Tide Had Expected Tougher Schedule

Prior to the start of the 2012 football season, Alabama was considered to have a very difficult schedule. The Crimson Tide opened the season in Dallas against eighth-ranked Michigan and had to go to 10th-rated Arkansas two weeks later. There were other difficult road games, too, not to mention some tough home contests.

Alabama going to Missouri this week and Tennessee next week was considered difficult. Playing at LSU on Nov. 3 was considered to be the biggest game in the nation when pre-season polls were being considered. Texas A&M was seen as a tough game, coming the week after LSU, and Auburn in Tuscaloosa has been historically tough.

Most would now say that Alabama's schedule is not as difficult as expected. Although Michigan is back in the top 25, it just barely is. Arkansas has beaten only one major team, and that is Auburn, which has beaten only Louisiana Monroe. LSU was struggling even before losing to Florida last week. Missouri expected a better start to the season, as did Tennessee.

Mississippi State is undefeated, but has played a weaker schedule than Alabama. Ole Miss seems to be improved, but still hasn't beaten anyone in the SEC in a long, long time.

The Tide schedule features four teams ranked in the top 25 in addition to Arkansas, which had been ranked in the pre-season. In the AP poll, LSU is ninth, Mississippi State 19th, Texas A&M 22nd, and Michigan 25th.

Fortunately for Alabama, strength of schedule is not a major component in choosing a national football champion. That's not to say that it doesn't factor in to some computer mumbo jumbo that is used in the BCS compilation, but if the Crimson Tide wins all its games, it's likely Bama will be in Miami on Jan. 7, 2013.

That's because Alabama is a marquis name. The Tide won last year's national championship, one of two under Nick Saban. Bama slo won in 2009. The Crimson Tide is ranked number one in the polls that are most watched, unanimously in the Associated Press poll (which doesn't figure into BCS rankings, at least not directly) and getting 58 of 59 votes in the Coaches Poll.

Alabama has been ranked in the past 72 AP polls, the longest streak in the nation. Bama being ranked number one in the nation marks the fifth consecutive year the Tide has earned that spot at some point during each of those seasons, a Bama record and second only to Miami's streak of seven years with at least one number one ranking during the 1980s.

Alabama will attempt to run its record to 6-0 and its Southeastern Conference mark to 3-0 when the Crimson Tide goes to Columbia Saturday. Missouri is 3-3 overall and 0-3 in SEC games, losses to highly ranked teams Georgia and South Carolina, but coming off a setback last week at the hands of Vanderbilt.

In addition to losing to the Commodores, Missouri lost several players to injury, including starting quarterback James Franklin.

Alabama had an open date last week after defeating Ole Miss, 33-14, in its last outing.

Alabama has the most victories of any BCS team in the nation since the start of the 2007 season, five-plus seasons. The Tide has 60 wins. Missouri ranks 12th in that category with 51 victories.

Although Alabama is getting some criticism for having a light schedule, that is not the fault of Alabama. And when the Tide does come up against tough teams, Bama holds its own. Since the beginning of the 2008 season, Alabama has played ranked teams 25 times and has a record of 19-6 in those games. In games against teams ranked in the top 10, Bama is 11-4.

Missouri can take some hope in hosting the nation's number one team this week. The last time number one went to Columbia was 2010 when Oklahoma arrived undefeated. The Sooners left town on the wrong end of a 36-27 score.

Otherwise, though, Missou is 0-12 against number one teams, including Alabama's only win against the Tigers. In 1978 Bama went to Faurot Field-Memorial Stadium as number one and fell behind by 20-17 at halftime. The Tide rebounded in the second half to win 38-20 en route to the national championship.

Missouri has a 2-1 advantage in the series. Missouri won the first meeting between the schools, a 35-10 win over a weak Alabama team in the Gator Bowl at the end of the 1968 season. In 1975, Missouri and Alabama opened the season in Birmingham and the Tigers earned a 20-7 win over a very strong Bama team. The Tide would not lose another game in going 11-1 and defeating Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.

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