Things to watch in Week 2 in the Southeastern Conference:
GAME OF THE WEEK
No. 3 Alabama vs. No. 11 Texas pits two traditional powers who battled to the very end last season in a 20-19 Crimson Tide squeaker. They will be Southeastern Conference rivals next season, but for now both are looking to further establish themselves as national championship contenders. The Longhorns are trying to return to that status for the first time in a while, but Alabama has something to prove as well after a disappointing 2022 season. Texas coach Steve Sarkisian faces his old boss Nick Saban at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers raced to a fast start in last year's game before going down with an injury. Alabama counters with Jalen Milroe in his third career start after a dynamic season debut. The Tide defense has stars like cornerback Kool-Aid McKinstry and linebacker Dallas Turner, but they will face a group of receivers led by Xavier Worthy and Georgia transfer Adonai Mitchell.
SECOND BEST MATCHUP
Mississippi-Tulane wouldn't necessarily be one to circle most years, but this is an exception. The quarterbacks are a big reason. Tulane's Michael Pratt was near-perfect in the opener, completing 14 of 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns. That's a pass efficiency rating of 346. The Rebels' Jaxson Dart nailed down the starting spot (again) with a similarly efficient performance. Dart completed 18 of 23 passes for 334 yards and four TDs to start off a nation's best and school-record 524-yard passing day for Ole Miss against Mercer. The Rebels have won the last 12 meetings but haven't visited Tulane since 2012.
California over Auburn? There's at least some uncertainty for the favored Tigers on the road.
New Auburn coach Hugh Freeze has upgraded the talent level as well as the quarterback position with Michigan State transfer Payton Thorne and the added threat of using Robby Ashford as a runner in certain situations. But Auburn is just a 6 1/2-point favorite after a 2,000-mile plus trip to face California, according to Fanduel Sportsbook. It's a much bigger test than UMass for sure. The late kick (it will feel like 9:30 p.m. for Auburn) presents a challenge in its own right. Much like the early-season Alabama humidity if the game was in Auburn, that could be an edge for Cal. It matches the latest scheduled start in Auburn history (Arizona in 1976).
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
No. 12 Tennessee will wear “Artful Dodger” Smokey Grey uniforms against Austin Peay on the 51st anniversary of Condredge Holloway’s first start as a Volunteer. The Vols' Artful Dodger became the first Black player to start at quarterback for an SEC team on Sept. 9, 1972. ... No. 23 Texas A&M visits Miami for the first time since 2017. ... No. 14 LSU faces in-state team Grambling State for the first time. LSU beat Southern 65-17 last season in its only other game against an HBCU opponent. ... Alabama puts a 57-game regular-season nonconference winning streak on the line, going back to 2007. ... Transfer receiver Tre Harris set a school record with four receiving touchdowns in his Ole Miss debut. Only 21 other players in SEC history have caught that many in a game. ... Florida carries an FBS-best 33-game win streak in home openers into the McNeese State game. The last loss was 24-19 to Mississippi in 1989.
Alabama QB Jalen Milroe faces his home-state team after emerging from a three-man competition for a standout debut against Middle Tennessee State. Milroe became the first Tide quarterback to pass for three touchdowns and rush for two in the same game. But like all Tide passers, he will be judged largely by how he performs in big games.