Knowing Nick Saban as we do, you have to figure this is going to be a football team on a mission in 2020. After coming up short of the college football playoffs for the first time since its inception, the Alabama Crimson Tide will be laser-focused to redeeming themselves and their rabid fan base, who did not get to gloat to every SEC program last fall. That's considered near blasphemy in the Heart of Dixie state.
Getting star players like Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, and Alex Leatherwood back for another season (when they could've easily headed off to pro ball instead) was a huge boon to a team that already has high-stratosphere talent waiting in the wings. Sure, there will be some trap doors as well. As you know you just can't expect 18-to-21-year-olds to be locked-in every week. There is going to be a game or two where they just don't play their best. Be careful where those games fall on the schedule.
Here is a breakdown of the 2020 campaign for the Crimson Tide, including the games where they have to be on point:
11. Nov. 14 vs. UT Martin
Aye-yaye-yaye, why are these November SEC-vs-tomato can games even scheduled? Our sport deserves better.
10. Sept. 26 vs. Kent State
Give the Golden Flashes some props here; they are coming off a season where they won a bowl game for the first time in program history. But they'll be coming off games vs. Penn State and Kentucky, so you just hope the Flashes have enough body parts remaining after this game against the Tide. Kent State lost 55-16 to Auburn and 48-0 to Wisconsin last year. The Flashes should be a better team this year, but still look for a similar score to those here.
9. Sept. 12 vs. Georgia State
Like Kent State above, the Panthers finished 2019 with a 7-6 record, and they played in their third bowl game in the last five years. There probably won't be any red flags going up for this one, but keep in mind this is the same Georgia State team that went into Neyland Stadium last August and upset fellow SEC member Tennessee 38-30. Still, GSU suffered too many losses off last year's team, so chalk this up as a yawn-fest which won't be very competitive.
8. Oct. 10 at Arkansas
With a new coaching staff, much-needed improvement everywhere and Florida transfer Feleipe Franks poised to take over the QB spot, it's hard to predict what the Razorbacks will look like in 2020. But with games against Notre Dame, Mississippi State, and Texas A&M already in the first month, we'll know a lot about where the Razorbacks stand when Bama travels to go play them. Remember, Arkansas has won just four games the last two years combined. Label this a "breather" in the SEC slate.
7. Oct. 3 at Ole Miss
The problem with the Rebels going into 2020 is that this is a program that really could've used a spring session. New head coach Lane Kiffin inherits a team that was strong in the running game but weak just about everywhere else, especially on defense. On top of that, before facing off with the Tide, the Rebels will have to face Baylor, Auburn, and LSU. With so many new faces and new schemes here, this team could already be worn out by the time October comes around.
6. Oct. 17 vs. Mississippi State
The era of The Pirate has come to StarkVegas in the form of wheeling and dealing head coach Mike Leach. Like Ole Miss above, having a new coach and a new system really could've used some spring practice sessions to get in lock-step for fall. K.J. Costello transfers in from Stanford to battle Garrett Shrader at QB, and RB Kylin Hill is NFL-ready. But too many questions everywhere else means this is a rebuilding year at MSU. Round one of the Protege vs. the Pro won't be close.
5. Oct. 24 at Tennessee
Jeremy Pruitt is slowly but surely getting this program back to showing signs of life. The offseason recruiting haul made big headlines and signals a bright future. But the Volunteers aren't at SEC-contending levels yet. They'll have enough coming back to get to a post-season game and maybe even double-digit wins, we'll see. Either way, it's still the Big Orange getting a Big L from the third Saturday in October. (Okay, we know, this year it falls on the FOURTH Saturday in October, but whatevs.)
4. Nov. 21 vs. Texas A&M
Okay, first off, the Aggies are under some heat this year as Jimbo Fisher has yet to deliver on his promise to bring a national title contender to College Station. After starting six freshmen a year ago, this year's Aggie squad will be a hyper-experienced unit. Will they be formidable enough to pull a stunner in Tally-town? Probably not. I mean, Johnny Maziel ain't walkin' through that door anytime soon. But if Kellen Mond raises his game a smidge this year, this one could get closer than you think.
3. Nov. 28 vs. Auburn
Oh man, you know this one is always worth the price of admission... and then some. Last year's 48-45 bloodletting won by the Tigers is going to make this one just a tinge more visceral than it already normally is. Bo Nix is going to be a more competent sophomore this year under center. Keep in mind the Plainsmen went 5-0 when Nix hit on 65 percent of his passes or better in 2019. But the Tiger O-line and D-line have huge holes to fill, so interior play will be more emphasized than ever in the Iron Bowl.
2. Sept. 19 vs. Georgia
All of the "Too Early Top 25" projections have the Bulldogs in the top 10, most in the top five. There are only three starters back on offense but getting Wake Forest QB Jamie Newman is a great grad transfer addition to give the O some kick. And the way Jake Fromm played down the stretch last year, it seems the Bulldogs were a quarterback away from breaking through again. The defense could be one of the best in the country, giving Mac Jones, Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, and Jaylen Waddle perhaps their biggest test of the season. One big thing; this game being played so early in the season is to the Tide's advantage.
1. Nov. 7 at LSU
A lot of talking heads out there are counting on a precipitous drop from the Tigers after their national title campaign last year. I'm not so certain the fall is going to be that big. Sure there is no Joe Burrow and nine underclassmen left for the NFL. But head coach Ed Orgeron and Co. have recruited well and will be stocked for more post-season hardware. And yes, with just eight starters back there is plenty of rebuilding to be done. But by the time this one rolls around the restocking will be well in place. Besides, when it comes to discussing Bama's toughest game, I've got two words for ya': Death. Valley.
Note: Schedule subject to change. Prior to the Pac-12's decision to go with a conference-only schedule, Alabama's scheduled opener with USC in Arlington, Texas (Sept. 5) would have ranked fifth on this list.
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.