The eyes of the college football world are seemingly on Austin as the Texas Longhorns host the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday morning at Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium, meeting for the first time since the national championship game that wrapped up the 2009 season.
Alabama, who played for a national championship last year, was not content and attacked the transfer portal, improving on their perceived weaknesses from a year ago. They came out in Week 1 and once again looked like world beaters, cruising past an outmatched Utah State 55-0 at home.
As a double-digit road favorite, what should Texas expect when the Crimson Tide come to the Forty Acres? For help, we reached out to Brent Taylor (@btbama22) of Roll ‘Bama Roll (@rollbamaroll) to help set expectations.
Burnt Orange Nation: Against Utah State, quarterback Bryce Young looked like he was back in Heisman form, having a hand in six of the Tide’s seven scores but seemingly did more with his legs than he did a year ago. Is that by design or was that just what the Utah State defense was giving him? Do you see it looking similar when he takes the field against Texas?
Brent Taylor, Roll Bama Roll: It was honestly a bit of a fluke. Young HATES taking off and running, even though he’s quite good at it. The bulk of it came on a 65-yard scamper that was a pass play where nobody got open, so Bryce took off and torched some dude’s angle.
And the rushing touchdown was pretty funny. He rolled left, didn’t see anyone open, and jogged to the end zone... Looking in every direction the whole time to find someone to pass to instead of taking the rushing score.
So, no, I don’t really expect that kind of rushing output again. He’ll usually pull the ball down and take off about once or twice a game. Other than that, he’s scrambling to find someone to throw to.
BON: If there was one area on the Alabama offense that you would say is a “concern,” whether that be for this game specifically or in the season overall, what would you say it is?
RBR: Two things: first, the offensive line has to block in short yardage better. The 2021 unit was the worst in Saban’s tenure at that, and it wound up putting way too much pressure on Bryce Young to convert. And they didn’t really confirm or deny any improvement against Utah State last week.
The other is on Bryce himself. Last year, teams figured out that they could blitz the ever-loving crap out of him, and there was always a good shot he’d take a sack rather than hitting a check down or a hot route.
He, again, took a bad sack against a free rusher on third down last week, but did come back and hit a couple of hot routes in the next few drives. So he HAS to be able to consistently punish teams for the overload blitzes, or they’re going to keep doing it when they need it most.
BON: The Alabama defense looks like the Death Star with Will Anderson serving as Darth Vader on the edge. If Texas was to find success attacking this defense, how would Steve Sarkisian need to draw up the game plan?
RBR: Honestly, the only real hope is what Georgia did in the National Championship: throw YOLO passes down the sidelines. Saban is going to stubbornly stick to his pattern match coverages that leave his corners on an island down the field, and it’ll come down to 1v1 jump balls. We have four very talented players for those two spots, but none were starters for Alabama last year, so they’re all wild cards.
Do that enough, and you’ll eventually get a big play. Plus you’ll get a lot of free pass interference calls if Ewers underthrows it.
BON: What’s one storyline you’re watching on Saturday?
RBR: The way that these two programs have changed fortunes since that 2009 championship game is truly fascinating. We don’t really think about Texas too much, but I imagine you guys still feel that loss acutely.
So I’m interested to see if the Longhorns can keep it close and competitive and if that’s enough to heal old wounds and start rebounding as a program.
BON: What’s your prediction?
RBR: 48-21 ‘Bama. I like the Texas offense quite a bit, actually. But this is also a veteran Alabama defense, so I think they limit things pretty well, but still give up a few scores.
The Texas defense though... man. I can’t See Alabama ending up under 40 points.
I think Alabama jumps to an early lead before Texas climbs back to bring it to a one-score game by halftime. But a defensive touchdown from Alabama in the third seems to deflate things, and Alabama goes on to drain clock and put up a couple more scores from there.
BON: If you can’t say Tuscaloosa, what road trip should Texas fans be most excited about when the move to the SEC finally happens?
RBR: I’ll always have a soft spot for LSU fans. They’re all nuts, and that makes it fun. Plus the food is the best in the country. I just love gumbo.
BON: If you were gifted a bottle of Bijan Mustardson for your gameday/tailgate, what are you cooking or bringing to use it on?
RBR: I’d squish it between my Will Hamburgerson buns.