Alabama-Louisville Preview  Is Bama awake or will they hit snooze?

When the alarm clock on Alabama’s season goes off this Saturday night in Orlando, will the Crimson Tide be awake? 

Last season, Alabama defeated Florida State in the grand opening of Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Even with all the pageantry and hype surrounding the first occasion Jimbo Fisher and Nick Saban met on the field, the game turned out to be a snoozer. Bama won 24-7 in a game that was about as offensively dull and uninspiring as watching a family of sloths on NatGeo. 

So, what will happen this year when Alabama squares off against Louisville? Will Bama get up and play up to its potential—or lay an egg? 

Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has been the center of discussion all summer | Photo by Robert Sutton. Courtesy Alabama Athletics

Analyzing Alabama’s recent history of openers, there seems to be no real trend. As consistently good as Alabama has been since 2008, the team has been as inconsistent in Game 1s (inconsistent in how well it plays, not the outcome). 

Let’s review Crimson Tide openers dating back 10 years: 

Alabama 34, Clemson 10 

Aug. 30, 2008 

Georgia Dome – Atlanta

Remember when the head coach at Clemson was not Dabo Swinney? As hard as it is to believe, this October, Swinney will have been the head man at Clemson for an entire decade. But when Alabama and No. 9 Clemson met in the Georgia Dome in 2008, it was not Swinney, but rather Tommy Bowden, who was the Clemson HC. On this day, ‘Bama rolled behind the duo of Glen Coffee and Mark Ingram, who combined for 186 yards on the ground, and John Parker Wilson, who threw for 180 more and two TDs. 

Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24 

Sept. 5, 2009 

Georgia Dome – Atlanta

In this contest, Alabama was tasked with containing Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech’s dual-threat quarterback. The Tide’s suffocating defense held the Hokies to 11 first downs, forced five fumbles, and held Taylor to only nine completions in 20 passing attempts. The game was close until the fourth quarter, when Alabama lit up the scoreboard with 18 points to seal the win. 

Alabama 48, San Jose State 3 

Sept. 4, 2010

Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa

Alabama broke away from the tough neutral site opener in 2010, when the Crimson Tide hosted San Jose State of the Western Athletic Conference in Tuscaloosa. The Spartans got on the board in the first quarter when kicker Harrison Waid punched in a 31-yard field goal, but that was all the scoring SJSU would muster on the afternoon. ‘Bama rushed for 257 yards and threw for 334 more in a good, old-fashioned non-conference rout. 

Alabama 48, Kent State 7

Sept. 3, 2011 

Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa

Although Alabama running back Trent Richardson ran for only 37 yards on the day, 11 of those yards produced three touchdowns. Quarterback AJ McCarron threw for 226 yards but was intercepted twice, and receiver Marquis Maze caught eight passes for 118 yards. Kent State, Saban’s alma mater, managed only 90 total yards. 

Alabama 41, Michigan 14

Sept. 1, 2012

Cowboys Stadium, Arlington

This woodshed job was the kind that would have made Davy Crockett blush. Before the game, there was much hype surrounding the meeting between two historic powerhouses in the House that Jerry Built. But in the end, it was a lopsided affair, as Alabama cruised to victory on the arm of McCarron and the legs of T.J. Yeldon. On the other side of the ball, the ‘Bama defense held Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson in check, intercepting him twice and forcing an 11-of-26 passing day. 

Alabama 35, Virginia Tech 10 

Aug. 31, 2013

Georgia Dome, Atlanta

The Crimson Tide offense was stagnant all afternoon as a stiff Hokies’ defense held Alabama to only 11 first downs and 96 yards rushing. Alabama scored twice on non-offensive plays, a Vinnie Sunseri interception for a touchdown and a Christion Jones 94-yard kickoff return. 

Alabama 33, West Virginia 23 

Aug. 30, 2014 

Georgia Dome, Atlanta

Out of all the big openers in the Nick Saban era, on paper, this matchup was perhaps the least thrilling. In the end, the game was closer than the Crimson Tide would have liked. Mountaineers quarterback Clint Trickett threw for 365 yards and had his team within seven points heading into the final refrain. But an Adam Griffith field goal with 8 minutes to play wrapped up a 10-point win for the Tide. 

Alabama 35, Wisconsin 17 

Sept. 5, 2015

AT&T Stadium, Arlington

This matchup featured two Heisman Trophy candidates in Alabama’s Derrick Henry and Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, but like in an old western movie, only one remained standing after the smoke cleared. Henry ran for 147 yards on 14 attempts while Clement was held to only 16 yards rushing on eight attempts. Quarterback Jake Coker, making his Alabama debut, threw for 213 yards on 15 of 21 passing. 

Alabama 52, USC 6 

Sept. 3, 2016 

AT&T Stadium, Arlington

Jalen Hurts came in like a Trojan horse against the Trojans. Although he only threw for 118 yards, Hurts’ play inspired an offensive barrage that featured large doses of running back Damien Harris and wide receiver ArDarius Stewart. In the second quarter, Marlon Humphrey contributed a pick-six to put ‘Bama up by two touchdowns, and the rout was on. 

Will Saban have the Tide ready to play? | Photo by Robert Sutton. Courtesy Alabama Athletics

We’ve mentioned the FSU game, so there’s no need for further review there. Now to this year. 

For Alabama, the storyline in fall camp has not been Louisville. The story is internal. Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback? 

Due to the overkill of media attention surrounding the quarterback battle, could Alabama be overlooking the Cardinals? If so, the Tide better be careful. The last time an Alabama team overlooked Louisville, it was throttled, 34-7, in the 1991 Sunkist Fiesta Bowl. 

6’4″ WR Jaylen Smith will be difficult to contain. Smith has caught 116 passes for 1,955 yards in his career. | Photo courtesy Louisville Athletics

This year, a few of the Louisville players have demonstrated considerable aplomb in pregame statements, words that should supply bulletin board material for the Crimson Tide. Cards’ senior O-lineman Lukayus McNeil recently stated, “So if we can dominate up front, then we’re not worried about the defensive front at all. I definitely think we’re capable of going out, starting off fast and dominating their D-line.” 

Although it’s unlikely, Louisville can keep the game close if it can keep the inexperienced Crimson Tide defense on its heels with Lamar Jackson-successor Jawon Pass and WR Jaylen Smith. But don’t expect a drubbing like in the Fiesta Bowl. This is a much different Alabama team. 

If recent history has any bearing on Saturday’s outcome, Alabama fans can rest easy. There is no correlation between how well Alabama plays in the opener and whether or not the team wins the national championship. 

Then again, the Tide has never lost one. H&A

Al Blanton

Al Blanton

Born in Jasper, Alabama, Al is the owner and publisher of Blanton Media Group.
Al Blanton

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