The football gods aren’t doing the Crimson Tide any favors this season.

To defend its SEC Championship and regain another berth in the College Football Playoff, preseason league favorite Alabama will certainly earn it considering Nick Saban’s team could battle as many as five nationally-ranked opponents away from the friendly confines of Bryant-Denny Stadium.

And those are just the road challenges.

Peeking at the slate, one college football guru Phil Steele recently labeled the nation’s toughest, there aren’t many spots to relax on the landmine-filled schedule other than the small luxury of three consecutive home games following a Texas-sized opener against a noteworthy Power 5 opponent:

  • Sept. 5 vs. Wisconsin at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas (Badgers will be ranked, likely Top 15)
  • Sept. 12 vs. Middle Tennessee
  • Sept. 19 vs. Ole Miss (SEC opener for both teams; Rebels will be Top 15 at 2-0)
  • Sept. 26 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
  • Oct. 3 at Georgia (Dawgs will be Top 10 at 4-0)
  • Oct. 10 vs. Arkansas
  • Oct. 17 at Texas A&M (Aggies likely 4-1, ranked just inside Top 25)
  • Oct. 24 vs. Tennessee
  • Nov. 7 vs. LSU (get the benefit of playing the Tigers following open week)
  • Nov. 14 at Mississippi State
  • Nov. 21 vs. Charleston Southern
  • Nov. 28 at Auburn (could decide West; battle of Top 10 teams)

Besides three snoozers on Sept. 12, the 26th and Nov. 21, do you see any easy wins?


If the Crimson Tide can somehow get past their first three SEC contests unscathed, and that’s a big if considering all three opponents could be ranked, Texas A&M — and more importantly, Kyle Field — poses an interesting challenge in Week 7.

With a little luck, the Aggies could be 5-0 and ranked inside the Top 15 (coming off a bye as well) when Texas A&M hosts Alabama on Oct. 17. Without diving into the advanced analytics to prove a point, more often than not teams perform much more soundly with an extra week to prepare and Kevin Sumlin’s group will have last season’s 59-point drubbing on their minds.

After that begins a season-defining four-game gauntlet against league teams sprinkled over the final six weeks featuring matchups against three perceived division contenders — Tennessee, LSU and Auburn — along with Dak Prescott and Mississippi State.

The current uneasiness at quarterback isn’t the primary problem facing Alabama this season. It’s the nation’s toughest schedule that is keeping the Crimson Tide away from most media members’ projected Playoff final four.