This Saturday in Austin, Texas, the University of Alabama and the University of Texas will face off for the first time since their meeting in the 2009 BCS National Championship game where Nick Saban secured his first of six national championships with Alabama as the Crimson Tide defeated the Longhorns 37-21.
Since the 2009 BCS Championship Game, both programs have taken extremely different trajectories. Alabama has touted an FBS-best 151-17 record securing seven SEC Championships and five national championships, arguably being the best dynasty in college football history.
On the other sideline, the Longhorns have produced an underwhelming 84-67 record with only one appearance in the Big 12 Championship, which they lost, and zero appearances in the College Football Playoffs.
Alabama comes into this game with a 1-0 record after dominating an underskilled Utah State team 55-0. The Crimson Tide was led by an impressive performance from the returning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young recording six touchdowns, five passing and one rushing. The defense also shined, with a dominant performance to preserve the shutout.
Texas comes into this contest Saturday with a 1-0 record as they also took care of business against an inferior opponent, Louisiana-Monroe, by the score of 52-10. Ohio State transfer Quinn Ewers made his first collegiate start at QB for the Longhorns against the Warhawks last week. Ewers made a few freshman mistakes but overall gave a pretty solid performance tossing a couple of touchdowns with just one interception. The Texas defense looked to be improved from last year, but that isn’t a high bar to eclipse as they were near the bottom in the nation giving up 31 points per game.
Here are a few things to pay attention to this Saturday when Alabama faces Texas.
Saturday, Alabama will be going into a hostile environment as they visit Texas for the first road game of the year. Last year, Alabama had four true road games, and if you take away the blowout against Mississippi State, they looked very shaky. The results of the other three away games were a loss at Texas A&M, a two-point win at Florida and a two-point win against Auburn in a thriller that required four overtimes.
This Texas crowd should be electric early hoping to upset the number one team in the nation. To help with creating more noise for the home team, Texas has a bizarre seating arrangement for visiting fans in which the required tickets dedicated to the visiting team are only in the upper deck. As a result, the Million Dollar Band will not be making the trip to Austin due to this upper deck seating. Texas can enjoy this until they join the SEC when this will all change due to the rules of the SEC.
The good news for dealing with the hostile environment is the Tide is returning two of the most important pieces when facing a loud, opposing crowd: their Heisman Trophy-winning QB as well as their center. The bad news is that most of the other pieces of the offense are new faces with little experience.
Saturday will be a hot one in Austin, with temperatures expected to be in the 90s, but this should actually be an advantage for the road team. Alabama is no stranger to hot temperatures, and being the team with the most depth across the board, especially on the offensive and defensive lines, they should be the fresher team in the second half.
Coming into this season, the Crimson Tide defense has high expectations — more specifically the pass rush. Will Anderson, Jr. led the nation in sacks last year with 17.5 sacks, and on the other side of the line, his teammate Dallas Turner had an impressive freshman campaign with 8.5 sacks of his own. With another year in the Alabama weight training and conditioning program under their belts, these two could have a special year. It was surprising to see the Tide had a zero in the sack column after their first game. But despite zero sacks, the pass rush was very disruptive, and it was clear that Utah State’s game plan was to get the ball out quickly and not let Anderson have a career day.
Alabama will face a Texas offensive line that will be starting two freshmen as well as a freshman QB that only has one game under his belt. If Texas wants to have any chance of an upset, they will have to take chances downfield, and that means plays will take longer to develop, which should provide Anderson and company the extra time needed to get to the QB. The question will not be if Alabama will get pressure but how Ewers will handle the pressure of an elite pass rush.
With all the focus this year on the front seven there has been a battle in the secondary going on under the radar. "Kool-Aid" McKinstry and Terrion Arnold were the starting two cornerbacks against Utah State in week one, but Khyree Jackson and Eli Ricks also saw snaps with the first string as the four defensive backs continued to rotate throughout the night. This week while going up against a more talented group of Longhorn receivers, watch to see if any of the guys set themselves apart and earn the favor of Saban.
If nobody stands out, it might not necessarily be a bad thing. It might prove to be a deep secondary that could stay fresh rotating in and out throughout the game.
You may not recognize the names of the Alabama receivers this year because five of their top six receivers from last year are not on the roster. The top returning receiver is tight end Cameron Latu, who missed the first game due to injury. The good news for the Crimson Tide is Latu will get his first action of the season this week. With the lack of competition currently at the tight end spot and the athleticism of Latu, he should be due for a breakout season starting this week.
In the opening game, 11 different Bama players caught passes, six of those players being wide receivers. Traeshon Holden and Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton took an early hold on the favorite targets of Bryce Young as they each tallied five catches and two touchdowns. Freshman receiver Kobe Prentice took a giant step forward toward earning his spot on the field as he also had five grabs for 60 yards. Texas will be a good test for these new faces to see how they handle the spotlight in a hostile road environment.
Last week, the leading receiver for Texas was tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who pulled in six receptions for 85 yards and one touchdown. Running back Bijan Robinson was also a big threat in the passing game with three receptions for 40 yards and one touchdown. Typically, running backs and tight ends are covered by linebackers, so this can create mismatches, which Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian has shown in the past that he knows how to exploit. Watch for how Pete Golding, the Tide’s defensive coordinator, decides to handle these mismatches because they could expose the Alabama defense.
While Saturday will mark only the 10th time these two historic universities have met, that will soon change as these teams will clash on a regular basis when Texas, along with Oklahoma, joins the SEC in 2025. This will be a good test for both teams and it is crucial for coach Sarkisian to have a good showing against his former boss to prove to the Texas boosters and fans that he has the Longhorns headed in the right direction and that they belong in the SEC.
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