The Road to 19: 2022 football season begins with Utah State

Austin Hannon | @austin_hannon1, Sports Editor

It’s been 235 days since the Alabama Crimson Tide walked off the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

Defeated. Dominated in the fourth quarter. 

Both of those things usually aren’t characteristics of an Alabama team, but against the Georgia Bulldogs on that freezing January night, they were. 

After quarterback Bryce Young threw a pick six with 54 seconds to play, Georgia secured its first national championship win since 1980, and its first victory over the Crimson Tide since 2007. 

And with that, some were ready to say that there may be a changing of the guard in college football. 

Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his 2022-23 football team have other ideas. The Crimson Tide’s run to its 19th national championship starts Saturday, Sept. 3 against the Utah State Aggies. 

Alabama will start the season in a familiar position as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. But even with a plethora of returning talent, the Crimson Tide still believes they have much to prove, which begins on Saturday night against Utah State. 

There’s been plenty of chatter all offseason about games down the road for Alabama, like next week’s trip to Austin to take on the Texas Longhorns in a powerhouse matchup, or the revenge game against Jimbo Fisher and the Texas A&M Aggies on Oct. 8. Games in Baton Rouge, Oxford and Knoxville all lie ahead for the Crimson Tide. 

Head coach Nick Saban, as always, wants to focus on the task at hand. 

On Friday during ‘Hey Coach with Nick Saban,’ Saban was obviously upset. His main reason for anguish? The fact that people around college football are already previewing matchups months in advance for his team, including the national championship game. 

“We’ve got to play one game at a time,” Saban said. “How about this game? How about the church of what’s happening right now? Can we focus on what’s happening now? How come no one is interested in that?” 

In fact, Saban’s famously coined term “rat poison” is at an all-time high according to the seven-time championship winning coach. 

“I think the rat poison this year not to bring up a sore subject I mean, it’s worse than ever,” Saban said. “I’ve had more people ask me how we’re going to do against Texas this week than how we’re going to do against Utah State.” 

Saban has a point. The Aggies (1-0) are no pushover.  

Utah State has had a good football program for years now. Coming off an 11-win season in 2021-22 including two wins over Pac-12 opponents, the Aggies took down UConn 31-20 a week ago, and now travel east to Tuscaloosa for a meeting with the Crimson Tide. 

Regardless of the final outcome, the university is bringing in a huge paycheck. The University of Alabama is shelling out $1.91 million to Utah State for the game. 

“I spent most of my career playing in these kinds of games,” Aggies head coach Blake Anderson said Monday. “It’s a necessary evil. We’ve got an athletic department that we’ve got to fund, and this is something that we have got to do.” 

That doesn’t necessarily mean Anderson believes his team has no chance, however. 

“We also want to take an approach to go in and win it,” Anderson said. “We’re going to put together a game plan that, if [it] works perfectly, puts us in the game. We’ve seen these games in the past get out of hand, we’ve seen these games be competitive. And every once while, this game goes opposite of what everybody thinks it’s going to be. We can only control us, though. We’ve got to go play our best football.” 

It is a tall task for Utah State, who will have to take on potentially the top two picks of the 2023 NFL Draft, quarterback Bryce Young and linebacker Will Anderson Jr. 

Anderson said he has been heavily anticipating this game for a while. 

“From the time I woke up this morning, from the time I was in the weight room, all I’ve been doing is envisioning the game Saturday and everything’s that going to be going on,” Anderson said. “That’s all I’ve been thinking about all day. I haven’t stopped smiling.” 

The energy is palpable, as Alabama will be playing its first home season-opener since 2011, when it took down Kent State to open up a national championship-winning campaign. 

Even though Saban doesn’t like when the mainstream media talks about how great his team is, he gave in with his own thoughts while still establishing his worries. 

“I like this team, I really do,” Saban said. “We’ve got a little more maturity on the team, I think. … I’m not saying we have the most talented team. We’ll see about that part of it. But I do like the intangibles.” 

With the Crimson Tide slotted as 41.5-point favorites, many believe this game won’t be a fair contest, but rather a tune-up game, if you will. 

Not Saban. 

“I don’t think people have the proper respect for them,” Saban said. 

There will be over 100,000 people packed into Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday night. College football is back, folks. 

Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. CT on the SEC Network.

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]