Ho-hum, Alabama is No. 1 in the preliminary S&P+ rankings. That’s not a stunner at all. No team has recruited at this clip, nor returns as much production, nor has had as consistent a multi-year track record.
But, what about the great unwashed? The Philistines that the Crimson Tide must face in the 2019 season? Glad you asked. This will be in two parts. Here are the non-con foes.
Duke (No. 65) — The Crimson Tide opens the season with Duke. Not a marquee game, but not shameful one either. The ‘Devils under Cutcliffe are a consistent 7-to-8-win bowl team, and sometimes even mess around and win 9 or 10. Besides, these two programs share a lot of history. If you’re new, or missed it, or just want to revisit it, check out Kleph’s piece here on the Tide-Blue Devil connection.
New Mexico State (No. 121) — Not a good game, Bob. This will be the worst team Alabama faces all season. But, be prepared to defend this stinker on the schedule. Nearly everyone has this kind of bodybag game: Wisconsin and Miami play No. 122 Central Michigan; Kansas State and Notre Dame play No. 123 Bowling Green; Illinois plays No. 124 Akron; Texas and Baylor and Wake play No. 125 Rice; BYU and Northwestern play No. 126 UMass; Nebraska plays No. 127 South Alabama; Texas A&M and Baylor play No. 128 UTSA; Indiana and Illinois play no. 129 UConn; Texas Tech plays No. 130 UTEP — and those are just the games against teams worse than the one on Alabama’s slate. BIG 10 AIN’T PLAYED NOBODY, PAWWWWL.
Southern Miss (No. 74) — This is another game against a middle-of-the road team. But, I suspect it will look better at the end of the year than the beginning (think Arkansas State last season or Fresno State in 2017). Southern Miss will compete for the C-USA crown in a very crowded Western Division (North Texas, UAB, La. Tech), or at least will be a bowl team. Besides, as I discussed in an Historical about five years ago, this is a long-time intersectional rivalry that at times has outpaced even conference rivalries in terms of heat and upsets. This is the closest thing to an honorary SEC member the conference has.
Western Carolina (NR) — Never mind. The NMSU game will, in fact, not be the worst one on a weaker non-conference schedule. WCU is not ranked in the S&P+, but you kind of shudder to see where they would fall...last season the Catamounts were 204th in the Sagarin ratings. But, again, the annual FCS game serves a purpose far above and beyond being a 12th game on the schedule. I will defend playing it every single year for many reasons too. Still, you do wish this were against a quality FCS foe, a distinction WCU doesn’t possess.
Tomorrow, we’ll take an in-depth look at the conference slate, which should prove to be brutal. There aren’t any real marquee matchups this season out of league play. Still, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are two solid bowl teams, an early season cupcake to work out roster kinks and two-deep positioning, and then there’s the end-of-year Senior Day FCS game for the walk-ons and guys who don’t see much action. There are a lot worse schedules out there, that’s for sure.
Now, your turn: With the advantage of some advanced stats, how do you grade the Tide’s non-con schedule?
Grade the Alabama 2019 Non-SEC schedule
This poll is closed
A — And I will fight a man who says otherwise
B — You never know, NMSU could rebound to bowl form again
C — About where it needs to be in a year where the Tide travels to Sakerlina and Auburn
D — Gross. Couldn’t we get Charleston Southern or another good FCS team on the schedule or something?
F — I WANT A SCHEDULE LIKE MY DYNASTY MODE ON NCAA ‘!4