Much like I skipped over Mike Price, I'm skipping writing an entire post on Joe Kines' out of conference career at Alabama since he was an interim head coach. It never hurts to link to this video though.
Saban hasn't coached a single game at Alabama yet, but his first two schedules are set (excluding bowl games obviously), so I figured I'd take a look at the eight out of conference games scheduled for Coach Saban.
Western Carolina: For future reference, I will NEVER pass up an opportunity to complain about Alabama scheduling games against 1-AA teams. Saban's first game comes against an uber-cupcake. Oddly enough, Western Carolina was also the first team Saban coached against while at LSU. The result of that game? 58-0 to the Bayou Bengals. I expect about the same here since we beat them 52-0 in 2004 in a game that saw us lose Brodie Croyle for the entire season.
Florida State: This is the third game in tough trio of games for the new coach (the previous two weeks' games are against Arkansas and Georgia.) Alabama has a completely new staff and there's been a lot of turnover in Tallahassee as well. I think the results of the previous two games will greatly impact the result of this one as they will be two confidence builders or a pair of confidence breakers. Regardless with all of the unknowns right now, this one is too close to call.
Houston: I would be way more worried about this one if it were Houston `06 lining up against us. Last year, the Cougars posted 10 wins (including one over Oklahoma State) and gave South Carolina all they could handle in the Liberty Bowl. Things should be different this year though as they've lost their superstar QB Kevin Kolb. Oh yeah, we also have Nick Saban on the sidelines instead of Mike Shula. Could be closer than people expect, but we will post a "W." Oddly enough, Saban also coached against Houston in his first season at LSU with the Tigers winning 28-13. SMQ breaks down Houston here.
Louisiana-Monroe: If this weren't the last home game of 2007, people would be giving tickets to this game away. They probably will be anyway. No one should be subjected to having to watch Louisiana-Monroe two years in a row. It's like they're actively seeking to inflict pain upon the ticket buyers. Money in the bank win. Saban coached LSU to a 49-7 opening day victory over Louisiana-Monroe in 2003. Check SMQ's 2007 write up of LA-Mon here.
Western Kentucky: I will NEVER pass up an opportunity to complain about Alabama scheduling games against 1-AA teams....EVER...and I mean it. At least WKU will be 1-A in 2009 when they become full members of the Sun Belt. That's the most positive spin I can put on the school for scheduling this game. We should win this one handily.
Tulane: Though it was before my time, Tulane used to a member of the SEC and apparently some of the older fans don't mind this one as much as us younger fans do. Both of my parents don't seem to have an issue with this one, but all of my friends do. It's a generational thing I guess. Regardless of where you sit on whether or not this game should've been scheduled, we're all expecting a win.
UTEP: Mike Price has greatly improved the football in West Texas compiling a 21-15 record in his three seasons there (UTEP posted a 6-32 record in the three seasons prior to Prices' arrival.) Despite all of the improvement and the emotional incentive this game will have for Price, I just don't see them taking Alabama at home in year two of the Saban era.
Northern Illinois: Isn't it terrible that this is a revenge game for us? I know Northern Illinois fielded a pretty good team in 2003, but we still shouldn't have lost it. I certainly don't envision Northern Illinois being the new Louisiana Tech around here.
Regarding the regular season, Saban should be no worse than 7-1 out of conference after two years. A perfect 8-0 isn't out of reach though. Throw in a couple of bowls and we can reasonably expect anywhere from 7-3 to 10-0 through two years of out of conference games. Obviously, the loss to UAB while at LSU scares the crap out of me, but Saban pretty much won the rest of the "sure wins" at LSU. I realized while compiling this list that I was at Saban's last college game, a loss to Iowa in the Capital One Bowl. Given our 0-7 all time record against Texas, I'm disappointed to see Saban hasn't beaten them either.
For those of you curious to see how Coach Saban fared against out of conference foes while in charge at LSU, here's the list:
Arkansas State (1-0)
Georgia Tech (1-0)
Louisiana Tech (1-0)
Miami (OH) (1-0)
Middle Tennessee State (1-0)
Oregon State (1-0)
Utah State (1-0)
Virginia Tech (0-1)
Western Carolina (1-0)
Western Illinois (1-0)
18-4 (.818) overall at LSU