For the third consecutive season, Alabama vs Louisville will enter its season opener as the No. 1 team in the country. It’s a status that only one other program in the modern history of the sport has experienced, and on Saturday night the next chapter of the Saban era will begin as the Tide begin its pursuit of a third College Football Playoff title in four years.
While Alabama will be working with two star quarterbacks, Louisville enters this high profile opener flying under the radar after Lamar Jackson’s move to the NFL. The Cardinals were picked to finish fifth in the ACC’s loaded Atlantic Division, but Bobby Petrino and his staff have high expectations Jackson’s successor and think this group has a chance to surprise the experts.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 1 | Time: 8:14 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium — Orlando, Florida
TV: ABC | Live stream: WatchESPN
Alabama: Saban is so tired of you asking about the quarterbacks, but the No. 1 story that will come from this game will be about the quarterbacks. How both Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts play, how much of the game both play, who plays first, who plays when the Tide are near the goal line — all of it will be dissected and analyzed. In a game where Alabama is heavily favored, we’re expecting to see both players a good bit, but the how and when is going to come under scrutiny as the quarterback competition continues on into the regular season.
Louisville: For two years, Jackson was the prolific offensive talent in all of college football. Losing a talent like that is going to result in lowered expectations, but Jawon “Puma” Pass is hoping to prove that his time spent backing up Jackson has prepared him to maintain the level of success established during this Petrino Part Two/ACC era of Louisville football. The good news for Pass is that several of the top targets from last year are back, including 6-foot-4 senior Jaylen Smith and 6-foot-2 sophomore Dez Fitzpatrick, but it’s going to be on the offensive line to give him enough time against Alabama’s defense to connect with that talented group of receivers.
Saban just doesn’t lose these games. Alabama is a perfect 11-0 under Saban in season openers with a four-touchdown margin of victory (39.5 points per game to 11.5 points allowed). The Tide are also 4-0 under Saban against the ACC specifically in season openers, most recently beating Florida State 24-7 in Atlanta to start the 2017 season. This is a large spread for a matchup of Power Five teams but of the history points to Alabama cruising in this matchup. The Tide should win, but I think Louisville’s wide receivers hit enough big plays for the Cardinals to cover the number. Pick: Louisville +25.5
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