No. 1 Alabama opens against Louisville post-Lamar Jackson
No. 1 Alabama (13-1 last season) vs. Louisville (8-5) at Orlando, Florida, 8 p.m. ET (ABC).
Line: Alabama by 28½.
Series record: Alabama leads 2-1.
WHAT’S AT STAKE?
Alabama is coming off its fifth national championship in the past nine seasons (12 overall) under coach Nick Saban. The Crimson Tide also start at No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for the third straight year but do so with a lot of new faces on defense and the coaching staff. Louisville moves on from 2016 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson, who compiled 13,175 offensive yards and 119 touchdowns while breaking numerous school and Atlantic Coast Conference records. The Cardinals also must replace nine defensive starters.
Alabama quarterbacks Jalen Hurts or Tua Tagovailoa vs. Louisville’s defense. Whether Hurts (26-2 as a starter) or College Football Playoff title-game hero Tagovailoa start after much speculation, they will face a Cardinals defense breaking in its third coordinator in as many years (Brian VanGorder) and new personnel from front to back.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Alabama: RB Damien Harris. The senior has rushed for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and scored a career-best 11 touchdowns as a junior.
Louisville: QB Jawon Pass. The sophomore will make his first collegiate start, though coach Bobby Petrino believes he might make the offense better. The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Pass is bigger than Jackson, more of a pocket passer, and can run if needed.
FACTS & FIGURES
The schools are meeting for the first time since the 1991 Fiesta Bowl won 34-7 by Louisville. ... The Crimson Tide is 11-0 in openers under Saban and has won the past six neutral-site openers by an average margin of nearly 24 points. ... Alabama has won its last 73 contests against unranked opponents dating back to November 2007. ... The Tide will introduce six new assistant coaches and have promoted Michael Locksley (offense) and Tosh Lupoi (defense) to coordinators. ... Louisville returns seven offensive starters, including four linemen. ... The Cardinals seek their first win in four meetings against the nation’s top-ranked team. ... Louisville is entering its 100th season of football. ... Petrino is 7-1 all-time in openers with Louisville. He’s 0-4 vs. Alabama.