The toughest regular season game for Alabama Football is usually not in Bryant-Denny. All the top SEC teams have a sizable advantage when playing at home.
It is also rare for a team visiting Bryant-Denny, coming off a five-loss season, to be considered a serious threat. The Alabama Crimson Tide’s week two opponent may make those norms inapplicable.
More than a few college football pundits are touting how improved the Texas Longhorns will be in 2023. One or two have projected the Texas roster to be as or more talented than any other Alabama, regular season opponent.
Alabama football fans have varied opinions. We understand that even if Steve Sarkisian’s roster is being overvalued, Alabama’s quarterback situation may not be solid in week two. A Texas team that perhaps could not beat Alabama in November, might be a serious upset threat on Sept. 9.
Alabama football fans have questions
- How good is Steve Sarkisian as a head coach?
Alabama football fans admire the job Sark did in Tuscaloosa. Some would argue that in the 2020 season, Sarkisian was the best Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator and Quarterback coach – ever. Other fanbases have different opinions. Fans of the Atlanta Falcons celebrated Sark’s exit from their team. Many college football fans point to Sarkisian’s 59-47 head coaching record as proof his sharp offensive mind does not make him a good head coach.
"If anyone is on the hot seat, it’s Sark. If Sark has a seven, eight-win team this year, you do question — ‘okay, you’ve had the time and you can’t have success in your third year in the Big 12. What gives us any confidence you’re going to have success in the SEC?"
Texas fans are confident the Longhorns are back – finally. A loss in Tuscaloosa might not alter that thinking, but Sarkisian must improve his 13-12 record in Austin, with at least nine wins in 2023. Expectations are so high for the Longhorns, it could even be that less than 10 wins will be deemed a failure.
So what is the answer on Sark as a head coach? It is yet to be determined.
- Will the 2023 Texas Defense be improved?
To begin, Texas was not bad defensively last season. Among Big 12 teams, the Longhorns were No. 2 in Total Defense (yards-per-play) and Rushing Defense (yards-per-carry) and Scoring Defense at 21.6 points-per-game. The problem with the four stats is they are in relation to many weak Big 12 defenses.
When measured against all FBS teams, Texas was respectable at No. 18 for Total Defense; No. 23 23 for Rushing Defense and No. 28 for Scoring Defense. Last season, the primary defensive problem for Texas was Passing Defense. The Longhorns were No. 4 in the Big 12, but No. 91 among FBS teams.
Recently, Will Backus, writing for CBS predicted,
"Texas defense among college football’s most improved units entering 2023 season"
Maybe Backus is correct. Bama Hammer will provide more scrutiny in a later post. A quick summary is the Longhorns lost some key defensive players from last season. Two of last season’s top five tacklers are gone, along with a key defensive lineman and a starting linebacker. Last season, the Longhorns had nine defenders with 40 or more total tackles and three of them are gone.
From the 2022 Texas secondary, three of the top Longhorns in pass break-ups will be missed in 2023.
On the positive side of assessing the Texas defense, top defenders return in linebacker Jaylan Ford, edge, Barron Sorrell and defensive backs, Jahdae Barron and Jarrin Thompson. Transfers Jalen Catalon and Gavin Holmes should strengthen the Texas defensive backfield.
The 2023 Texas defense might be better than last season, especially if former 5-Star freshman, Anthony Hill progresses quickly. Still, believing Texas will have a much-improved defense on Sept. 9, is a stretch.
Bama Hammer will continue to analyze every 2023 Crimson Tide opponent. No doubt, with some of them, we will over-analyze and one of those teams will be Texas.