Pick one. Pick both.
For different reasons, the implications of this monster game will linger for both sides past Saturday. The "Is Texas back?" query has become tiresome as it is almost 15 years old and remains unanswered. The Longhorns continue to chase relevancy on the national stage.
For that same decade and a half, the Crimson Tide pretty much have been that stage.
Same question, different implications.
Conclusion: This is one of those games where neither team can "afford" a loss. There is too much at stake. In many ways, their respective seasons hinge on Saturday's result.
No. 3 Alabama is looking to avoid missing the College Football Playoff in consecutive seasons for the first time. A loss to No. 11 Texas would not help. Sure, Bama can run the table after Saturday, but a Texas loss would not look promising for the CFP with LSU, Texas A&M and possibly Georgia (potential SEC Championship Game opponent) -- among others -- still on the schedule.
About those Bulldogs: They aren't going away anytime soon. Georgia remains the nation's preeminent program. There is an unspoken message being sent from Athens, Georgia, this week: "Whatcha got, Bama?"
There is also an offensive transformation ongoing with Alabama moving past the wide-open offenses led by Tua Tagovailoa and Bryce Young to something, well, different.
So, let's amend that question from a Crimson perspective: Is Alabama back ... in the SEC/playoff picture? Really, that's the only question that matters in T-Town.
Clemson has already shown us how fleeting the "dynasty" label can be. Compare that to Alabama, which still is sporting what might be considered the sport's greatest run of all time.
But also ask about that fleeting relevance. Texas hasn't won a conference title since 2009, the year Nick Saban won his first national championship at Alabama.
It's different this time – at least it's supposed to be different. Texas might have played its best game under Steve Sarkisian last year against Bama. If not for a Quinn Ewers injury that day, perhaps we wouldn't be asking the Texas part of the question. A corner would have been turned.
Now, Ewers must take on the alpha male role, this time on the road against a defense that will likely shut down the run. Quinn, this is your close up. Are you ready? Three of the last five starting quarterbacks to win at Alabama went on to capture the Heisman Trophy (Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel, Joe Burrow).
That same pressure is being heaped on Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe. Against Middle Tennessee, the redshirt sophomore from Katy, Texas, became the first Crimson Tide QB to account for five touchdowns in a game. This only for Saban to preemptively derail the hype train before it left the station in the postgame press conference.
"So, you're asking me to speculate and answer a question about how some guy's going to perform in the future?" Saban scolded a reporter. "I don't really know."
Saban then snatched a soda -- one of Alabama's main sponsors -- resting on the podium to make a point about Milroe.
"This is a Coke bottle," Saban said. "It's not a crystal ball."
That was evidence Saban -- at least in his mind -- had started Texas week. It's also fair to consider Bama's coach is still looking for proof of concept from the SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Texas goes into the game as nearly a consensus choice to win the Big 12. That means little Saturday. This is about taking a talented defensive line -- something Texas must have in the SEC beginning next season -- and matching it up against a rugged Bama offensive line. This is about taking the next step. This is about becoming a national player again.
Saban has never lost to a ranked nonconference opponent at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
"You can't hope the ball will bounce the right way," Sarkisian concluded.
For Sark, this is more about manning up against the old man. That would be the 71-year-old Saban, who gave Sarkisian a huge second chance after his ignominious fall from grace at USC.
We know how Saban treats his former assistants. Not well ... when they leave. Saban is 28-2 against former coaches from his staff.
Sarkisian might owe his career to Saban, who threw him aafter his problems at USC. Sarkisian came on as an analyst only to suddenly get thrust into the offensive coordinator's role in place of Lane Kiffin the week of the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.
Sark left Bama for Texas three years later as the best play caller in the game. Life couldn't have been better. The Longhorns couldn't have been more fortunate. They got the best name on the board at the time.
Now, it's time to answer the ultimate question for different reasons at both schools.
At least one Texas player has an intimate idea of how to beat Alabama. Adonai "AD" Mitchell has the receipts.
Mitchell's 40-yard touchdown catch from Stetson Bennett with 8 minutes left in the 2022 CFP National Championship stood the game-winner. It ended.
The man could go the rest of his life and not have to pay for a meal in the Peach State. Except that Mitchell transferred to Texas this offseason. He traded a run at a possible three-peat to a restart in his native Lone Star State.
If it was a case of a crowded receiver room at Georgia, well, that is the case at both schools. Georgia tight end Brock Bowers is returning from an All-America season. Ladd McConkey (58 catches, seven touchdowns in 2022) and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (29 catches, two touchdowns) were reliable targets. Dominic Lovett arrived from Missouri as a transfer. RaRa Thomas transferred from Mississippi State.
Mitchell comes to Texas where Sark closed last season saying the 'Horns needed a reliable third wideout. Mitchell left Georgia to be a third receiver? He's certainly not the primary target with Xavier Worthy and blossoming pass catcher Jordan Whittington both returning.
Ah, but there is a chance to play. Sarkisian played Worthy the second half of last season despite a broken hand. He called Worthy "the best option" despite Worthy taking playing time from other, healthy wideouts. That sends signals about the depth of the receiver room.
Also, Mitchell can also return punts. In his first game last week, he caught three passes against Rice, one for a short touchdown. It had been so long since he found the end zone -- in that national title game, actually -- that Mitchell told reporters he didn't know how to celebrate.
"A one-on-one matchup with AD Mitchell is not ideal," Sark said. "He can make you pay."
Week 2 storylines
- Colorado lists Travis Hunter as having been on the field for 147 total plays against TCU. That's an amazing achievement in the heat, on the road, against a ranked opponent in the sophomore's first game against an FBS program. There were 160 total plays in the game. One of the best comparisons is Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who in 1997 dabbled at WR and returned kicks while playing defensive back at Michigan.
- Are Colorado athletic director Rick George's top two choices for the Colorado opening (Deion Sanders and Matt Rhule) squaring off Saturday? Asking for a friend.
- Offshore sportsbook BetOnline is speculating that No. 22 Colorado vs. Nebraska may be the most heavily wagered game in the history of the website.
- Stat of the week: You think Nebraska was cursed losing all those one-possession games? The Cornhuskers have at least been tied for the national lead in one-possession losses at the end of each season since 2008, according to CBS Sports research.
- UNLV coach Barry Odom on having to face two head coaches when he battles No. 2 Michigan (Jim Harbaugh assigned an assistant to each coach a half during his suspension): "Does that mean I'm supposed to talk to both of them pregame? … What does that dynamic look like? Do they call it any differently half to half? They are as talented a team as I've seen in a long, long time." Making their head coaching debuts are special teams coach Jay Harbaugh -- Jim's son -- in the first half and running backs coach Mike Hart in the second half.
- Oregon's Bo Nix has accounted for at least three touchdowns 10 times in 14 games with the No. 13 Ducks, who travel to Texas Tech. In three years at Auburn, he accomplished that just seven times.
- Someone's hot seat warms up at Hard Rock Stadium where two recent underachievers meet. Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher is 60-9 lifetime in the state of Florida. Miami coach Mario Cristobal lost five games in the Sunshine State last season alone.
- Quarterback issues for No. 5 Ohio State? Ryan Day will continue to play two signal callers (Kyle McCord, Devin Brown) in Week 2 against Youngstown State. In their first full-time starts under Day, C.J. Stroud, Justin Fields and Dwayne Haskins combined for 13 touchdowns. Ohio State is one of only two Big Ten teams yet to throw a touchdown pass.
- : Heading into Week 2, the average game time is down 2:02 (3:27 in 2022 vs. 3:25 in 2023). Total plays are down 4.6 per game (136.9 to 132.3).