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Staff Predictions: #11 Texas Longhorns vs. #3 Alabama Crimson Tide

HornSports Staff
HornSports Staff

Photo: USA TODAY Sports Images

#3 Alabama and #11 Texas will square off in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night at 6:00 PM in one of the season's most highly anticipated non-conference matchups.  Both teams cruised to season-opening wins with the Longhorns beating Rice 37-10 and the Crimson Tide throttling Middle Tennessee 56-7.  While neither team showed much offensively, expect the playbook on both sides to be opened to the fullest at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers left last season's game in Austin with a first-half injury, but he will have another shot at pulling off an upset over Nick Saban's team which is favored by a touchdown.

Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Milroe, a redshirt sophmore and Katy Tompkins product, was committed to Texas in the 2021 recruiting cycle.  Milroe subsequently decommitted and signed with Alabama when Ewers announced his decision to transfer to Texas from Ohio State.   The quarterback battle will be a large part of the storyline in Saturday's game, but both teams have strong defenses and a myriad of offensive weapons to bolster their case for a victory.

It's hostile territory for the Longhorns, who will face the Crimson Tide in conference matchups more often than not beginning next season in the SEC.  However an upset over mentor Nick Saban on Saturday would serve as a signature win for Sarkisian and this Texas program which hasn't beaten an AP Top-5 team since it upset #5 Georgia in the 2018 Sugar Bowl under former head coach Tom Herman.

Can the Longhorns leave Tuscaloosa with Sark's biggest win as head coach?  Our staff weighs in with thoughts on the game and their predictions on the outcome.

Jameson McCausland (1-0)

Alabama surely hasn't forgotten about the scare Texas gave them in Austin last year in a game the Longhorns probably should have won. Texas is going to get Alabama's best shot this year in Tuscaloosa. The good news is if the Longhorns play their best brand of football, they can go toe to toe with the Crimson Tide for 4 quarters. A leaky Texas offensive line didn't inspire a ton of confidence week 1, but Alabama's OL also had their moments of struggles against Middle Tennessee State.

It's hard to bet against Nick Saban at home in a game he has circled. There is a realistic path for a Texas win, but the margin for error is slim and for that reason I will side with Alabama in a very close game where Saban's defense gets the necessary stops late.

Score Prediction: Alabama 28, Texas 24

Marc Henry (0-0)

The Longhorns travel to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide, in a game that has National Championship implications and is a matchup in which Texas is seeking to establish themselves as a championship contender. The key will be the play of the Longhorns in the trenches defensively. The Texas defensive line controlled the line of scrimmage against Rice in their home opener, holding the Owls to 27 yards rushing and 176 yards of total offense in a 37-10 opening game win. Will the Texas defense be able to disrupt the Alabama running game, which features former Longhorn commit, now starting quarterback Jalen Milroe and former Aledo standout running back Jace McClellan. The Crimson Tide had a balanced attack against Middle Tennessee but the running ability combined with Milroe’s strong arm, is going to force the Longhorns to have to stay home defensively and play sound containment defense against the quarterback’s ability to be a threat in the run game. A stout defensive gameplan and a clean game from Quinn Ewers are the keys to success for the Longhorns to come back to Austin with a victory in hand.

Score Prediction: Alabama 24, Texas 21

Todd Glawson (1-0)

For the first time in 121 years, the Texas Longhorns will be playing a football game in Tuscaloosa. And it feels like 121 years since Colt McCoy’s national title game injury that sent the Alabama and Texas programs on completely different trajectories. Saturday night is an outstanding opportunity for the good guys to right some painful wrongs, validate the culture/roster that Sark has built and vault themselves back into national championship conversations. Many things will obviously need to go well for the Horns to be successful. A few of those are being able to withstand the initial surge of a tough road environment, protecting Quinn Ewers (heavy RPO emphasis could help negate the pass rush while keeping him in rhythm) and doing your best to confuse an inexperienced Jalen Milroe while limiting his legs. As insurmountable of a task as this game may seem statistically, I don’t think a Texas victory would necessarily shock any real college football fans. My heart says this will be a repeat of the massive 2005 victory in Columbus (also a Week 2 game) and a program-changing accomplishment, but my brain says otherwise. 

Score Prediction: Alabama 30, Texas 24

Aaron Carrara (1-0)

This game has had a bullseye on it by both programs since last year's game that saw Alabama escape Austin with a one point win.  The stakes are high for Steve Sarkisian in his third season, and a win on Saturday in Tuscaloosa against his former boss and mentor would be monumental for the Longhorns.  Texas will need to play smashmouth, mistake-free football if they intend on leaving a loud and rowdy Bryant Denny Stadium with a win.  Will Kyle Flood's offensive line hold up through four quarters?  Can the Texas defense contain an inexperienced but very capable dual-threat starting quarterback in Jalen Milroe?  If the answer is yes to both of those questions, Texas wins.  I like the matchups on paper for Sark's guys and while this game can easily go either way I'm going to give the Longhorns the benefit of the doubt.  Let's be honest - Texas needs a signature win to rid themselves of the baggage they have endured as a program for the better part of a decade.  I think they return the favor from last year with a game-winning field goal by Bert Auburn.

Score Prediction: Texas 34, Alabama 31

Dylan DeRaud (1-0)

The showdown between Texas and Alabama has all the makings of a classic, with Heisman hopes potentially riding on the outcome. With a 28-2 record against former assistants, Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban adds another layer of advantage for Alabama. Quarterback Jalen Milroe’s elite ability to run while also having elite pass catching talent around him in Isaiah Bond, Jermaine Burton and Amari Niblack presents a tough challenge for the Longhorns’ defense.  Highlighted by Texas’s linebacking core of Jaylan Ford, David Gbenda, and Jett Bush, who will make containing Milroe their top priority. On the other side, Alabama's injured secondary, including key players like S Malachi Moore and CB Kool-Aid Mckinstry, could be a chink in their armor. Making Ewers's deep ball accuracy and Milroe's ability to scramble the defining elements in this game. The Longhorns defense may be able to keep them competitive but it might not be enough to overcome Alabama. Milroe's dual-threat capabilities and the strong linebacker duo of Dallas Turner and Deontae Lawson will create plenty of pressure and force Ewers into making critical mistakes.

Score Prediction: Alabama 27, Texas 23

Devon Messinger (1-0)

On Saturday, the Longhorns will look to achieve something that no other team has been able to achieve in twenty-one consecutive games in Tuscaloosa... simply to beat the Crimson Tide. On the bright side for the Longhorns, one could argue that this year's Alabama team is not as formidable as last year's as the team lost a tremendous amount of experience to the NFL Draft. However, the Longhorns will also have to show that they have somehow improved despite the loss of their best player from last season, Bijan Robinson.

Ultimately, Saturday's contest will come down to one guy, Quinn Ewers. At some point in the game, the Texas offense will become stagnant - it's bound to happen. However, when this occurs, can Ewers rally the troops and squeeze some life out of his team in a tough environment? I think that he has it in him however, at this point, Alabama has proven to be the more consistent program.

Score Prediction: Alabama 24, Texas 20

Mitch Lovell (1-0)

Texas must prove they can go on the road and win in a hostile environment - something they have yet to do in a number of years.  This is a game in which Texas can win but in the end I think Alabama adds a late score to hold on for a victory.

Score Prediction: Alabama 31, Texas 26

Ryan Swantkowski (1-0)

The time has come. Texas Vs. Alabama is one of the most anticipated games of the college football season (with good reason) as two top-12 teams go toe-to-toe in Tuscaloosa. Let's take a quick look at both sides: 

Starting with Alabama, QB Jalen Milroe is the absolute key on offense for the Tide. He can run, throw, juke, truck, hurdle and whatever else you want a player to do. As talented as he is, though, he still has some weaknesses with accuracy and being a seemingly raw player. He's got solid weapons around him, but nothing too crazy like years past. Defensively, it's Alabama. Even though they lost Will Anderson and other key starters to the NFL Draft, they still have solid talent and depth across the board. 

With Texas, everyone knows how talented the offense is. Ewers, Worthy, Sanders (and I can keep going) are all elite playmakers on offense for the Horns, yet can they finally put it all together? Last season vs Alabama, they seemed to be doing it until Ewers got injured. Defensively, Texas is solid all around and is led by LB Jaylan Ford and DL T'Vondre Sweat. The key for the Horns defense will be keeping Milroe contained and not allowing him to scramble out of the pocket, but that's a very challenging task. 

Alabama has won 43 (!) straight non-conference home games, so I have to go with the obvious answer here.... Texas. 

Score Prediction: Texas 31, Alabama 27

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