Alabama vs. Texas: Preview, Prop Pick & Prediction

Field Level Media

September 08, 2023 at 4:53 pm.

The Crimson Tide takes a 43-game home-field, nonconference winning streak — easily the longest active run in the FBS — into Saturday’s much-anticipated rematch with the Texas Longhorns.

We have news, trends, notes and quotes along with our spread pick and a prop pick for good measure for this week’s heavyweight matchup between teams ranked in the top 11.

Not to be downplayed is the matchup between Alabama’s Nick Saban and Texas’ Steve Sarkisian, who is one of many successful branches from Saban’s coaching tree.

A former offensive coordinator under Saban at Alabama, Sarkisian faces long odds for victory, even if Georgia’s Kirby Smart has shown the way. Saban’s former assistants have won only two of 30 matchups with Saban.

Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers threw for 134 yards before suffering a first-quarter shoulder injury during last season’s game — a 20-19 Alabama win in Austin — and brings an experience advantage over the Tide’s Jalen Milroe.

But is there much of a true talent gap at the quarterback position?

–Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET
–Television: ESPN
–Location: Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
–Point Spread: Alabama (-7)

This pregame opportunity may be the last time ‘Bama backers can find a price advantage based on the inexperience of Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe.

National analysts and social media critics remain largely uncertain as to Milroe’s 2023 potential, with several suggesting the coveted QB job is very much in question and that Milroe still must prove himself.

A perceived mismatch at that position also has kept the point spread at a touchdown and, for those who use all-time series records, the Longhorns are 7-2-1 all time vs. the Tide.

Milroe flashed some strong talent, albeit in a blowout against an inferior opponent, Middle Tennessee State, last week. But he has all the makings of a solid and improving college quarterback.

Texas needs this to stay firmly in the College Football Playoff picture and would love a signature win in its final Big 12 season before joining the SEC next season, but as Fox Sports analyst Joel Klatt pointed out, top five teams last season were 30-1 at home (Michigan over Ohio State the lone outlier).

The pick: Alabama 31, Texas 20

Texas wasn’t terribly impressive last week in a victory over Rice, but Longhorns supporters offered a big reason for that performance: Sarkisian probably barely cracked the playbook, holding a great deal back so as to prevent Saban from seeing new schematic wrinkles.

While there is likely some truth there, the execution of the offense might be Sarkisian’s biggest concern. It starts with Ewers, who, since his strong first quarter in last season’s matchup with Alabama, has been far from the Heisman hopeful Texas fans thought they had.

Alabama, of course, has five-star guys all over the field – and that is further cause for concern.

Milroe, though it was only Middle Tennessee State, became the first Crimson Tide player to throw for three touchdowns and rush for at least two in a single game. That’s not nothing.

“Jalen’s a fantastic player. I had a chance to recruit him out of high school. He’s got a dynamic arm, he can make every throw in the book. … He’s a tremendous runner. He’s an elite runner with the ball in his hand – with his speed and his physicality. And he’s highly competitive, he’s a really good leader.”
— Texas coach Steve Sarkisian on Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe

It’s the line that gains. And we have some questions about the Longhorns’ offensive and defensive lines.

While the Texas defense was largely dominant against Rice, the Owls converted prime opportunities into points. Meanwhile, Alabama found little resistance once it crossed midfield.

The trenches, though it’s only a one-game sample, appear to lean toward the Tide. Against Rice, the Texas offensive line allowed eight tackles for loss, multiple pressures on Ewers and three sacks.

With Milroe in the early stages of finding his footing, Alabama is likely to make every attempt to establish the run.

Sarkisian could try to turn Ewers loose with downfield throws early in the game, but the quarterback has given no indication he’s ready to carve up a talented Tide secondary.

If we see a dedicated ground game in the first half, bank on a lower-scoring game by the time the final gun sounds.

If you’re nervous about Alabama giving a full touchdown, play this parlay that teases the total up six points, available via BetMGM.

Alabama money line/Under 60.5 points (+105).

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