There’s absolutely no way to sugar coat this one. Woof.
.@AlabamaFTBL's lineup for 2019: pic.twitter.com/oucQGHU9if— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) September 18, 2018
The 2019 Alabama football schedule has been released and it is woeful. At first blush, it’s bag-over-the-head shameful. I would almost say indefensible, but I’ll try and provide some defense, such as I can make in any event:
- The Tide has a well-documented and long-standing difficulty in finding marquee out-of-conference teams that want to pony up for a one-off neutral site game. There are other big-time games on the horizon, including drool-worthy home-and-home games...just not in 2019.
- There are plenty of historical ties between Alabama and Duke. This game is not as nonsensical as it would seem to be at first blush. Alabama’s football history is woven with that of Texas A&M, Duke, and especially Notre Dame. Bammers will understand the reason for this one, though most will not. And David Cutcliffe really will travel anywhere to play anyone. So, hats off to him.
- There is a long, historical series with Southern Miss. —There shouldn’t be a problem explaining that game. In fact, the Golden Eagles have a comparable win percentage against Alabama that Ole Miss and State do. Harvard at Hattiesburg has a better one than Kentucky or Vanderbilt.
- It is the off-year for the Tide, meaning that Alabama faces A&M, Auburn, Mississippi State and South Carolina on the road — all are likely bowl teams, and all are likely to be ranked.
Now, to the deserved criticism:
- New Mexico State? The Aggies don’t even have a conference. They were so dreadful, they were kicked out of the Sun Belt...The Sun Belt,
- Alabama’s conference road schedule is fairly tough, but that’s an accident of the calendar, not a volitional act.
- Arkansas, Ole Miss and Tennessee are going to suck out loud. But, like the road schedule being tough, this is also an accident of the calendar. Hard to fault Alabama for the inept hirings of conference rivals.
- I generally defend the FCS game, and there is an editorial coming about that very thing next week. But, while the Tide can face FCS playoff teams like UT-Chatt and Charleston Southern and still hold their heads up, it is hard to defend slaughtering Western Carolina and Mercer. It’s doubly hard to justifiy when there are plenty of quality D1AA teams in the region to reach out to: Nicholls State, Kennesaw State, McNeese State and Wofford come to mind.
Nick Saban and Greg Byrne will be asked about this, and they should be. It will be criticized heavily, and it should be. It will anger ticket holders, and it should. One thing the program has done exceptionally well is generate buzz with brand-name games early in the season. Everything about this leaves you flat, however. And there is absolutely zero value being generated for those who have spent thousands and waited years to get a seat in Bryant Denny Stadium.
Worse, it’s just boring and seems stale. And a stale program in a short-memory era where there are so many other entertainment options is a killer for program revenue, recruiting excitement, and butts in seats...even at Alabama.
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