Early 2016 schedule outlook: Alabama
The defending SEC champions and national champions have a fairly easy path once again in 2016.
Regarding Alabama’s biggest potential threats toward repeating as the SEC West champ, LSU could bounce back into a Top-10 team next season, and Arkansas finished strong in 2015, but Texas A&M and Mississippi State are going through a lot of turnover, and Gus Malzahn might be coaching for his job at Auburn.
Outside of a neutral-site game with USC, the Crimson Tide’s non-conference schedule looks like a cake walk, and a great SEC team such as Alabama should be able to handle the Trojans. Both more than likely will be ranked in the Top 25 when the game kicks off Sept. 3 at AT&T Stadium, site of the Tide’s Cotton Bowl victory over Michigan State.
In a crossover game, Alabama gets a Kentucky team that dismissed offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson and wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord after a second consecutive 5-7 season.
Annual crossover rival Tennessee is coming off a 9-4 campaign that included a rout of Northwestern in the Outback Bowl and a 5-point loss in Tuscaloosa. Tennessee returns standout QB Joshua Dobbs and RB Jalen Hurd, and many are projecting the Volunteers to win the SEC East next season.
Next year’s Alabama team figures to field fewer stars (A’Shawn Robinson, Reggie Ragland, Jarran Reed, Jonathan Allen, Derrick Henry, O.J. Howard and Ryan Kelly all could be selected within the first two rounds of the upcoming NFL Draft). They’ll be led by a different quarterback too, as Jake Coker graduates. But the Crimson Tide should be as deep as ever with another Top-10 recruiting class in tow.
Bama should be favored in all of its games with the possible exception of its Nov. 5 trip to LSU. The 2016 Crimson Tide will have to replace some major names, and it remains to be seen how the defense will respond to new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. But a 10- to 12-win regular season and at least the SEC West title are not unrealistic expectations.
Let’s take a closer look at the schedule.
Home games (7): Western Kentucky (Sept. 10), Kent State (Sept. 24), Kentucky (Oct. 1), Texas A&M (Oct. 22), Mississippi State (Nov. 12), Chattanooga (Nov. 19), Auburn (Nov. 26).
Road games (4): Ole Miss (Sept. 17), Arkansas (Oct. 8), Tennessee (Oct. 15), LSU (Nov. 5).
Neutral site (1): USC (Sept. 3 at AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas).
Longest home stretch: 3 games (Mississippi State, Chattanooga, Auburn).
Longest road stretch: 2 games (Arkansas, Tennessee).
2015 ranked teams (final regular season): No. 1 Clemson, No. 3 Michigan State, No. 12 Ole Miss, No. 19 Florida, No. 20 LSU, No. 23 Tennessee.
2016 ranked teams (early projections): No. 10 Tennessee, No. 11 LSU, No. 20 USC, No. 21 Texas A&M.
Potential trap games: Western Kentucky, which is sandwiched between the season opener against USC and the SEC opener against Ole Miss; Kentucky (the first of six consecutive weekends against SEC opponents, including at Arkansas the next week); Chattanooga, which is sandwiched between Mississippi State and the Iron Bowl.
Toughest SEC games: at Tennessee, at LSU, Texas A&M.
|1||USC||AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Tex.|
|2||Western Kentucky||Bryant-Denny Stadium|
|3||at Ole Miss||Vaught-Hemingway Stadium|
|4||Kent State||Bryant-Denny Stadium|
|6||at Arkansas||D.W.R. Razorback Stadium; Fayetteville, Ark.|
|7||at Tennessee||Neyland Stadium|
|8||Texas A&M||Bryant-Denny Stadium|
|10||at LSU||Tiger Stadium|
|11||Mississippi State||Bryant-Denny Stadium|