While planning these out I didn't really take into account the fact that, after Virginia Tech, we wouldn't really be playing anyone the better part of the first half of the season. Going into week six, though, things have changed some and three thoughts jump out at me when looking at our schedule.
1. That Virginia Tech win? Looking better and better every week.
As we stand right now, we simply can't overstate the importance of having this win on our resume. Currently ranked #5 in both the AP and USA Today/Coaches polls, the Hokies rebounded and clawed their way back into the top five after a 31-7 shaming of the Miami Hurricanes, who's own resurgence is one of the more remarkable ones this season. The 'Canes opened the season with a stretch of four games against ranked opponents, the only team in the country to do so, and are now sitting at 3-1 and ranked #9 in the country. Looking at the rest of Tech's schedule, there's plenty of reason to think the Hokies are getting to the ACC Championship Game at 11-1.
|10/10||vs Boston College|
|10/17||at Georgia Tech|
|10/29||vs North Carolina|
|11/05||at East Carolina|
|11/21||vs North Carolina State|
Georgia Tech is the only true obstacle here (though games at Maryland and Virginia always tend produce ridiculously unpredictable results), but if the Hokies continue on like they have the will still be a top five team at the end of the season, and we'll still have their scalp hanging from our belt.
2. Ole Miss isn't quite the marquee matchup it was before the season started, but could certainly turn into one further down the road.
After the Rebels wet themselves in the national spotlight against SC, you couldn't give away seats on the Ole Miss bandwagon. Which is a shame considering their season is far from over and a win against our beloved Tide come Saturday catapults them right back into top ten and back on track to reaching Atlanta and a possible SEC Title (and the almost certain shot at the MNC that goes with it). The problem for Alabama, though, is that if we win we simply won't be getting as much credit for the victory as we would have if Ole Miss were still undefeated. Even their rebound win over Vandy doesn't do us any favors. A Tide victory is one over a team that would then have lost twice in three weeks, and one that could drop the Rebels (currently ranked #20 in the AP and #16 in the coaches) out of the top 25 completely. But that's not where our story ends. Take a look at the rest of the Ole Miss schedule:
|11/07||vs North Arizona|
|11/28||at Mississippi State|
Should the Tide win on Saturday, Ole Miss will be sitting at 3-2 (1-2), but with at least four incredibly winnable games left on the schedule (UAB, North Arizona, Tennessee, and State) and a puncher's chance in the other three (Arkansas, Auburn, LSU). Even if they go 1-2 in those games, you're looking at an 8 win team. Further, recall that the second half of the Alabama game last season saw the light go on for Jevan Snead and the Rebels. Though they lost that game (and had suffered some head scratching losses against Wake Forest, Vandy, and South Carolina before that), they went on to win the last five of the season and absolutely demolished Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl. Though the offensive line is still a weakness for the Rebels and Mike Wallace is playing on Sundays, they are essentially the same talented team that put together a strong finish last season and are could just as easily come together in the latter half of the year to go on a solid run once again. So even though a win here won't be quite the same signature win as preseason expectations might have forecasted, it could really start to look good later on. That's assuming we do win, of course, which we can't take for granted right now. To use OTS's expression, hope for the best.
3. LSU or Auburn? One of these Tigers is going to be a signature win, I just can't figure out which.
Looking at the rest of our schedule, beyond Ole Miss there isn't anyone else that we can rightly call a marquee matchup beyond LSU and, unbelievably, Auburn. South Carolina has a shot, certainly, what with the victory over Ole Miss and all, but the loss to a Georgia team that can't keep from tripping over itself is over their heads, and to be honest they seem like that kind of team themselves. That leaves LSU and Auburn to boost our resume, though I'm not certain which one has the better chance yet. Let's look at the rest of their schedules:
|10/10||vs Florida||10/10||at Arkansas|
|10/24||vs Auburn||10/17||vs Kentucky|
|10/31||vs Tulane||10/24||at LSU|
|11/07||at Alabama||10/31||vs Ole Miss|
|11/14||vs Louisiana Tech||11/07||vs Furman|
|11/21||at Ole Miss||11/14||at Georgia|
|11/28||vs Arkansas||11/27||vs Alabama|
LSU has so far been maddeningly inconsistent, scraping by and winning by the seat of their pants, yet they are still undefeated, while Auburn has looked explosive on offense and at least competent on defense (lack of depth is killing them in that department). When it comes down to it, LSU is probably the likeliest bet to provide a signature win for our beloved Tide due to their schedule. Even with a loss to Florida, only Auburn has a chance of knocking them off before they come to Tuscaloosa, while Auburn still has to take on Arkansas, Kentucky, LSU, Ole Miss, and Georgia.