It is the biggest home game for Texas in a long time — yes, this game is bigger than the LSU game — as the Longhorns welcome future fellow SEC school and current No. 1 Alabama to The 40 Acres, and here at Horns Illustrated, we’ll take a look at the three scenarios for Texas out of this game.
We’ll start with — and keep in mind this isn’t a prediction:
Texas pulls the upset
If this happens, cue talk of — if not expecting — winning the Big 12 and making the playoff.
For this to happen, Texas running back Bijan Robinson must go off for at least 150 yards, which in turn means the offensive line has to have a great game. Oh, and there can’t be any fumbles by any ball carrier.
Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers must be fantastic, committing no turnovers and throwing for at least 235 yards and three touchdowns. To do this, he must get the ball out of his hands quickly and be precise with his passes. He also has to scramble effectively and avoid sacks.
Wideouts Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington must help Ewers out with some highlight-reel catches and break tackles to have notable yards after the catch.
Defensively, Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian uses his knowledge of Alabama quarterback Bryce Young — Sarkisian recruited Young to and coached him at Alabama — and the other offensive players to help the defensive coaching staff exploit their weaknesses. This should include having a linebacker spy on Young each play, the defense forcing at least two turnovers, limiting first-down success and not allowing the Crimson Tide to convert third downs.
It is been reported that former TCU coach Gary Patterson, who is now part of the Texas coaching staff, has been preparing for this game since last spring, while Longhorns players have mentioned they feel like they’ve seen Alabama’s offense since Sarkisian was hired to lead the program. The players seem to feel like they have a good grasp on how to play the Crimson Tide and Patterson is as much of a defensive genius as there is in college football. Coverages must be disguised to confuse Young or at least delay his usual accurate decision-making. Unleashing DeMarvion Overshown on the outside also must happen periodically.
This is also Alabama’s first non-conference road game against a Power 5 opponent in more than 10 years, and it is early in the season where the Crimson Tide may not be a fine-tuned machine in early September.
An 11 a.m. kickoff may not help the visitors, either, as sometimes that can lead to sluggish starts, and Texas should be more pumped up for this game.
All of those things much come together to slow down Alabama.
And perhaps most importantly, Texas’ special teams need to produce a score, whether it is returning a kick or punt for a touchdown, or blocking a punt and returning it for a TD.
This is how Texas pulls the upset.
The second outcome is:
Alabama crushes Texas
This is the outcome most people are expecting.
There’s a reason the Crimson Tide is favored by 20 points by the bookmakers — that being having the best college football coach of all time, arguably the best player in the country in Young and NFL talent all over the field.
In this scenario, Young and the up-tempo Alabama offense score points in a hurry either passing or running the ball and don’t make mistakes, while the defense is suffocating.
The Longhorns may not have fixed their run-defense issues from a year ago, which would lead the Crimson Tide to run the ball effectively, which in turn opens up the passing game.
Ewers will be making his second collegiate start against athletes of a caliber he hasn’t seen before, and thus could be forced into multiple interceptions or being ineffective. This would allow Alabama to focus all of their attention on Robinson.
This is the worst-case scenario for Texas, with it being unable to move the ball on offense and being run over on defense.
The final outcome is:
Texas holds their own and doesn’t let Alabama walk all over them
The Longhorns lose by 14 or less with a good showing and earn a lot of national respect.
Like in the first scenario, Texas’ offense gets a big game from its offensive line and Robinson, moving the ball on the ground effectively and keeping the ball out of Young’s hands while burning some clock.
Ewers isn’t great, but he has one turnover or less and throws for at least 140 yards (a legit 140 yards, not piling up yardage in garbage time when Texas is behind by 23 in the fourth quarter), and the Texas defense doesn’t allow the big play, creates a turnover and makes Alabama work for its yardage and points.
If this happens, Texas fans should be optimistic going into the rest of the year.