For the first time since hosting Kent State in 2011, Alabama football opened a season at home on Saturday, so after a decade of silence at Bryant-Denny Stadium while the Crimson Tide forged its first point win in the map, things seemed a little different.
For the players, a departure from neutral Power Five rivals. for fans, the advent of alcohol availability and cashless points of sale throughout the stadium.
But the one status quo that was in place was the one that mattered most, at least for one night: The Crimson Tide looked like its usual dominant self in beating Utah State 55-0 for its 21st straight season opener. There were touchdowns and suffocating defense and all the joyous excitement that naturally goes with 1-0 starts.
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At the same time, as star quarterback Bryce Young racked up six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing) in less than three quarters of action, another feel-good story was unfolding about 750 miles west in Austin, Texas. There, the Texas Longhorns gave their fans the same warm feeling by crushing Louisiana-Monroe 52-10 for a home slam of their own.
Two salty sips from the victory cup, neither of which came with even the slightest resistance from the opposition.
Such victories can be intoxicating. They may also be deceiving.
Where is Alabama’s weak point? If there is, Utah State has not been able to disclose it. As for Texas’ Achilles heel, that too remains wrapped up, camouflaged by the hapless Warhawks in a game that ended at halftime. Coaching staffs at both locations will work tirelessly this week to find the cracks, but it’s no easy task when you’re looking over film of a blowout.
Whatever holes are opened in these two blue-blood programs will be exposed for a national television audience to see when the Crimson Tide travels to Austin in Week 2 for its first real test of the season.
And without mentioning Texas specifically, Alabama coach Nick Saban made reference to it.
“No disrespect to Utah State, their guys played hard, they’ve got a good little group. We’re going to play teams that are a lot more physical and aggressive and talented than what they are,” Saban said. “So we’re going to have to get things right and it’s going to be important to get the kids to understand that.”
Texas, ranked No. 18 in the USA Today Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, will welcome the Crimson Tide with some familiar faces, starting with former UA offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, now in his second season at the Texas helm. A handful of transfers also left Alabama for Texas, though you’d hardly know it from their impact in UT’s opener. The atmosphere in a tradition-rich venue like Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium is worth some points in itself, as long as the crowd has reason to make as much noise as they can.
ESPN’s “College GameDay” broadcast will also come from UT, as if more hype was needed.
“We know we’re going into a hostile environment, so we’re going to learn everything we can throughout the week. We’re going to study, we’re going to prepare, because we have a lot of respect for them,” Young said. “We know it will take everything. We have to work hard all week to put ourselves in the best conditions to succeed.”
A hostile environment, indeed.
And even more so for the team who discover they weren’t as good as their first suggested.
Contact Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread
This article originally appeared in The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama football will learn a lot against Texas Longhorns