Every week there are several marquee college football games. Within those games, there are multiple key matchups of some of the top prospects in the country that will eventually be playing on Sundays. Every week we will take a dive into these matchups between the offensive and defensive prospects to highlight them and preview the battle that will ensue on Saturdays, along with recapping the previous week. This week we will look at Texas as they welcome No. 1 Alabama to town.
RB Bijan Robinson vs. Alabama’s Defensive Front
Bijan Robinson is arguably the top running back in the country and a Heisman candidate. He currently is the top running back on most 2023 NFL draft boards, and rightfully so. A highly regarded recruit out of high school, he has followed that up with a robust 6.5 yards per carry career average at Texas. His 81 forced missed tackles ranked sixth in the FBS last season. He has already received high praise from Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban heading into this week’s matchup. “He can do everything. He’s got speed, he’s got power, he’s a very instinctive runner. Sets up his blockers well. Has a burst. Has got great hands. Good receiver. They use him a lot in the passing game. … This guy is as good of an all-around back as there probably is in the country.” Robinson dominated in Week 1 with 10 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown on the ground while also having 3 receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown through the air. Now, this was against UL Monroe, which is one of the worst programs in college football. Robinson can make people miss, BUT the Longhorns’ offensive line doesn’t do him any favors. Against UL Monroe, Texas averaged 1.2 yards before first contact. Which is an even bigger testament to how special Robinson’s stat line was in their season opener. Saturday, he will face his toughest test yet.
Alabama’s defensive front was dominant last week against Utah State. They pitched a shutout and held the Aggies to 79 yards on 37 carries. The Crimson Tide defense is highlighted by the top defensive player in the country and maybe one of the top draft prospects ever in Will Anderson Jr. He is a dominant pass rusher but also exceptional at stopping the run. Every week he will be a massive part of the offense’s game plan in negating his impact, but there are still NFL prospects around Anderson in the box, which makes this defense so dominant from a pass rush and run-stopping unit. Linebacker Henry To’oTo’o is projected as a mid-second-to-third-round draft pick and is an elite against the run. He gets downhill fast and flashes elite closing speed, especially in pursuit of stretch runs or passes to the flats. If that wasn’t enough, they have defensive tackle Byron Young in the middle. Another mid-round draft prospect who is a dominant and physical run defender. He has an excellent motor and plays lean for a man who can clog up the middle. These three players are a big anchor in the box for Alabama and can force offenses into uncomfortable situations on third down due to their ability to win on first and second by blowing up plays behind the line of scrimmage.
If we look at the matchup between Robinson and the Alabama defense, we know it will be a massive uphill battle for the Texas running back. The Longhorns are a 20-point home underdog to Alabama. Points and yards will be at a premium for Texas. Their offensive line is vastly overmatched and has a freshman at quarterback. But Robinson is a unique talent. While he isn’t superman, a dynamic playmaker like himself can find ways to shine with quick big plays and spurts. We know he can make the first man miss, which he will often be called on to do on Saturday. Whenever a playmaker like Robinson can get the ball with room and space, he can create those big electric plays that Texas will be desperate for. Look for Texas head coach Steve Sarkisian to find ways to get Robinson touches where he will have the ability to make one cut and go. On the flip side, look for this Alabama front to be in relentless pursuit of Robinson. Alabama knows that Robinson in space is a recipe for disaster because of his explosive big play ability. I expect this defensive front to commit to the run, and smother him in short passing routes to not let him get a full head of steam. Young will be a big factor in not letting Robinson break loose between the tackles. To'oTo'o and Anderson will be important in tracking down Robinson from sideline to sideline. Regardless of the outcome, this will be a great display of talent between this Heisman hopeful running back and a versatile and agile defensive front with several NFL-ready prospects.