Texas vs Alabama Odds, Picks: Can Crimson Tide Pull Away?
Justin Ford/Getty Images. Pictured: Alabama running back Jase McClellan.
Texas vs Alabama Odds
All eyes will be on Tuscaloosa Saturday night, as a sizzling rematch is in store when Texas visits Alabama in the game of the week.
The Longhorns played the role of host a season ago, leading the Crimson Tide late in the fourth quarter before ultimately losing by a single point. Texas won the battle in the trenches, harassing Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young with constant pressure and a pair of sacks.
Alabama would go on to miss the SEC Championship game, ultimately taking on two regular-season losses.
A pair of lackluster hirings at the coordinator position and a training camp quarterback battle produced plenty of questions over the summer about the dominance of the Tide. Head coach Nick Saban relished the role, keeping the details of the quarterback room quiet while blowing out Middle Tennessee in the opener.
Texas produced similar results with an in-state scrimmage against Rice. Only two of the three quarterbacks battling in training camp attempted a pass, as head coach Steve Sarkisian saw eight different players generate a target and six different players attempt a rush.
These two teams are loaded with next-level talent, and the winner in Tuscaloosa will vault into a true national title contender.
In an opening victory over Rice, the Texas defense earned honors as the best unit on the field. The Owls were stuffed on half of their rushing attempts and posted a low 20% Success Rate in passing downs. Rice recorded just a single methodical drive, scoring on two of its four drives that crossed the 40-yard line.
Texas cornerback Malik Muhammad recorded a team-high five tackles, and just one starter was guilty of a missed tackle.
The first sack of the season for Texas! Byron Murphy and David Gbenda combine to bring JT Daniels down in the first half. pic.twitter.com/mLG7FxMOsr
— Hook'em Headlines (@HookemHeadlines) September 2, 2023
JT Daniels was flushed from the pocket on multiple occasions, leading to five tackles for loss and four pass breakups for the Horns defense.
While the defense was executing on all cylinders, the Texas offense had issues controlling the line of scrimmage. Rice didn't field any defensive analytics rankings in the top half of FBS during 2022, but it stuffed the Longhorns on 11 of their 37 rushing attempts.
Texas fell behind on standard downs, averaging only 4.8 yards per play. More importantly, Texas couldn't convert scoring opportunities into points, recording just 3.4 points per trip inside the 40-yard line.
Despite the hurdles in the red zone, quarterback Quinn Ewers moved the ball down the field on 19-of-30 passing without logging a turnover-worthy play.
Xavier Worthy took in 10 targets for 90 yards, while Ewers connected with three different receivers for a touchdown.
A lack of explosives plagued rushing attempts, as Texas logged just a single 20-yard run on 37 attempts. The inefficiency of the run game affected passing downs, as Texas averaged a whopping 8.9 yards on 15 attempts on third down.
Nick Saban was pleased with Alabama's execution and physicality in the opening win. Both of the elements are needed after the Tide were beaten in the trenches by the Longhorns last season.
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees called 38 rushing plays versus 26 passing against Middle Tennessee, gaining 5.8 per rush with a 66% Success Rate.
The Tide were rarely jammed at the line of scrimmage, dominating in early downs with only 17 snaps from passing downs.
One of the most impressive passes of the weekend
Jalen Milroe sees Quarters coverage, confirms backside safety comes up with playaction
Throws with amazing anticipation and touch for the TD. Solid first game pic.twitter.com/8tXoHWhgdB
— Aaron Murray (@aaronmurray11) September 4, 2023
Jalen Milroe won the training camp quarterback battle over Ty Simpson and Tyler Buchner. The third-year quarterback was harassed on just three dropbacks and didn't make a mistake on any passing attempts.
The wheels are still there for the dual-threat signal-caller, as Milroe was one of six rushers for the Tide to log a 10-plus yard gain vs. MTSU.
More importantly, the offense scored a touchdown on every drive that crossed Middle Tennessee's 40-yard line.
The Crimson Tide allowed just a single touchdown to the Blue Raiders, but there were opportunities left on the table. Middle Tennessee posted a 53% Success Rate on standard downs, the national average for offenses.
Only seven of its 23 rushing opportunities were stuffed, as the Blue Raiders gained an average of 4.5 yards per rushing attempt.
While no explosive drives were logged, Middle Tennessee did have a methodical drive lasting over 10-plus plays.
The Tide forced a couple of turnovers and capitalized on the offense end, but they must improve in creating longer distances for opponents on passing downs.
Texas vs Alabama
Betting Pick & Prediction
There are a number of handicaps in a game filled with NFL talent — and one that features two coaches who had success working together.
The defense was the difference-maker for Texas in its opening game, but it remains to be seen if Barryn Sorrell and Kristopher Ross can set contain from the edge position.
The numbers are in the infancy stage, but the Texas defense already ranks as one of the 10 worst in FBS when it comes to allowing explosives in passing downs.
Defensively, Steve Sarkisian wants his front to improve their pass-rush integrity — he thought a more mobile QB could have hurt Texas today, something the Longhorns will see next week in Jalen Milroe.
— Wescott Eberts (@SBN_Wescott) September 2, 2023
Another element in favor of the Tide is the offense's success when in scoring position. While Texas allowed Rice to convert opportunities to points, Alabama scored a touchdown on every drive that crossed the Middle Tennessee 40-yard line.
If Texas is unable to contain Milroe on busted plays or passing scrambles, the Horns could have their backs to the end zone frequently.
The Alabama offensive line versus the Texas defensive line is good-on-good, but the other side of the ball presents many questions for the Longhorns. Rice terrorized the Texas offensive line, meeting the national average for stuffed rushing attempts.
Outside of CJ Baxter's 32-yard run, the running back generated six yards on four other carries. Jaydon Blue was the most elusive rusher with 4.4 yards after contact on 10 attempts, which could eat into Jonathon Brooks' attempts.
If the rushing aspect of Texas' offense doesn't improve, Alabama will force the Horns into passing downs longer than nine yards per attempt. Ewers completed just one pass in eight attempts with pressure against Rice. Three of the pressured pockets resulted in a sack of Ewers, which resulted in a poor pass-blocking rank outside the top 60.
There's just a one-game sample, but the offensive line generating a Line Yards rank outside the top 100 — while not protecting the quarterback in passing downs — could be a recipe for a long evening in Tuscaloosa.
The market has more love for Alabama than the Action Network Power Ratings. The question is if Alabama is an oversold stock or one that will continue to rise.
Sarkisian echoed sentiments that a Milroe-type quarterback could give the Horns defense plenty of trouble. The ability to contain Milroe in the pocket and push him off his hot read in passing attempts is the most crucial aspect when Alabama has the ball.
If the Rice game is any indication, the Crimson Tide should have success generating yards and scoring opportunities.
The Texas offensive line had trouble against Rice's front seven. The Owls contained a lackluster effort on the ground, stuffing attempts at a national average pace. Rice generated enough of a presence in standard downs to get Texas well behind the chains.
If the Owls could create eight tackles for loss and three sacks, the Alabama defense will have plenty of success if the Horns' rushing attack remains impotent.