Alabama was runner-up to national title winner Georgia last season, but there’s a three-peat on the line for the Crimson Tide in 2022.
Linebacker Will Anderson is a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy, which resided in Tuscaloosa at the end of each of the past two seasons thanks to wide receiver DeVonta Smith (2020) and quarterback Bryce Young (2021).
Anderson and Young will make their opening statements of the 2022 season when No. 1 Alabama hosts Utah State (1-0) in the season opener for the Crimson Tide on Saturday night.
Utah State beat UConn 31-20 last week to open the season.
“This is really kind of about us and how we prepare to play and what we need to do against a really good opponent,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “So that’s going to be the emphasis all week long for us.”
Saban is stressing competition and not promising anything with a depth chart listing starters or equating to playing time. He reminded the Crimson Tide any trophies they’ve earned in the past as an individual or team have no trade-in value toward the 2022 goals of winning the SEC and a national title.
“No one’s entitled to anything on our team,” Saban said. “So the message to every player every day, regardless of what the competitive circumstances of his position is, you’re trying to create value for yourself, you’re trying to be the best player that you can be.
“There shouldn’t be any external factors that determine how you go about that. And if you’re really a true competitor, you don’t need somebody to be competing for your job because you’re competing with yourselves to be the best version of yourself that you can be relative to whatever you choose to do in your life.”
Utah State is getting a massive check for the trip to Alabama on Saturday — $1.9 million — and coach Blake Anderson didn’t try to spin the scenario they will encounter.
“I spent most of my career (playing) in these kinds of games,” 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 mean the Aggies won’t show up. Utah State has a seven-game road winning streak. Anderson has won three consecutive games against Power 5 opponents, including Utah State’s 26-23 win at Washington State last season and a 24-13 win against Oregon State in the 2021 Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
And Utah State has been on the SEC stage in the state before. On Sept. 3, 2011, the Aggies visited No. 19 Auburn, the defending national champions, and led 38-28 with 3:38 remaining before losing 42-38.
But alas, the saying about the value of yesteryear’s trophies might apply.
Last week, Utah State fell behind by 14 points in the opener but rallied to beat UConn. The Aggies gave up 14 points and 180 total yards in the first quarter before shutting UConn down.
Senior running back Calvin Tyler had 161 yards on 33 carries against the Huskies, and quarterback Logan Bonner completed 20 of 29 passes for 281 yards and three scores. Utah State totaled 542 yards in the win.
–Field Level Media