The first S&P+ projections dropped this week. As expected, Alabama is No. 1. The more interesting examination is to take a closer peek at Alabama’s SOS, which has already been derided. Yesterday broke down Alabama’s non-conference schedule. And, while it doesn’t have a Texas or a Penn State on it, 2019 is nevertheless decent — two bowl teams on the card. Where the critcism will come (and probably somewhat warranted) is that when it’s bad, it’s really bad: including a below-average FCS foe and the woeful, independent New Mexico State Aggies.
As usual, the bulk of ‘Bama’s heavy lifting will be done in conference play. Last year the West didn’t quite live up to its bidding, and some solid teams from 2018 go into this season with question makrs.
So, let’s see how the conference games stack up, and then put it all together:
At South Carolina (No. 18) — The Tide’s conference opener isn’t an easy one. Alabama travels to face a very solid Gamecocks team that has recruited better under Will Muschamp. The stats are much higher on USCe than I am, so we’ll have to see how the season pans out. For now, let’s pencil in their usual 7 or 8 wins, a middle-of-the-pack finish in the East, and then a marginal New Year’s bowl.
Ole Miss (No. 40) — Judging from Ole Miss’ recruiting haul this year, it looks like #TheNetwork has replenished the coffers in Oxford. There’s a lot ton of talent to replace here, however, and particularly on the offense. The strength of this team should be the Rebels’ running game. But 40th? Nah. Clawing for .500 seems more likely.
At Texas A&M (No. 13) — As Ole Miss and South Carolina seem a tad high, the Aggies’ seem a tad low. This is will be a Top 10 team even given their yearly habit of they finish shooting themselves in the foot. With all due respect to dance partner LSU, outside of the Iron Bowl this is the toughest game on Alabama’s schedule.
Tennessee (No. 21) — No rest for the wicked: The third straight conference game for the Tide sees Alabama host a team that very well could surprise. The Vols have poached quality coaches, are looking to add solid players through transfer, and had a stupendous recruiting class for such a bad team. It’s likely a tougher game than FOGs probably guess in February — though, like South Carolina, probably still not a marginal Top 20 team. Six-seven wins seems about right, doesn’t it?
Arkansas (No. 48) — Alabama finally catches a break...of sorts. At the end of a four-game SEC swing, staring at the bye, the Tide face the Hogs at home. Chad Morris’ team was significantly better down the stretch last year, even if still up-and-down. He’s brought an infusion of talent in NSD19, the raison d’être for his hiring. This team is still a year away though. The one thing I would highlight is that since this game was moved to mid-/late-October, Alabama has traditionally played sluggishly against WPS. The 8th game of the season, going into Amen Corner? ‘Bama is likely to be flat in this one.
LSU (No. 3) — On paper, this figures to be the Tide’s most important and difficult game of the season. It’s always physical and usually enjoyable for that reason. But, the Tigers’ crootin’ class hasn’t quite been what it needs to be to compete for a title; the defense lost a lot of talent; and the offense is still an Ensminger product. It won’t be a blowout — it rarely is; but it will probably be tighter than we’d like.
At Mississippi State (No. 10) — This was an intriguing team last year with a playoff-caliber defense, a senior QB, good OL, and plenty of talent in the backfield. No one really anticipated Bully’s offensive struggles though. In 2019, Clanga returns a ton on offense: Keytaon Thompson and EE dual-threat Garret Schrader have a higher ceiling than Nick Fitzgerald. Alabama almost always plays horribly in this one. And, after the LSU game, on the road, this is a loseable game....if ‘State can reload along the defensive front. And while that’s a big if, CLANGA isn’t going anywhere.
At Auburn (No. 8) — This team’s S&P+ is buoyed mainly by the defense, a unit that is expected to be lights out, just as good as it has since Kevin Steele took over. It will need to be too: The offense is at a crossroads, Gus’ future is uncertain, and if there were ever a must-win for Malzahn’s future, it’s picking up a home split versus Georgia and/or Alabama. None of that matters at the end of the day: The Tide’s woes in Auburn are well-documented. Road games in the Iron Bowl have been exceedingly difficult for the Tide, even in the Saban era, and even in victory.
So, here’s what we have projected for the Tide’s opponents this year:
NON-CONFERENCE S&P+ (FCS OMITTED) — High (65), Low (121), Average (87)
CONFERENCE S&P+ — High (3), Low (48), Average (20), Median (15)
2019 SCHEDULE (FCS OMITTED)— High (3), Low (121), Average (38), Median (21)
‘Bama ain’t played no one, indeed. That’s a helluva schedule.
Your turn to grade the 2019 Alabama schedule and S&P+ projections:
Grade the 2019 Alabama Football Schedule
This poll is closed
A — That’s a lot harder than I thought
B — The bottom really drags it down
C — Some good, some bad, a lot of average
D — New Mexico State and Western Carolina are still inexcusable
F — I’m a Clemson troll