For the second straight year, the Tide avoids matchups with Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. One can argue those teams benefit from not having to face Alabama as well, but it would be interesting to see how the Tide stacks up against the Gators' defense, the prolific Bulldogs' offense and the Gamecocks' pass rush featuring Jadeveon Clowney. Fans can only hope the Tide make a return trip to the SEC Championship Game to see one of those colossal showdowns.
Coaches throughout the conference have voiced their opinions on Alabama’s favorable schedule, and after this breakdown, it’s easy to see why.
Virginia Tech and Frank Beamer are not an opponent that should be taken lightly, but with a full offseason for Tide coach Nick Saban and his team to prepare, the Hokies chances of pulling the upset are slim to none. Along with Clemson (2008) and Michigan (2012), the Hokies (2009) have an experienced an old school beat down in the season opener from the Tide before. Virginia Tech’s offense returns only four starters from last year, with two offensive linemen and its top three receivers (Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts) gone. This places even more pressure on quarterback Logan Thomas to produce, and if he isn’t able to live up to his potential, the Hokies will leave the Georgia Dome with a loss.
The revenge game
The story lines are endless for the clash between Alabama and Texas A&M in College Station. Will Johnny Manziel be able to duplicate the performance he put on in Tuscaloosa last season? How will Kirby Smart and the defense attack Manziel? Will Alabama come out firing to put the Aggies away early? All will be answered on Sept. 9 from Kyle Field in front of the 12th man.
A&M has a glorified scrimmage the week before, while Alabama has a bye week, which could be huge.
And don’t think for a second that Alabama isn’t looking ahead to this game. That doesn’t mean the Tide isn't focused on Virginia Tech. It just means even though Alabama was crowned national champions last season, the loss to the Aggies still lingers as the lone blemish on an otherwise remarkable season.
Sort of smooth sailing
Five of the Tide’s next six games are at home following the A&M contest, with a date at Kentucky sandwiched between. Games against Colorado State and Georgia State will be over before they begin. However, there is some competition in this mix, with Ole Miss to close out September and Arkansas and Tennessee in back-to-back weeks in November.
Ole Miss’ offense could give Alabama some trouble. Arkansas coach Bret Bielema and Tennessee coach Butch Jones will put quality teams on the field. But Alabama gets all three at home and none of these teams as currently constructed pose real threats. The Tide should come out of this stretch with a goose egg in the loss column.
The trap game
This season’s LSU matchup isn’t a trap game in the traditional sense, which means facing an underrated opponent after a hard-fought game with a great team the week before, like Texas A&M was the week after the Tide won an emotionally draining slugfest with LSU.
LSU is a trap game because the Tigers lost a lot of talent from last year’s team, in particular on defense, and some surely will count them out. But unlike most programs, the Tigers have the ability to plug in athlete after athlete to help fill holes. The good news is that Alabama gets this game at home after another bye week. The bad news is that the Tide is facing an always unpredictable Les Miles with something to prove.
Home (away) stretch
If Alabama is undefeated after the LSU game, look for the Tide to cruise to Atlanta and the SEC Championship Game. All that will be left is a trip to Starkville, senior day against Chattanooga and a quick ride to Auburn.
Mississippi State always plays Alabama tough, but the Bulldogs are usually more bark than bite. Chattanooga will just be happy to say they had a chance to play in Bryant-Denny Stadium, which only leaves Auburn. Gus Malzahn may prove to be an excellent hire in the long run, but asking him to knock off the two-time defending national champions in year one is too tall of an order. The Tigers will fight, but ultimately won’t have enough to end the Tide’s reign on college football.
Again, with built in breaks before the two toughest games of the year, it’s hard to imagine Alabama not being right back in the national championship hunt this season.
Marq Burnett covers Alabama athletics for The Anniston Star. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Marq_Burnett.