Opening weekend of college football is upon us. Being billed as one of the best in college football history – it’s time to preview the long awaited matchup of #1 Alabama vs #20 USC.
The two storied programs will meet for the first time since the 1985 Aloha Bowl. In that game Alabama took the victory 24-3. This time – the stage is just a little bit bigger. Set to take place in front of a sold-out crowd at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the stage doesn’t get much bigger on opening weekend in college football.
The Trojans will debut Clay Helton in his first full season at the helm, coming off a year filled with distractions highlighted by the firing of Steve Sarkisian. USC will also debut redshirt junior Max Browne at quarterback. Browne won the job in camp over redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. Helton likes the leadership and experience Browne offers after two years of backing up Cody Kessler. Look for Browne to be more mobile than his predecessor and to throw the ball downfield with better accuracy. A healthy JuJu Smith-Schuster will help lead the offense for the Trojans, and look for improved play from the offensive line this season.
Alabama has had its share of offseason news with unflattering stories of illegal possession of firearms, narcotics, and marijuana. Another story involved Maurice Smith, who was not allowed to transfer to intraconference opponent Georgia at first, but was later granted his release after the story blew up in a media frenzy. When Paul Finebaum of ESPN pressed head coach Nick Saban on some of the offseason issues, Saban got into a heated exchange with the television host.
Needless to say – it has been an unusual offseason for Saban that has even left some wondering if it will be his last season with the Crimson Tide, as his patience seems to be wearing thin.
Alabama is yet to name its starting quarterback with the game quickly approaching. Cooper Bateman and Blake Barnett have both taken snaps with the first team offense this week, and both could see playing time this Saturday against the Trojans. When asked about the quarterback competition Saban said they are looking for consistency in performance. He will evaluate the performance of his quarterbacks throughout the week. Saban said whoever is more consistent will give them the best chance to win and they’ll go that direction.
Alabama’s defense is always near or at the top of the statistics chart at the end of the season. This year will be no different as they return plenty of top talent to all three levels of the defense. They also have one great statistic in their favor for this matchup: Under Nick Saban, Alabama has faced 3 quarterbacks making their first collegiate start, outscoring those teams 125-13.
This should be a fantastic game that will live up to the hype it has received over the course of the summer. If USC is able to pull off the upset – will it kick-start a season that could be the beginning of a return to dominance with new leadership in place? Will Alabama put USC away with ease and resume the dynasty talk after a statement win? All questions will be answered Saturday at 7 PM CT on ABC.