Stuart McNair

Alabama 2016 football success may depend in part on schedule luck

A look at 2016 Alabama football schedule and how it may impact season

It is too early to make intelligent decisions on a pre-season college football poll -- and some would suggest that “intelligent” and “pre-season college football poll” should never be in the same sentence. Our contention has always been that it doesn’t really matter, and pre-season polls are just part of the discussion of college football.




People may argue about polls well into the season, too.




While not ready to attempt a pre-season poll, either Southeastern Conference or national, that will be part of our challenge in upcoming months.




Years ago we learned from Coach Paul Bryant that two factors are beyond control for a college football team. They are injury luck and schedule luck.




Injury luck cuts both ways. Obviously, it can affect your team if key players are injured. It can also affect the opponents should they suffer injuries.




Schedule luck is a little more complicated. Primarily it is whether opponents are better or worse than expected, but it also involves when (and, to some extent, where) those teams are played.




Is there an open date situation? What team is on the schedule before or after a game? What team is on the opponent’s schedule before or after the game? Where is the game played? It should be remembered, though, that Alabama has had some of its biggest wins on the road and some of its most disappointing losses when playing at home.




Here is a look at Alabama’s 2016 schedule and how it may be lucky or unlucky:




Sept. 3 – Southern Cal @ Arlington, Texas: This should be good luck for Alabama. USC is a great brand and this will be the highlight contest of the so-called kickoff games, but the Trojans may not be as good as their name as they continue rebuilding after devastating NCAA scholarship reduction. There should be no advantage either way from a preparation standpoint. There could be a slight edge for Alabama playing in the Dallas Cowboys Stadium, where the Crimson Tide is 3-0 – all the wins coming in national championship seasons, including two last year.




Sept. 10 – Western Kentucky: This is a tune-up for the Southeastern Conference opener.




Sept. 17 – @ Ole Miss: The Rebels have the home field advantage and, perhaps, a psychological edge in hosting Alabama since Mississippi has defeated the Crimson Tide each of the past two years (to pull to within about 10-50 all-time). The Rebs get a tough test against Florida State in Orlando to open the season, but have more of a cupcake than Alabama in the pre-SEC game, hosting Wofford.




Sept. 24 – Kent State: Nice payoff for Nick Saban’s alma mater.




Oct. 1 – Kentucky: Former Alabama Basketball Coach C.M. Newton used to lament that “Coach Bryant beats the hell out of everyone in the fall and they want to take it out on me in the winter.” Kentucky’s basketball team defeated the Tide three times this year, and Bama should be able to take it out on the football team at Homecoming. One schedule factor for the Tide is that Kentucky is followed by a tough SEC road game, but Saban has done a pretty good job of his teams keeping focus.




Oct. 8 -- @ Arkansas: The Razorbacks no doubt have a belief that they can get over the hump against Alabama. Two years ago in Fayetteville Arkansas came within an eyelash of defeating Bama, and the Hogs warm up the week before this year’s game with Alcorn State. The Tide also has the problem of early hype beginning for what would seem to be the key SEC West vs. SEC East the next week when Alabama goes to Tennessee.




Oct. 15 -- @ Tennessee: The Third Weekend in October has decided more SEC championships than any other series, and this year Tennessee is the early – and heavy --favorite to be best in the East. Alabama has a nine-game winning streak going against the Vols (the tenure of Saban). This will be the last in a very tough four-game stretch for Tennessee – Florida, at Georgia, and at Texas A&M preceding the Bama visit.




Oct. 22 – Texas A&M: Unquestionably, the biggest win in modern Texas A&M history came in Tuscaloosa in 2012 as the Aggies and Johnny Manziel handed the Tide a 29-24 defeat, Bama’s only loss in a national championship season and Manziel’s claim to the Heisman Trophy. A&M’s last trip to Tuscaloosa was not so good, Alabama taking a 59-0 win. Last year Alabama extended its winning streak to three with a 41-23 win in College Station. The Aggies have an open date the week before playing Bama, A&M having played four SEC teams in succession to that point – at Auburn, Arkansas in Arlington, at South Carolina, and Tennessee.




Nov. 5 -- @ LSU: LSU will be the second and final SEC opponent to have an open date before playing Alabama, but the Tide also has an open date before going to Baton Rouge. LSU is rightfully considered Bama’s toughest opponent in the West, but the all-time record is a surprising 50-25-5 in Alabama’s favor, including the Tide having a 27-9-2 advantage in Tiger Stadium. The pressure on LSU Coach Les Miles, coupled with the stress of Saban back in town may work for Bama. No one really looks past Alabama, but the Tigers have a tough game the next week at Arkansas.




Nov. 12 – Mississippi State: In 100 previous games, Alabama has 79 wins against 18 losses and 3 ties in this series of the two geographically-closest SEC rivals. Last year the Bulldogs were all excited, hosting Alabama and having the league’s top quarterback in Dak Prescott. Bama won, 31-6. The Bulldogs last won in Tuscaloosa the year before Saban arrived.




Nov. 19 – Chattanooga: The losers will be the Mocs (0-12 all-time against the Tide) and the Alabama ticket buyers.




Nov. 26 – Auburn: Auburn has done very well against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, a 7-3 record in favor of the Tigers. Most of those wins came against poor Bama teams, but Cam Newton-led Auburn also defeated Alabama, 28-27, in 2010 en route to AU’s second national championship in history. The Tide has won the last two home games, 49-0 and 55-44. The schedule ordinarily does not factor into this rivalry.

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