College Football
Klatt: What to expect in Nebraska-Colorado, Texas-Alabama matchups
College Football

Klatt: What to expect in Nebraska-Colorado, Texas-Alabama matchups

Published Sep. 8, 2023 11:46 a.m. ET

Week 1 of the college football season brought us plenty of storylines, including the rise of Colorado, the struggles of Ohio State and the pure dominance of Jordan Travis and the Florida State Seminoles.

Now, heading into Week 2, we're going to get some more answers to questions we've had all offseason about some of the top teams in the sport. 

Two matchups in particular struck my eye this week. Nebraska takes on No. 22 Colorado in Coach Prime's home opener, which I'll be on the call for on Saturday (12 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app). And No. 11 Texas and No. 3 Alabama battle in Tuscaloosa in a rematch of last year's thriller.

Here is a look ahead to those Week 2 matchups.


Nebraska @ No. 22 Colorado (12 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app)

This old rivalry got a lot more exciting after Colorado's big upset win over TCU last week.

On the offensive side of the ball, Colorado's focus has to be keeping Shedeur Sanders clean. Sure, you've got to get guys like Dylan Edwards, Jimmy Horn and Xavier Weaver the ball, along with making sure that Travis Hunter gets his fair share of touches, but none of that happens if you can't keep Sanders clean. 

Dating back to his two years at Jackson State, Sanders has always played his best from an efficiency standpoint when operating with a clean pocket. The Buffaloes' offensive line did a good job in protection against TCU as Sanders completed 30 of 35 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns when the Horned Frogs weren't able to get pressure on him. And it's not that he was bad against pressure, he was just lights out when he didn't have escape the pocket.

With the ability to work from a clean pocket and go through his progressions, Sanders put together one of the top performances I've sever seen from a Colorado QB, and I've seen a lot of them. He made several clutch throws while also manipulating the pocket, getting himself loose and buying time to throw the ball down the field with accuracy. 

It would be great to see Colorado get the ground game going a bit more on Saturday, but this offense just needs to focus on making sure its quarterback isn't under pressure, which will likely be a tougher task against Nebraska than it was against TCU. However, the Cornhuskers will be without stud defensive lineman Ty Robinson for the first half of Saturday's game after he received a targeting penalty in the second half of the team's 13-10 loss to Minnesota.

Can Deion Sanders and Colorado win at home against Nebraska?

Flipping things around, Nebraska's offense won't make the same mistake that TCU made last week. The Horned Frogs threw the ball 42 times against Colorado, which played right into the strength of the Buffaloes' defense.

Nebraska was able to find some success in the ground game against Minnesota, with quarterback Jeff Sims leading the way. The Georgia Tech transfer rushed for 91 yards on 19 carries (4.8 yards per carry) against a Minnesota defense that ranked top 10 in both scoring and yards allowed in 2022. 

Gabe Ervin only had seven carries in Nebraska's loss to Minnesota. If I'm Matt Rhule, I'm making it a point to get the Huskers' 220-pound lead back the ball more. Pairing that with Sims' 6-foot-4, 220-pound frame, Nebraska should have an edge on the ground as Colorado really struggled against TCU in that regard, allowing the Horned Frogs to run the ball at will in the second half. 

Colorado's front seven is physically light and questions remain about its linebacker talent. The Buffaloes are about to get a heavy dose of Nebraska's run game as I think the Cornhuskers will run the ball 50-plus times, with Sims recording at least 20 of those carries. 

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers Highlights

No. 11 Texas @ No. 3 Alabama (7 p.m. ET on ESPN)

I can't wait for this game. 

We got to call last year's game, which was a phenomenal contest in Austin that was determined in the final seconds. I felt it was unfortunate that Texas wasn't able to get the win as I thought a couple of calls went against them. Quinn Ewers got hurt early in the game and the Longhorns had to face Bryce Young, who single-handedly carried Alabama to a win in that game. 

Alabama vs. Texas Highlights

I know Texas has been looking forward to this rematch for all of those reasons as it was right there in the 20-19 loss. But with that comes pressure. There's a lot of pressure on this Texas team and Steve Sarkisian as they head into Tuscaloosa on Saturday. If the Longhorns decisively lose this game, that Texas fan base won't handle it well at all, which would likely lead to a lot of unwarranted chirping surrounding the head coach. 

While I think any calls for Sarkisian to be put on the hot seat if he lost this game would be uncalled for, I do think that Alabama being seven-point favorites is a bit high, too. When I watched the film from Alabama's blowout win over Middle Tennessee State in Week 1, all the Crimson Tide had to do was run the football because its offensive front was so dominant. 

I know some people will say, "Well, Jalen Milroe made some nice throws." He did … he made a couple of nice throws. But when you look at that game - particularly when it was still competitive in the first half - Milroe didn't throw much, and the throws the coaching staff called for him were easy, simple throws. Frankly, he missed a couple of them. 

So, I still have major questions about Milroe and his ability to step up in a game like Saturday's. He's going to have to go make plays. Can he do that? Well, I trust his legs and having that ability to threaten the defense is important, especially as it matches with Alabama's stout running game. 

Will Jalen Milroe prove himself as Alabama's starting QB?

However, this game is about the other starting quarterback. Ewers has all of the talent in the world. In last year's game, he was the reason why Texas played so well to start, taking shots down the field with accuracy that caused Alabama to reel early on. If Ewers doesn't get injured, last year's game is probably a different story. 

But you can't rewrite the past. So, Ewers has to create that magic again on Saturday. Similar to Milroe, I'm also unsure if Ewers can do that. He was exquisite in his downfield throws against Alabama last season, but he's struggled to replicate that since then. Those struggles have seeped into this season, failing to throw a single completion on his six passes that went 20 yards down the field against Rice

I thought Ewers and the Longhorns were about to reach that next level after last year's game and that dominant win against Oklahoma. They just haven't come all the way around yet, which is frustrating as Ewers has gone 1-4 against ranked teams. 

Rice Owls vs. No. 11 Texas Longhorns Highlights

As crazy as it might sound, Sarkisian has the team that should win this game. If Texas can force this game to come down to Milroe's arm, it'll be in a great spot. But do you know how tough it is to beat a top-five team on the road? It's almost impossible. 

Alabama has won its last 52 home games when it hasn't had to face Joe Burrow, who had the single-greatest season in the sport. I'm not sure if Ewers is as good as Burrow, and while he isn't going up against the powerful offenses of Alabama's past, it's still an incredibly difficult feat. Top-five teams were 30-1 in home games last season, with No. 3 Michigan defeating No. 2 Ohio State being the only road win. In addition, top-five teams are 24-3 against top-15 teams at home since 2019.

I want to pick Texas, but you don't overcome that. I think Alabama wins a close one. 

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