No. 3 Alabama plays Wisconsin where Tide wanted to end 2014
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Alabama will start its season with a new quarterback in the NFL stadium where Blake Sims and the Crimson Tide wanted to be last January.
The third-ranked Tide play their opener Saturday night against No. 20 Wisconsin in the Dallas Cowboys' stadium. That is where Ohio State won the national championship game after first beating SEC champ Alabama in a College Football Playoff semifinal at the Sugar Bowl.
Since three national titles in a four-season span, Alabama has now gone consecutive seasons without even winning a bowl game.
''The biggest question that I have might not get answered in this game, but over the course of time, is the dynamics of Alabama football have changed a little bit over the last couple of years. And I've been anxious to get back to what we used to do,'' coach Nick Saban said. ''Identity is not something that you inherit or assume or get from somebody else.''
There are three options to replace Sims, but Alabama's starter might not be known until the first snap of the game. There is a chance that Jake Coker, Cooper Bateman and Alec Morris could all play at some point.
Wisconsin, which last season won the Big Ten West Division title during its third 11-win season in five years, is settled at quarterback with Joel Stave. Running back Corey Clement takes over for Heisman finalist Melvin Gordon, and already with seven 100-yard rushing games in his career.
The Badgers play their first game under coach Paul Chryst, their former offensive coordinator and Madison, Wisconsin, native who came home after the past three seasons as Pittsburgh's head coach.
''I've never gone into a game where I felt that it was about me,'' Chryst said. ''And I think that this game is a big game, and it's probably happening because of what both programs have done previous years.''
These are two of the five programs to average at least 10 wins over the last six seasons, with Alabama's 72 wins the most in that span. The Badgers won 60 games.
Alabama's only other appearance in the North Texas kickoff game was a 41-14 win over Michigan in 2012, the season of the Tide's last national title.
The stadium is also the home of the Cotton Bowl, which this season is one of the CFP semifinal games.
So the Crimson Tide, or the Badgers, certainly wouldn't mind being back there on New Year's Eve.
A few other things to know about Alabama and Wisconsin, whose only previous meeting was a 15-0 Badgers home victory in 1928:
RUNNING OUT OF SHADOWS: Derrick Henry ran for team-high 990 yards and 11 touchdowns last season for Alabama, but was a backup to T.J. Yeldon, a second-round NFL pick. Henry now gets his chance as the top runner, following in line behind Yeldon, Eddie Lacy, Trent Richardson and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. Clement ran for 949 yards and nine scores in the same backfield with Gordon (2,587 yards and 29 TDs), who finished second in the voting behind Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. ''I feel as if I'm ready,'' Clement said.
FRACTURED LINE: Injuries through the preseason have forced Wisconsin to mix and match its offensive line. Right guard Walker Williams and right tackle Hayden Biegel are expected to start after missing time in camp with head injuries. The veteran holdovers are left tackle Tyler Marz and center Dan Voltz, who both started every game last season.
OPENING NOTES: Alabama is 8-0 in season openers under Saban. Wisconsin is opening against an SEC team for the second year in a row, with plans for another next season. The Badgers lost 28-24 in last year's opener to LSU, ending their streak of 16 consecutive opening victories. Wisconsin plays its 2016 opener against LSU at Lambeau Field.
LITTLE WATT: Wisconsin senior fullback Derek Watt is the younger brother of NFL All-Pro defensive J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans. The Badgers' Watt is 6-foot-2, 236 pounds, a bit smaller than his NFL brother, who also played at Wisconsin and is 6-5 and weighs 289 pounds.