The Texas Longhorns (1-0) will visit the Alabama Crimson Tide (1-0) to meet for the eleventh time in history in week 2 of the 2023 season. The Longhorns currently lead the all-time series between the two schools 7-2-1, respectively.
Alabama have won the last two meetings against Texas (2009 BCS National Championship and Week 2 of the 2022 season). The two storied programs have high expectations heading into 2023 and by meeting this early in the season, this matchup will likely have College Football Playoff implications.
The Crimson Tide will be without 2021 Heisman winner quarterback Bryce Young, who went number one overall in the 2023 NFL Draft to the Carolina Panthers. In last year’s affair between the two teams, Alabama needed fourth quarter heroics from Young to squeak out a 20-19 victory in Austin, Texas.
In place of Young under center is sophomore quarterback Jalen Milroe, who backed up the former Alabama quarterback for two seasons. Milroe had an impressive showing in Alabama’s season opener against Middle Tennessee. Milroe tossed for three touchdowns, rushed for two touchdowns and led the team in rushing garnering 48 yards (6.9 yards per carry). The sophomore quarterback beat out quarterbacks transfer Tyler Buchner and freshman Ty Simpson in fall camp for the starting job.
Milroe will be up against a stiffer defense in the Longhorns, who possess arguably the best linebacker in the country in Jaylan Ford and sophomore defensive end Ethan Burke (recorded 1.5 sacks and 1.5 tackles for loss vs. Rice)
Texas is fresh off a home victory against Rice in their season opener. Dark-horse heisman candidate and Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers tossed for 3 touchdowns with 260 passing yards while completing 63 percent of his passes. Ewers looked solid against the Owls, but his deep throws still need improvement. The redshirt sophomore quarterback played in the matchup against Alabama last year and had an impressive outing, but unfortunately went down in the first half and did not return.
Analysis and Prediction
Alabama and Texas played teams they were supposed to beat in their respective season openers, as the two powerhouse schools prepare to do battle in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. In order for the Longhorns to win against Alabama head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, Texas will need Ewers to make plays with not only his arm, but his legs. Ewers is excellent with Run-Pass-Option throws and that will keep the Crimson Tide defense guessing. Texas have playmakers on offense such as 2022 Second-Team All-Big 12 wideout Xavier Worthy and veteran senior pass catcher Jordan Whittington on the outside. The Longhorns veteran offensive line had trouble sustaining against Rice’s defensive front, and they will surely have a challenge against the Crimson Tide defense that features former five-star recruit junior linebacker Dallas Turner leading the way.
The Longhorns main goal on defense is to force Milroe to stay in the pocket and make him become a pocket passer, as the Alabama quarterback threw three interceptions with a completion percentage of 58.5 percent in eight appearances in 2022, respectively.
The Crimson Tide are trying to find their identity after having consecutive years of strong quarterback play such as the likes of Tua Tagovailoa, Jalen Hurts, Mac Jones and Bryce Young. Can Milroe live up to the pressure as the successor to those current NFL starting quarterbacks? Alabama will need to lean on the running back tandem of Jase McClellan (5.8 yards per carry in 2022) and Roydell Williams (4.5 yards per carry in 2022) to take pressure off Milroe who has never been in a game of this magnitude. Milroe, who stands at 6-foot-2, 220Ibs., is dangerous as a runner outside of the pocket and the Longhorns will have a long day if he gets in the open field frequently.
It’s tough to predict that the Longhorns will walk into Bryant-Denny Stadium and upset the Crimson Tide in front of a raucous crowd. If Milroe can build off his confidence and momentum from last week, and the Crimson tide defense can garner substantial pressure on Ewers, expect the Tide to win by at least a touchdown.
Featured image courtesy of Alabama Athletics