With freshmen and sophomores scoring touchdowns and making game-changing plays on both defense and special teams, No. 1 Alabama's 51-14 win was not only a hint of what's in store for 2018 but a display of program depth that is unmatched across college football.
The Tide rolled up 519 yards of offense, allowed 0.6 yards per rush defensively and totaled 11 tackles for loss in a dominant performance up front. It was 28-0 at halftime and an irreversible edge was established even before that, as Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass tried his best make plays with Crimson Tide defenders in his face all night.
The preseason was spent discussing quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa, as fans and analysts wondered whether this was going to be the year we see a drop-off in elite level of play on the defensive side of the ball. Saturday night was a reminder that Alabama doesn't know anything about dropping off anywhere on its roster, it's just on the rest of us to learn the new names.
Safety Deionte Thompson looks like the next star from the secondary, Quinnen Williams is a disruptive force from the nose guard position up front, and freshman wide receiver Jaylen Waddle is going to be one of the most dangerous all-purpose threats in the SEC, if not the country.
Everybody knows the name Tua Tagovailoa
Nick Saban kept the news of Alabama's starting quarterback for the opener under wraps until the very last minute, even mocking the hysteria during a pre-kickoff interview with ESPN's Maria Taylor. But it wasn't long after Tagovailoa took the field as the starter that the talented sophomore got right to work showcasing the reasons why he should be the No. 1 quarterback in Tuscaloosa.
Saban may continue to list both Tagovailoa and Hurts as starters on the depth chart, but Tagovailoa had four possessions to start the game and led touchdown drives on three of them. He finished the game with an incredibly efficient stat line -- 12 of 16 for 227 yards passing and 2 touchdowns with another score among his five rushing attempts -- and put the game away just before halftime with a dime of a throw to Jerry Jeudy on third and long.
Hurts made an appearance late in the half for a series and then put in more significant work when Tagovailoa's night was done with the game out of hand. There is a place for Hurts in the Alabama offense, but any "battle" for the starting job appears to be over for now. If Tua's play continues at this level, he's going to remain the No. 1 option at quarterback for Alabama.
Taylor asked Saban about the quarterback situation after the game, and he was feisty as ever in replying: "Why do you continually try to get me to say something that doesn't respect one of them? I'm not going to, so quit asking!"
Saban undefeated in neutral site openers
Alabama has played in a neutral site opener in every season since 2012. In that run under Saban, the Tide have played in Atlanta three times and Arlington, Texas, at the home of the Cowboys three times. They've beaten Michigan, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wisconsin, USC and Florida State in that run by a combined score of of 220-77. At this point, whatever city Alabama is in for the first weekend of the season should be called the Nick Saban Invitational.
Louisville added its name to the list on Saturday night, and Duke is up next, likely having to face many of the same players leftover from this young and talented 2018 Tide team.
Alabama has a superteam
We spend so much time nitpicking with Alabama I fear we ignore how rare it is to have this kind of collection of talent in college football. It is very possible that the Crimson Tide will not only win every game on its regular season schedule but do so without much resistance. Winning the SEC presents more of a challenge with Georgia looking to get back to the playoff and the playoff is another challenge, but it's hard to imagine this group taking a loss between now and late December.
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