TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – With Alabama opening a highly anticipated season against Middle Tennessee State on Thursday, it is important to know the top stories headed into the game.
The game will be at 6:30 pm CT on the SEC Network, at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. It will be the fourth time the two teams meet, with Alabama having won the previous three dating back to 2002. The last meeting was in 2015, a 37-10 Crimson Tide win in Tuscaloosa.
Much like that 2015 team, Alabama is going into the 2023 season with a quarterback competition. Jalen Milroe will be the starter for week one – as first reported by ESPN – but talented redshirt freshman Ty Simpson and Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner will likely get some reps if the game gets out of hand.
Milroe was the backup last year and started against Texas A&M after Bryce Young went down. He went 12-19 in the air with 11 yards and 3 touchdowns, with one interception. He also rushed for 87 yards in the 24-20 victory. His dual threat ability makes him the most interesting of the three quarterbacks, even if his time in the spotlight has been shaky.
Ty Simpson has only thrown five passes in his career, but the former five-star prospect has shown a lot of promise during the offseason competing for the job. Tyler Buchner transferred from Notre Dame, following his offensive coordinator Tommy Reese to Tuscaloosa. He started the season as the starter due to injuries, and after struggling against Ohio State and Marshall in the first two games, he wouldn’t play again until the Gator Bowl against South Carolina.
Buchner struggled with turnovers in his three starts, and his low completion percentage and inability to move the ball down the field makes it hard to see him as an option, but he knows Reese’s offense well and did make some good throws in Notre Dame’s bowl game.
On the other side of the ball, the defense looks to bounce back after a tough year last year. Alabama finished the year at 122 out of 131 teams in penalties per game, and after moving on from defensive coordinator Pete Golding, Kevin Steele looks to right the ship in 2023.
The Crimson Tide do have a lot of production coming back on defense, considering they lost Will Anderson to the draft. Returners Kool-Aid and Dallas Turner headline the defense that looks to get their edge back. Kevin Steele does have some history with MTSU, as his Miami defense got torched by the Blue Raiders to open 2022 season in Florida.
Middle Tennessee State finished last year 8-5, finishing with a Hawai’i Bowl victory over San Diego State. They will start Nicholas Vattiato at quarterback, and the dual threat quarterback will present a unique opportunity to the Alabama defense, as the Blue Raiders production comes mostly from the passing game. 71% of their total yards came through the air. Expect the secondary to be tested early and often on Saturday.
With the season opener quickly approaching, Alabama will look to continue their season opening dominance against the Blue Raiders on Saturday.
Joe Schatz serves as a senior writer for WVUA-FM and is a co-host of The Low-Tide Sunday nights from 7-8 p.m. CT on 90.7 FM.