Nick Saban doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon when it comes to dominating the college football landscape. Alabama is coming off yet another national championship, and the Crimson Tide look to be loaded with talent once again. It is truly stunning how this program is able to win at such a high level after shipping off another class to the NFL every year.
As we head into the fall, Alabama appears to have several questions surrounding the offense, in particular. The Tide will have to find answers to those questions in a hurry, because two of their first three games are against USC and Ole Miss. In fact, the schedule isn’t doing Alabama any favors whatsoever.
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Here is a look at Alabama’s 12 regular season games, ranked from easiest to toughest:
12. Nov. 19 vs. Chattanooga
The Crimson Tide get Chattanooga sandwiched in between the rigors of the SEC schedule late in November. This is just one of the not-so-appealing games involving SEC teams that weekend. By November Alabama figures to clicking on all cylinders, so this shouldn’t be much of a contest. Chattanooga has enjoyed some success over the past few years against FCS-level competition, but the defending national champions are in a class of their own.
11. Sept. 24 vs. Kent State
Last season Kent State finished 3-9 with wins over Delaware State, Miami (Ohio) and UMass. The Golden Flashes were outscored by their opponents by an average of 13 points per game. For a team as talented and well disciplined as Alabama, this game should be nothing more than a tune-up for the majority of the SEC schedule.
10. Oct. 1 vs. Kentucky
On paper, Kentucky looks to be improved on offense, which it has relied on for the most part under Mark Stoops. Some even think the Wildcats could be a potential dark horse in the SEC East. But unless things have improved dramatically on defense, it is unlikely that the ‘Cats will be able to hang around with Alabama. This one might be close for a little while, but ultimately the Tide will roll.
9. Sept. 10 vs. Western Kentucky
Kentucky isn’t even the best team from the Bluegrass State on Alabama’s schedule. Western Kentucky, by most accounts, is the favorite to win Conference USA coming into the season. Last year, the Hilltoppers finished 12-2 and probably would have ended up in the top half of the SEC East. Stud quarterback Brandon Doughty is gone, but this is still a very capable team. Alabama better not find itself on cruise control in week two.
8. Nov. 12 vs. Mississippi State
It has been stressed over and over again how hard it will be for Mississippi State to replace Dak Prescott, but that’s because it’s the truth. State has a couple viable options at the position heading into fall camp, and also has some key playmakers returning at wide receiver. Dan Mullen has proven as a coach that he can maximize his players’ potential. The Bulldogs will need to be at their best when they travel to Bryant-Denny Stadium.
7. Oct. 22 vs. Texas A&M
Everyone around the SEC is still kind of wondering exactly what’s going on in College Station. Drama… that would be the short answer. Hopefully, by the time football season rolls around, Texas A&M will have everything worked out. The Aggies appear to have a solid starter at quarterback in former Oklahoma starter Trevor Knight. Maybe Texas A&M will have a better showing than it did the last time these two teams met in Tuscaloosa. Alabama won that game 59-0 in 2014.
6. Nov. 26 vs. Auburn
The Iron Bowl often proves to be a fairly tight game even when one of the teams is bad. It is, after all, one of college football’s biggest rivalries. Both Alabama and Auburn have plenty of question marks coming into the season, but Auburn is the real mystery. For some reason, there is usually a feeling that the Tigers could be anywhere from 6-6 to 12-0 when all is said and done. The Crimson Tide won last year’s matchup, 29-13 down on the plains.
5. Oct. 8 at Arkansas
Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks are bringing back nine starters from last year’s young defense, but it seems that the offense has lost nearly everyone. The Hogs will be rebuilding in the running game and at quarterback, where Brandon Allen departed after a solid career. His younger brother, Austin, is ready to fill in under center. Two years ago, Arkansas was a missed extra point away from taking Alabama to overtime in Fayetteville. This should be another physical contest.
4. Sept. 3 vs. USC (Arlington, Texas)
Alabama’s season opener against USC in Jerry’s World marks only the eighth meeting all-time between the two storied programs. The Crimson Tide lead the series 5-2, with the last meeting taking place way back in 1985 (a 24-3 Alabama win). The Trojans are No. 22 in Athlon Sports’ Top 25 and should be one of the top contenders in the Pac-12 South. But Alabama will still be favored to win. There isn’t a better coach than Saban with ample time to prepare for a game.
3. Oct. 15 at Tennessee
Thank goodness, this one is back on the third Saturday in October where it belongs. The move to the traditional date of the rivalry also could signal that the contests are about to heat up. The Volunteers return 18 starters from last year’s 9-4 squad that nearly upset Alabama in Tuscaloosa. The Crimson Tide defense will need to be at its very best by the middle of October if it hopes to contain Tennessee’s three-headed rushing attack.
2. Sept. 17 at Ole Miss
The one team that has had Alabama’s number recently is Ole Miss. The Rebels are coming off back-to-back wins over the Tide and have the luxury of playing this game in Oxford early in the season. Alabama likely will still be trying to figure out its quarterback situation in week three. Ole Miss, on the other hand, returns the SEC’s most prolific passer in Chad Kelly. You can bet Saban will do everything in his power to prevent Ole Miss from hanging 43 points on his defense this year.
1. Nov. 5 at LSU
By now, most everyone knows how loaded LSU is heading into the fall. The Tigers return the most starters of any team in the SEC and have piled up quality depth over the past couple seasons. The defensive line for LSU is one of the SEC’s deepest position groups, which usually signals a great chance for success. LSU looks to be a legitimate national title contender in 2016. Alabama should have its hands full in Baton Rouge. Chances are, this one will be a night game.