Last week’s SEC Spring Meetings in Destin ended with uncertainty as to the format of future football scheduling past 2024. At stake is whether teams will play eight or nine conference games. For 2024, all teams will play eight SEC games with a required game against at least one ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 opponent or Notre Dame.
The conference debate of moving to a nine game schedule hit some snags. Alabama was one of several programs that had some problems with the proposed structure. Most notably was Nick Saban who was not on board with his Crimson Tide having Auburn, Tennessee and LSU as fixed opponents. This of course was followed by a rash of Bama-haters running to social media to take a dig at the Alabama coach with the uninformed poke of “iS saBAn ScArED oF a nInE gAMe sChEdULe?”
The truth is, Saban has been the lone voice in the wilderness calling for nine games for over a decade. Being opposed 1-13 for such a long time, Saban began lining up higher profile out-of-conference games. He was the first to agree to a “Kickoff” game at a neutral site at the beginning of the season in 2008 when the Tide defeated Clemson in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game - a scheduling trend that would spread throughout the SEC and beyond.
After awhile, Kickoff organizers were having trouble finding suitable opponents for the Tide. Sensing this change, Alabama helped shift the narrative away from Kickoff games and onto traditional home-and-home games with Power teams. This season and last, it is Texas. But Alabama has quietly added a new wrinkle to scheduling, going from one out-of-conference game against a Power team to two. In 2025, Bama will face Wisconsin AND Florida State with strategy lined up for the foreseeable future.
09/05 - at West Virginia
09/19 - Florida State
09/04 - West Virginia
09/18 - at Ohio State
09/09 - Ohio State
09/23 - at Oklahoma State
09/01 - at Notre Dame
09/15 - Oklahoma State
08/31 - at Georgia Tech
09/14 - Notre Dame
08/30 - Georgia Tech
09/13 - at Boston College
09/03 - at Arizona
09/17 - Minnesota
09/02 - at Virginia Tech
09/16 - Boston College
09/01 - Virginia Tech
Florida, South Carolina and Georgia have also started to follow this strategy of multiple OOC games against Power teams (the others have not as of yet). With the nine SEC games schedule looking inevitable, would these schools attempt to cancel some of those series? From a fan’s perspective, you would have to hope not.
In 2019, Saban stated that he would like to see Alabama and every Power 5 school play “at least 10 Power 5 games,” and even went as far as saying “let’s play all Power 5 games”. At this rate, he might get his wish.
Some true Gump in the Alabama Athletics Department did some research before presenting some of these proposed opponents to AD Greg Byrne. On the docket are a few revenge games that are a long time coming.
Alabama has losing records against 12 programs. Many opportunities to lower that number are on the horizon.
- Oklahoma (2-3-1) - With the Sooners joining the SEC, the Tide will have plenty of opportunities to flip this record into plus .500 territory.
- TCU (2-3) - Bama lost three in a row to the Frogs in the 50s with the infamous “Ears” Whitworth at the helm. Paul “Bear” Bryant would arrive the next season but it would take until 1974 and 1975 for the Tide to close the gap. Alabama would outscore TCU 86-3 in the two wins.
- Notre Dame (3-5) - The Fighting Irish were a team Bryant struggled mightily against (0-4). Saban has a two game winning streak against Notre Dame with rematches on the way in 2029 and 2030.
- UCLA (1-2) - This one NEEDS to be next. Godawful performances in 2000 and 2001 put the Crimson Tide in a hole.
- Boston College (1-3) - Doug Flutie and a devastating injury to Kerry Goode led to losses in 1984 and 1985. Home and home in 2031 and 2034 should right those wrongs.
- Texas (2-7-1) - Bryant had a heck of a time with Darrell Royal, going 0-3-1 against the Longhorns legendary coach. Alabama got their first win over Texas in the 2009-10 BCS Championship. The second win came last season. A victory this fall will bring Bama that much closer to evening up this record against the future conference foe.
- UCF (0-1) - Mike DuBose’s 2000 season (3–8) led to his departure. It would be hard to imagine UCF agreeing to a regular season meeting because they now think they are a big boy and deserve and home and home. But with the College Football Playoff expansion to 12 teams, there is a good chance of a near future matchup.
- Minnesota (0-1) - A miserable 2004 Music City Bowl loss is still a nagging stain on this program. 2032 and 2033 cannot get here soon eneough.
- Northern Illinois (0-1) - Mike Shula’s 2003 debut season was not a pretty one. The regular season loss to NIU was one of many that autumn as the Tide went 4–9 (2–6 SEC). Not to make excuses but Alabama’s opponent was pretty good that season (10-2) with future Falcons All-Pro Michael Turner at running back. It might take awhile, but we could see the Huskies back in Tuscaloosa sometime in the future.
- Oklahoma State (0-1) - The Cowboys winning the 2006 Independence Bowl actually did Alabama a favor. It led to Shula’s dismissal and the arrival of the G.O.A.T. Will Saban still be on the sidelines in 2028 and 2029? Never say “never”.
- Rice (0-3) - I’d be shocked if these two ever meet up again in our lifetimes. Maybe Justin Sayin’s grandkids will bear witness to one game.
- Utah (0-1) - Oooh... Another itch that needs to be scratched. In only Saban’s second season, he had Bama at 12-0 and back in the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 1999. But the Tide would lose to Florida and then came out flat and uninspired against the Utes. Not to waste a failure, Saban would use this defeat to take that next step towards greatness. In this situation, we could see a home and home in the future but the odds are better at a playoff showdown.
- Also of note, Alabama is 1-1 versus Cal, Syracuse, and Wisconsin but all three losses came back before Saban’s parents even met. Derrick Henry punished the Badgers in 2015 in a game played in Texas. Bama and Wisky reunite in 2024 and 2025.
In short, by 2034 Alabama could get out of the red against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Notre Dame, Boston College, and Minnesota.
Which series are you most looking forward to?
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