"[I]t is not from the strongest that harm comes to the strong, but from the weakest."
- Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, Essay 3, Aphorism 14
In 2013, Alabama's non-conference schedule consists of Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State and UT-Chattanooga. The Tide's combined record against these four opponents is 23-1.
The sole defeat came at the hands of Frank Beamer's Virginia Tech Hokies in the Music City Bowl on December 29, 1998. The final score in that game was 38-7, and, to my memory, the game wasn't really even that close. Our history with Virginia Tech has been expertly documented on this site, including our molecular disintegration of the Hokies in 1973. The short version is that Alabama is 11-1 against Virginia Tech all-time, with an average score of Alabama 32 - 11 Va. Tech.
This will be Alabama's first ever game against the Colorado State Rams. May Coach Jim McElwain find this an economically rewarding, emotionally disappointing, educationally valuable experience.
The Georgia State Panthers have only played football since 2010, and their eleventh game in school history was a 63-7 drubbing at the hands of defending National Champion Alabama. This will be Georgia State's first season in FBS, and for some odd, arcane reason, they are therefore ineligible to participate in the postseason, regardless of how successful they might be. May our second game against the Panthers go much as the first (but hopefully without the kickoff returned for a touchdown).
Alabama currently enjoys an 11-0 edge over the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Mocs, winning with an average score of 38-6. The closest game in the series came when the eventual SEC Champion Tide struggled to a 21-14 victory on November 7, 1953. Our most recent tilt, however, was a 45-0 victory in 2009, outgaining the Mocs 422 yards to 84.
Despite our 11-1 historical record against Virginia Tech, most would agree that the Hokies (who have played in five of the eight ACC Championship Games, winning three) are more than respectable opponents, but even they are coming off a 7-6 (4-4) season, in which they failed to defeat a ranked opponent, and it is difficult to call our remaining opponents anything other than delicious pastries. Colorado State has shown occasional flashes of respectability in the past - finishing ranked (AP/Coaches) #16/14 in 1994, #17/16 in 1997 and #14/15 in 2000 - but they haven't won more than four games in a season since 2008, and their average record over the past ten years has been 4-8. Georgia State is coming off a 1-10 FCS season, including a loss to the Tennessee Volunteers... and that's pretty bad. UT-Chattanooga has four straight 6-5 or 5-6 seasons - before that, things were really ugly.
For all our mockery of Notre Dame's struggle with 6-7 Pitt, deep down we all know that most championship runs include at least one scare against an overmatched opponent. In 1975, only the 6-7 Missouri Tigers stood between the Crimson Tide and a perfect season, defeating Alabama 20-7 - none of our other regular-season opponents drew within single digits. In 1992, Alabama struggled to put away 7-4 Southern Miss. In 1999, the Tide beat Steve Spurrier's Florida Gators twice to win the SEC Championship, but fell to La. Tech. In 2009, it was 7-6 Tennessee who took the game down to the wire.
My poll question today was going to be which of our non-conference opponents posed the greatest threat to the threepeat, but our recent scheduling philosophy has rendered such a question absurd. As such, I will instead ask: what, in an era of a 14-team SEC and a 4-team postseason, is the best non-conference scheduling philosophy?