After LSU won the National Championship in 2007, the names of Nick Saban and Les Miles were frequently spoken in the same breath. Many of those who cover the game coupled the two together as being among the best at what they do. Fast forward ten years and Saban has five new National Championship rings and Les Miles is an unemployed pariah. The reason for this discrepancy in fates is that one coach knew to evolve and adapt and the other ate grass. As much as he despised up-tempo football, Saban knew he had to evolve and adapt. He has broadened his horizons to tempo, spread formations and run-pass play options depending on his quarterback’s skills. Meanwhile, Miles was running the same old offense and did not know how to recruit a quarterback.
You may be wondering why the history lesson? It is time for more evolving.
In his press conference a week ago, Saban was asked about the possibility of home-and-home series and if scheduling had “evolved over time”. His elusive reply was that “the philosophy has always been that we want to add at least one quality opponent to our schedule” but aside from the Penn State series, “we’ve never been able to get that worked out like we want to.” Because of this difficulty to find a good match, Saban continued, “we’ve played in a lot of the neutral site games to get a good opponent.”
Greg Byrne was interviewed by WJOX on Monday of this week and offered a slightly different take but echoed Saban’s statement. “The model... has worked very well...” referring to the Kickoff Classic games the Tide has played over the last decade. He went on to say that they want to be “respectful of what’s happened in the past but at the same time, do things that evolve,” alluding to the talk of scheduling home-and-home series in the near future. The Kickoff Games have been good to the Tide but the next two foes in the next two season openers, Louisville and Duke, are not whipping up too much excitement.
Byrne remarked that the first step is to figure out “who makes sense” for Alabama to schedule such games. If the pool of willing opponents is drying up, it might be time to evolve back to marquee home-and-homes.
The Alabama AD also mentioned in his interview that many factors make it difficult to schedule. Much of it has to do with finding common open dates. Another, frankly, is that some teams don’t want any part of Bama (despite what signs the fans hold up during GameDay.) He did not say it but it can be assumed that the Tide is not going to grant such an agreement to just any old program.
This past week, reports surfaced that Alabama had been in talks with both Notre Dame and Texas as potential opponents. One web-based outlet added Southern Cal to that list but that notion has yet to be seconded.
Without saying which particular teams with whom they are negotiating, Saban and Byrne are clearly looking at the historically elite programs rather than the flash-in-the-pan teams for home-and-homes. The programs that would qualify as historically elite is a very short list. Along with the above mentioned three and Penn State, one might add the likes of Michigan, Ohio State, and Oklahoma. Some may add teams such as Stanford or Wisconsin but they have no legitimate national championships. Nebraska has not been relevant since the Tom Osbourne residue wore off some 20 years ago. That leaves Alabama with a handful of options.
One name to keep an eye on is Oklahoma. The Tide and Sooners have faced each other in many other sports as of late. Just in the past few months, the two schools have squared off in men’s basketball, gymnastics, and baseball. Clearly these two schools have an open line of communication. Oklahoma has lined up Power 5 (P5) home-and-homes for every season through 2030, except 2023. Alabama is also looking for a P5 opponent for that season.
It is strange that Alabama would be in talks with Notre Dame about a home-and-home. The Irish have already locked in their full schedule through 2020. In 2021, they have the second game of a pair with Wisconsin. In 2022, they begin a duo of games with Ohio State. Lester Cotton Jr. might be starting at right guard by the time these two schools face off during the regular season.
1922 is the last time the Tide and Longhorns lined up against each other during the regular season. I am sure you all remember the last time they played each other in January 2010. Again with Texas, there is a pretty full dance card. The ‘Horns plays LSU 2019-2020, Akransas in 2021, Ohio State 2022-2023, and Michigan in 2024 and 2027. Perhaps 2025-2026 fits the bill?
The Trojans have every intention to keep their long-running series with Notre Dame going. That won’t stand in the way of them adding a second Power 5 challenger. They have a return game to Texas this coming season and an odd away-home-home series with BYU 2019, 2021, and 2023. This leaves them open 2020 and 2022. Alabama is also looking for dance partners for those seasons.
FUTURE ALABAMA OOC P5 GAMES
As mentioned, the next two seasons of out-of-conference Power 5 games are complete duds. They consist of two Labor Day weekend Kickoff Games against middle-of-the-pack ACC teams. This season, it’s Louisville sans Lamar Jackson in Orlando, FL. In 2019, it’s back to Atlanta to face Duke. Another Chick fil-A game is scheduled for the Tide to face Miami in 2021. That leaves 2020, 2022 and beyond to fill.
HYPOTHETICAL FUTURE SCHEDULES
The following is just for funsies, but both Alabama and the potential opponents do have P5 OOC openings as of now.
2018: Louisville (Orlando) *
2019: Duke (ATL) *
2020: at Southern Cal **
2021: Miami (ATL) *
2022: Southern Cal **
2023: Oklahoma (Arlington) **
2024: Notre Dame **
2025: at Texas **
2026: Texas **
2027: at Notre Dame **
* Scheduled **Hypothetical.
REALITY FUTURE SCHEDULES
Dreadful, amirite? Outside of Miami in 2021, there are no other games that gets your pulse racing. While the proposed P5 home-and-homes are a step in the right direction, there is still the issue of the rest of the OOC schedule. They are stinkers.
Saban has long railed against playing FCS. Last July, he proposed all P5 teams should only play P5 teams. Yet here he is continuing to add these duds to the docket. It would have to be assumed that his reason is that he ain’t gonna do it, til everybody is doin’ it.
It is understandable to set up two games with mid-major teams such as Southern Miss and Arkansas State. It is that fourth game that needs to change. It would be more entertaining to see the Tide play a second P5 team, even if it is a lower tier team such as a Syracuse or an Indiana.
None of this is likely unless the P5 conferences all agree on a uniform guidelines to scheduling, or the more fantastical vision of the P5 breaking away from the NCAA.