Texas has the chance to jump back into the national spotlight Saturday afternoon when the Longhorns host top-ranked Alabama in nonconference play at Austin, Texas.
The Longhorns have slid from college football’s elites, managing just one 10-win campaign in the past 12 seasons, haven’t won a conference championship since 2009 and last earned a national championship in 2005.
And last year Texas stumbled to 5-7 in Steve Sarkisian’s first season as coach.
But the current narrative can be altered quickly if the Longhorns (1-0) can slay Nick Saban’s powerful Crimson Tide (1-0).
Sarkisian, formerly an offensive coordinator at Alabama, is doing his best to downplay the matchup with his team entering as a three-touchdown underdog.
“It’s one game, you know?” Sarkisian said. “It’s a chance for us to do what we love to do. I think one of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking this is going to be the game that’s going to define our program.
“It might, it might not. I’m not that concerned about it. I’m more concerned about just the way we play the game.”
Texas will join Alabama in the Southeastern Conference in 2025 — or perhaps a year earlier if the Longhorns and Oklahoma are successful in hastening their bid to leave the Big 12.
Texas is 7-1-1 all-time against Alabama with the loss coming in the BCS Championship Game at the end of the 2009 season.
Last week, the Longhorns opened with a 52-10 rout of Louisiana-Monroe, while the Crimson Tide crushed Utah State 55-0.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young led Alabama by passing for five touchdowns and rushing for one against the Aggies. He passed for 195 yards and rushed for a career-best 100.
“I just try to do whatever’s best for the team, whatever the defense gives me,” Young said of his all-around performance. “But that was definitely interesting. It definitely wasn’t something I was planning.”
Young expects a fierce battle against the Longhorns.
“We have a lot of respect for them as a program,” Young said. “We know that we’re going to a hostile environment. So, we’re gonna learn all that we can throughout the week. We’re gonna study, we’re gonna prepare. We know it’s gonna take everything.”
Sarkisian was offensive coordinator in Young’s initial season at Alabama in 2020 when the latter backed up Mac Jones. But when the topic of familiarity came up, Saban shut down such talk with his usual defensiveness.
“We’ve seemed to play several teams now that kind of know us, but you act like we don’t know them,” Saban said. “So just because somebody knows you when they play you, doesn’t mean they’re going to beat you. And just because you know them when you play them, doesn’t mean you’re gonna beat them either. It’s gonna come down to how you execute.”
New Texas quarterback Quinn Ewers, who transferred from Ohio State, passed for 225 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in his first start.
Ewers’ second pass was intercepted, but he settled down and Sarkisian was pleased with the debut of his 19-year-old quarterback.
“We stuck to the plan,” Sarkisian said. “We had some things called down the field that I thought he did a nice job of finding his checkdowns on. You can’t expect him to ride this bike and do it with training wheels on. I’ve got to let him go.”
Now Ewers will face a defense led by Crimson Tide All-American linebacker Will Anderson. Alabama allowed just 136 yards against Utah State.
Anderson, who led the nation with 17.5 sacks last season, is ready to bring the heat against the Longhorns.
“They haven’t probably seen a team like us before and I’ll go out there and try to get him rattled up a little bit, go in and get pressure on him early on,” Anderson said. “I think it is very beneficial to what we have to do to slow him down or slow the team down.”
–Field Level Media
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