowns and a 15.2 yards-per-reception average. 

A big play threat from any place on the field, Bryant would immediately make the Redskins receiving unit more athletic and explosive. 

It's not all good news with Bryant, though.

He was suspended for the entire 2016 season after repeated drug violations and caused some distraction for Pittsburgh during the 2017 season when he asked for a trade via social media. 

MORE: CAN YOU GUESS THESE REDSKINS BASED ON THEIR COMBINE NUMBERS?

Is the talent enough to overcome the off-field distractions? Many would say it is. 

Last year, in just eight starts, Bryant grabbed 50 catches for more than 600 yards and three TDs. In their lone playoff loss to the Jaguars, Bryant caught two passes for 78 yards and a TD. 

Remember, too, the Steelers have an explosive offense, and Bryant is coupled with Antonio Brown on the receiver front along with Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback and Le'Veon Bell at running back. The Pittsburgh offense is loaded. 

Washington's offense is not nearly the prolific unit that the Steelers send out, but Jay Gruden does design a good offense. 

The real question surrounding any talk of trading for Bryant is the cost.

The Redskins are not in a position to send away any more draft picks this offseason after giving up a third-round pick, in addition to Kendall Fuller, to acquire Alex Smith. Bruce Allen and the Redskins front office need to improve their team in plenty of spots, and the team's draft picks are quite valuable. 

Bryant only has one year remaining on his rookie deal, and it's hard to balance that sort of short-term investment with the value of adding a rookie committed to the team for at least four years. Perhaps a late-round pick would make sense, but it would need to be a sixth-rounder. 

This could be one of those rare situations in the NFL where a player for player swap could work, though pulling that type of maneuver requires a lot of moving parts. 

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