If Texas has a defense as improved as some predict, Alabama Football could have a dilemma on Sept. 9. The Longhorns could possibly live up to preseason hype. At the least, Texas being better defensively feels like a given.
The problem is in multiple areas, the Longhorns’ defense needs to be much better than last season. In the 2021 season, Texas was an awful No. 99 among FBS teams in Scoring Defense. The Horns made a big jump to No. 28 last season, which would have been fifth-best compared to SEC teams.
Even with the overall improvement in 2022, Texas was No. 90 among FBS teams in Passing Defense. Only three SEC teams were worse; Tennessee at No. 127, Vanderbilt at No. 128, and Arkansas at No. 131.
One remedy for Texas was to land Arkansas transfer safety Jalen Catalon. Catalon is coming off an injury and his fall camp work so far has been limited, but he is expected to be at full speed before week one. For the Razorbacks, Catalon was not an answer for all the secondary’s problems, but he stood out as one of the SEC’s best at the position.
Another defensive area in which Texas did not improve last season was opponent, third-down conversions. In 2021 Texas was No. 102 in the FBS and moved up just slightly to No. 94 last season. In addition, the Longhorns in 2022 created just 14 turnovers, for an FBS ranking of No. 104.
What Texas did best defensively last season was rushing defense, at No. 23 in the FBS. Only two SEC teams were better than the Horns in average yards per rush allowed.
Note: Texas stats provided by cfbstats.com
Some have projected Texas will be better against the run this season. If so, Alabama might not be wise to be run-heavy in week two. Alabama football fans have good reason to anticipate Tommy Rees unleashing a Crimson Tide running back group he described as so good, “we’re a little bit spoiled.”
Alabama fans also remember that last season, the Tide’s rushing attack was not a slam-dunk in short-yardage third and fourth-down situations. The 2023 offensive line is expected to be much improved, but lines with new starters take time to gel. Week two might be a bit early to expect the Tide o-line to be as good as it will be later in the season.
Against Texas, the Tide’s passing attack may be asked to do more. Whomever Crimson Tide fans prefer to start at QB1 against the Horns, at least one more guy must be ready to step in if the starter does not produce.
A quarterback rotation against Texas is possible, but it would be outside the norm for Nick Saban. Some Alabama football fans are concerned the Texas game could be a replication of what happened against Ole Miss in 2015 when Cooper Bateman started at quarterback. He was ineffective. Jake Coker, despite an outstanding effort, replaced Bateman too late in the contest for a Crimson Tide comeback in the 43-37 loss.
Tommy Rees and Nick Saban must have a two-QB plan against Texas or the Crimson Tide might have quite a dilemma.