Another football season began on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa, and Alabama was still Alabama, dominating and punishing and calling in the reserves by the third quarter.

Utah State was the latest unfortunate team to show up at Bryant-Denny Stadium on an opening night. The top-ranked Crimson Tide won its 21st straight season-opener, improved to 16-0 in openers under Nick Saban and made history by recording the largest margin of victory in school history in an opening game.

All that happened as 2021 Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young popped the cork on a 2022 offense that promises to be even better than the one he quarterbacked within one quarter of a national title, and a defense led by all-world linebacker Will Anderson Jr. pitched Bama’s first shutout since Halloween Night 2020 against Mississippi State.

There was so much to like, and so little not to like. But for our purposes, we’re narrowing it to 3 things we really liked and 3 things we didn’t like. Of course, we’re nitpicking here, but Saban will, too, when he gets his players in their first film session of the week as the Tide prepares for next Saturday’s Week 2 showdown at Texas.

3 things I liked

The defense was … impressive

Bama’s defensive dominance was a sight to behold. Was this Georgia or Ohio State or USC on the opposite sideline on Saturday night? No. But Utah State did put up 31 points and amassed 542 total yards in its opening victory over UConn on Aug. 27, so the Tide was facing a more-than-capable offense led by quarterback Logan Bonner. And Pete Golding’s unit completely shut down the Aggies and then shut them out, holding Utah State to 136 total yards.

The Aggies’ sense of desperation came quickly. They went for it on 4th-and-1 at their own 34-yard line when it was only 10-0 in the first quarter. Bonner threw incomplete, and the Tide turned the short field into another touchdown and a 17-0 lead, and the rout was on. Utah State managed just 7 first downs, 1 coming on the first play of the game, and went 3-for-17 on third down.

The Tide didn’t force a turnover, but it really didn’t need to, since it was getting the offense the ball back continuously by forcing the Aggies to punt 10 times. And Bama’s defense had 0 sacks, but that didn’t matter, either. The Tide won the line of scrimmage over and over and made the tackles, led by Jaylen Moody’s 6. Anderson and Brian Branch each had 5, and Bama had 5 tackles for loss. Saban will still find little mistakes for the film session, but he’s going to have to look extra hard.

2. Bama’s versatile offense: Pick your poison

For all of its offensive fireworks, Bama’s balance served notice to SEC defenses that there are weapons to worry about everywhere. The yardage breakdown was almost exactly even, as the Tide finished with 281 yards passing and 278 yards rushing. (Bryce Young got into the act, rushing for 100 yards!) It can’t get more balanced than that.

Traeshon Holden, Jase McClellan and Georgia transfer Jermaine Burton each caught 2 TD passes, so the 6 scoring passes thrown by Young (5) and Jalen Milroe (1) were evenly distributed. No receiver had more than 70 yards. No running back topped 100 yards, with Georgia Tech transfer Jahmyr Gibbs’ 93 leading the running back stable. Young finished with exactly 100 yards rushing and 63 came on one play.

This was death by a thousand cuts. Utah State didn’t know what was coming and who was bringing the pain. There was weaponry and versatility everywhere on the offensive side. Of course, it won’t be this easy going forward for Bama as it gets into SEC play, but its first display with the two transfers mixed with the returners was pretty scary. Balanced and beautiful.

3. Young looked every bit like a Heisman winner

Yes, he wants the biggest trophy at the very end this time, but Young already looked like 1 Heisman isn’t enough for him. He was possessed from the opening play, rolling up almost 300 yards of total offense and 6 touchdowns in a little over a half. Fittingly, he ended his night with a 4-yard TD scamper, showing off his legs one more time after tossing 5 touchdown passes in the first half.

This was vintage 2021 Young, with a sprinkle of Jalen Hurts’ running ability, only with one incredible season under his belt and the experience that came with it, serving notice that 2022 might be a whole lot better, with maybe one more Heisman on the way.

3 things I didn’t like

1. Nitpicking, but Young can’t continue to lead the rushing attack …

We’ll keep the 3 dislikes short, since, well, they deserve to be after a performance like Saturday night’s. Saban might point to the fact that his star quarterback led the team in rushing and not one of his stable of running backs. But a big part of Young’s game is his legs, so it’s not alarming, and his prized transfer running back Gibbs had a strong Bama debut with 93 yards, including a 58-yard burst on the first play from scrimmage of the second half. Freshman Jamarion Miller also added 32 yards on 7 carries. Again, we’re nitpicking.

2. Is Bama’s backup QB ready … in case?

After scoring on its first 9 possessions, Bama’s onslaught slowed in the third quarter and especially in the fourth as the backups and deep backups were filtered in. Milroe underthrew an interception into double coverage before the Tide’s last 2 full possessions led by Milroe and third-string QB Ty Simpson ended with punts, the second of which was blocked.

3. A blocked punt can’t happen again

And then there’s that blocked punt in the fourth quarter. That’s the stuff a perfectionist like Saban hates and can point to with vigor. It didn’t cost his team a thing at the tail end of a 55-0 blowout, but it might if it happened in the thick of the SEC wars, or in the SEC title game or the College Football Playoff.

James Burnip’s first punt was a beauty, traveling 51 yards. But that second attempt was blocked and set the Aggies up at the Bama 31-yard line. It almost helped spoil the shutout, but the Tide’s backup defenders rose up and stopped Utah State on downs inside the red zone. In the end, no damage done. Shutout preserved.

And onto Austin.