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NY Post
New York Post
9 Sep 2023

NextImg:Texas vs. Alabama prediction: College football picks, odds, best bets

Alabama looked good in Week 1, beating Middle Tennessee State 56-7 and covering the 39.5-point spread.

With the win and cover, Nick Saban moves to 14-2 against the spread (ATS) in Week 1 as head coach of the Tide. 

Jalen Milroe won the starting job late in camp, but he showed Saban he’s the right guy.

Milroe became the first Alabama quarterback to record three passing and two rushing touchdowns in the same game.

Meanwhile, Texas couldn’t cover the 35.5-point spread in its Week 1 game against Rice, winning 37-10. 

However, I’m really high on the Longhorns this season, and I don’t think Alabama is as good as their Week 1 performance implies. 

I’m projecting a close, competitive contest here and betting accordingly. 

We can’t judge either team on their Week 1 contests. 

Alabama crushed an MTSU team projected to finish in the bottom half of Conference USA.

The Blue Raiders are working on replacing six starters on offense, including quarterback Chase Cunningham and his top three receivers, and both their ball-hawking cornerbacks on defense. 

Meanwhile, Texas pulled quarterback Quinn Ewers and other starters late against Rice, with head coach Steve Sarkisian deciding to save his guys for this game. 

So, let’s throw out the Week 1 box scores and focus on our pre-season projections for both teams. 

Texas is loaded on both sides of the football. 

Sarkisian and offensive coordinator Kyle Flood return 10 starters from last year’s squad, including quarterback Quinn Ewers, all five offensive line starters (101 career FBS starts), and the top three pass catchers. 

Sarkisian added to the receiving room by grabbing Georgia transfer Adonai Mitchell, making this the most talented corps in the Big 12. 

While Bijan Robinson departs, there’s enough talent in the backfield to replace that production by committee.

Back-to-back top-five recruiting classes help in that regard. 

Quinn Ewers

Quinn Ewers has seemingly matured this offseason.

Yes, Ewers has to step up and capitalize on his highly-touted potential.

But he has the support staff to do so, and he can only improve with another year in the same system. 

The word around Forty Acres is that Ewers worked on his footwork in the offseason to improve his deep ball. I can’t wait to see if that work pays off.

And if Ewers doesn’t take the next step, Sarkisian can fall back on blue-chip recruits in Arch Manning and Maalik Murphy.

The Longhorns are blessed with quarterback talent.

The defense is working on replacing five starters and some key contributors.

Still, Sarkisian made some savvy portal moves, adding tackle Trill Carter (Minnesota), cornerback Gavin Holmes (Wake Forest) and safety Jalen Catalon (Arkansas). 

Besides, defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski took a defense that finished 99th nationally in points per game allowed in 2021 (31.1) and turned it into a unit that finished 27th in that metric (21.6).

Imagine what he can do in his second year – the entire unit should improve.

The defense is due for lots of positive regression, anyway. The Longhorns were sub-100 nationally in turnovers forced and sub-70 in sacks despite leading the nation in pressure rate last season.

A similar amount of Havoc should result in more negative plays. 

In fact, the whole team is due for positive regression. The Horns won eight games last year despite finishing 2-5 in one-possession games. 

One of those close losses came against Alabama, where they suffered a devastating one-point loss as three-touchdown home underdogs. 

Let’s talk about Alabama. 

The Tide are loaded with blue-chip recruits, having signed the nation’s best recruiting class behind 27 four- and five-star recruits. 

But they severely lack experienced personnel. The Tide lost 12 starters from last year’s squad – six on offense and six on defense – including a Heisman-winning quarterback (Bryce Young) and a two-time Nagurski-winning defensive end (Will Anderson). 

Alabama also lost three offensive line starters, and that unit boasts only 41 career FBS starts.

The defense lost 63% of last year’s tackles, including seven of the top eight tacklers. 

By ESPN’s SP+ numbers, the Tide rank ninth-to-last in overall returning production.

By Phil Steele’s Experience metric, the Tide rank seventh-to-last in experience. 

Moreover, coach Saban had to replace both his coordinators, making two “meh” hires in offensive coordinator Tommy Rees (Notre Dame) and defensive coordinator Kevin Steele (Miami). 

Notre Dame’s offense was not a juggernaut underneath Rees. 

Steele is back for his third stint in Tuscaloosa, making me question Saban’s schematic intentions. 

This team is loaded with talent, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Tide stumble out of the gate as all the fresh faces build chemistry, both on the field and on the sidelines.

This team may need some time to start clicking. 

And are we sure Milroe is the guy?

He went only 31-for-53 passing in eight appearances last season, compiling four Big Time Throws to eight Turnover Worthy Plays and generating a 30.3 Pro Football Focus passing grade. 

As mentioned, Texas lost to Alabama last season by one point.

The entire team from that loss returns with revenge on their mind, Texas figures to improve year-over-year, and Alabama figures to take a step back, especially early in the season. 

I’m betting on the more experienced team in Week 2, and it’s nice that we’re catching a touchdown when The Action Network App’s PRO model projects Alabama as only a 3.5-point favorite. 

Texas +7.5 (-115) at DraftKings | Play to +7 (-110)