In a few short weeks, our long national nightmare will be over. Alabama will have a starting quarterback and the world will continue to spin.

In the meantime, though, we have a legitimate starting quarterback battle to figure out. Anyone who tells you that this has already been decided isn’t looking at the big picture. Or perhaps they’re a relative/close friend/godparent of 1 of the 3 signal-callers vying for the job.

Unless we hear anything pointing to the contrary, I’m assuming that the first snaps of Alabama’s 2023 season will be taken by Ty Simpson, Tyler Buchner or Jalen Milroe. It’s a 3-way battle that would ideally get narrowed to 2 by the end of fall camp. Whether that timeline is shared in real time is a different story.

I don’t believe that Nick Saban has made his decision. Some of the pre-fall camp odds would beg to differ on that. At least 1 betting site has Simpson as the favorite in the clubhouse with Buchner close behind him and Milroe at No. 3:

Ah, but wait! Here’s what the FanDuel Heisman Trophy odds look like for all 3:

  • Jalen Milroe +5,000
  • Ty Simpson +8,000
  • Tyler Buchner +10,000

What does that mean? There are still a variety of opinions as to who this will play out, so take them at face value. I’m admitting that I wouldn’t bet the house on anyone, but I do have a favorite (I’ll get to him in a bit).

Let’s first remember that while we could see multiple quarterbacks in Week 1 against Middle Tennessee, Texas visits in Week 2. I’ll agree to disagree that this will still be up in the air heading into that massive showdown.

If Alabama had a cake nonconference schedule, I think that would favor Buchner’s odds. That’s not the case, though. It gets overlooked how rare it is that we see a post-spring quarterback transfer take off in that first season. Joe Burrow and Will Levis were examples of guys who got better as the season progressed after arriving at their SEC schools post-spring, but early on? They were limited within their offenses.

Yes, Buchner would be in a different spot than those guys because of the Tommy Rees reunion factor. He was brought in from Notre Dame in part because of his familiarity with the former Irish offensive coordinator. But at the same time, there’s chemistry that needs to be developed with those receivers, and in Buchner’s case, there’s a locker room to win over. It’s not an impossible task, but it’s not as easy as saying, “well, he’ll have no problem stepping in because he knows the offense.”

Let’s also remember that Notre Dame watched Buchner earn TaxSlayer Bowl MVP honors and they still hit the portal to get Sam Hartman. Buchner’s 2022 season was 3 games. His interception rate in his 2 seasons at Notre Dame was 1 pick every 14.7 passes. He’s not a game manager yet. He’s still pretty football young because of 2 lost high school seasons (1 because of injury, 1 because of COVID) and it’s worth remembering that he has 3 years of eligibility left. Even though Buchner arrived at Alabama as the “veteran” to a room that already had 4 scholarship quarterbacks, there could still be a plan to make him the long-term project.

Milroe also has 3 years of eligibility left (including 2023), but there would be a different sense if he didn’t win the starting job. Last year, Milroe was QB2, which meant stepping in for the injured Bryce Young against Arkansas and getting his first career start the following game against A&M. Yes, Milroe made jaw-dropping plays.

Here’s the problem, though. I don’t believe Saban’s plan to determine a starter is predicated on who can make the most jaw-dropping plays. If it were, Buchner never would’ve gone to Tuscaloosa. This would’ve already been Milroe’s job. But Saban’s stance publicly has been that Alabama’s next starting quarterback can’t “make the plays that beat us.” Milroe’s ball security issues — A&M had 3 strip sacks — almost led to the Tide losing at home to a team that didn’t reach a bowl game.

Did what we saw in the spring game make us believe that Milroe’s ball security issues are a thing of the past? Nope. Maybe that’ll change in fall camp, but for now, I don’t believe Milroe checks that all-important box.

And to be fair, Simpson didn’t squash ball-security concerns with his spring performance, either. That unknown always exists for a second-year player. Once upon a time, it was the question facing Young. We saw a little bit of that in his spring game performance, too. Young had a bad fumble that was recovered in the end zone, and a pick-6 was dropped by an Alabama defender.

So does that mean Simpson is destined to be the second coming of Young? No, but do I believe he gives the Tide the best chance to execute Rees’ scheme? For now, yes.

The quarterback running game will be a part of the offense in a way that it hasn’t since Jalen Hurts left for Oklahoma. Simpson isn’t quite at Milroe or Buchner levels with his legs, but you have to respect that part of his game. Don’t forget that he was a 1,200-yard rusher his senior year of high school. He’s a true dual-threat.

The Simpson prediction isn’t based on his offseason throwing videos that have made the rounds, though it’s hard not to be intrigued when you see the footwork and effortless release:

I know. Let’s see it in pads. On a Saturday. In November.

My belief is that Alabama wants balance. Simpson gives you that in ways that neither Buchner nor Milroe do. At least not based on what we’ve seen so far.

I’d be surprised if the Rees offense included 36 passing attempts a game like the Bill O’Brien offense. Of course, the O’Brien offense had Young. We would’ve criticized it if Young only averaged 25 passes per contest.

Gone are the days of 2009, wherein a non-dual threat Alabama quarterback was tasked with throwing 25 times per game. Maybe the 2023 passing volume will be closer to 25 times per game, which was essentially 2016-17 Hurts, but obviously he was a major factor in the run game. That Alabama offense, which only had 12 interceptions in 29 games played during that 2-year stretch, could be exactly what Saban would like to embody in 2023.

What feels inevitable is that in a few short weeks, we’ll see a different version of the Tide offense. It’ll be held to the ridiculously high standard that’s been set over the past 7 years. Maybe that’ll create the first true midseason change, and not something that happens either in the first game (2016) or the last game (2017).

But for now, I’ll stick with Simpson to win (and keep) QB1 status in Tuscaloosa.