Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the Texas Longhorns and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Saturday, September 9; 6:00 p.m. CT; Bryant-Denny Stadium; Tuscaloosa, Alabama
Radio: Longhorn Radio Network (Craig Way, Roger Wallace, Will Matthews)
Record: Texas (1-0); Alabama (1-0)
Rankings: Texas No. 11; Alabama No. 3
Series History: Texas leads, 7-2-1
Last Meeting: Alabama 20, Texas 19 (2022)
Line: Alabama (-7.0)
Fun Fact: Steve Sarkisian will head back to Tuscaloosa for the first time since serving as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator under Nick Saban in 2019-20. Over the course of Saban’s career, he has a 28-2 record over former assistants who face him as a head coach.
QB QUINN EWERS
In his 2023 debut, Quinn Ewers turned in an efficient performance, which was really good to see if you are a Longhorns fan. Going 19-30 for 260 yards and three touchdowns, Ewers seemed to have good control of the offense, even after a slow start to the game. Going into perhaps the biggest nonconference game of the 2023 season, Ewers will have to have a big game if Texas is going to go into Tuscaloosa and come out with a victory.
DE ETHAN BURKE
While LB Jaylan Ford picked up right where he left off in 2022, defensive end Ethan Burke is the player who jumps off the stat sheet. The sophomore recorded 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss against Rice this week and finds himself as the team leader in both statistical categories heading into Week 2. Now, the Alabama offensive line will present a much stiffer test than what Rice did, but right now it appears that the Longhorns have an emerging young player who will have a major role on Texas’ defense.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
QB JALEN MILROE
The “quarterback competition” in Tuscaloosa couldn’t have been anything more than a media story after what Jalen Milroe showed on Saturday. While it was against Middle Tennessee State, Milroe was extremely efficient, completing 13 of 18 attempts for 194 yards and three scores, while turning seven carries into 48 yards (6.9 ypc) and two touchdowns. The Texas defense will be much tougher in Week 2, but Milroe looks to be the definitive answer at quarterback for Nick Saban.
S CALEB DOWNS
True freshmen don’t start at safety very often in college football, let alone for Nick Saban. However, Caleb Downs is nothing like your typical newcomer and certainly didn’t look like it in his first start. Downs led the Crimson tide with eight tackles, as well as recording one tackle for loss on the day. With Texas having one of the top wide receiver corps in all of college football, Downs will be a key player to watch in this Week 2 clash.
Can the Longhorns live up to the hype? That’s the storyline here for Texas. When the halftime score against Rice was 16-3, folks around Austin were not happy after everything we heard this offseason. Now, they turned it around to finish with a 37-10 victory, but UT can’t afford that kind of start on the road against the No. 4 team in the land. There’s an argument that Texas has the roster to challenge Alabama, but it will take one heck of a game from play-caller Steve Sarkisian and an even better game from a Texas defense that looked very good this week.
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE
Who wins the strength vs. strength battle between Texas’ wide receivers and Alabama’s defensive backfield. Caleb Downs and Kool-Aid McKinstry give the Tide the best safety-corner duo in the nation, while Jaylen Key, Terrion Arnold, and Malachi Moore bring this unit right near the top nationally. This will be the game inside the game on Saturday as Xavier Worthy, Ja’Tavion Sanders, AD Mitchell, and Johntay Cook will present quite the challenge for Bama’s back seven.
PREDICTION: ALABAMA 31, TEXAS 27
I can’t pick the Longhorns to walk into Tuscaloosa and take down the Crimson Tide, but I also don’t believe they’ll get embarrassed either. I would even buy stock in Texas coming out and grabbing an early lead in this game, before Alabama eventually steadily fights their way back into a lead and holds on to win. While this game will have little consequence on the Longhorns’ ability to play for a Big 12 title in ’23, their national perception will be decided one way or another this weekend. With a hard-fought loss to the team I believe will win a national title in January, Texas will head back to Austin at 1-1 but with nothing to hang their heads about.