SEC Goes Back To Drawing Board

The Southeastern Conference schedule maker has never been kind to Alabama football. Several years ago, when Roy Kramer was SEC commissioner, Bama's schedule had most league opponents with an open date (though perhaps filled with a creampuff non-conference opponent).

That prompted a call to one of the SEC administrators in an attempt to find out how it was league teams seemed frequently to have open dates before playing the Crimson Tide while no other conference team had that disadvantage.

The administrator huffed, "I assure you we aren't having meetings here to find ways to [be unfair to] Alabama."

I replied, "I think you may be missing some meetings."

The mathematical odds were out of the realm of possibility of random chance. For two consecutive years only one SEC opponent had a league game before playing Alabama. (It was Auburn playing Georgia.)

Things got a little better through the decade, although, of course, Tennessee was given the privilege of open dates before playing its two primary rivals. No, not those traditional heavyweights–Vanderbilt and Kentucky–that close out the Vols' season each year. Tennessee's open dates were prior to games against Florida and Alabama.

SEC schedule unfairness raised its head again in 2009.

Last season, half of Alabama's eight SEC opponents did not have a league game prior to playing the Crimson Tide (Tennessee, Mississippi State, and Auburn had open dates, and LSU played Tulane).

Coach Nick Saban's Crimson Tide was able to overcome both the opponents and the schedule advantages those teams had by going 8-0, part of what would eventually be a 14-0 national championship season.

Now it's even more unfair.

This season, Alabama's eight Southeastern Conference games include six against teams with an open date before playing the Crimson Tide. One of those, Auburn, will have the additional advantage for the second consecutive year of Alabama having to play the Tigers on Friday, meaning Bama has one less additional day or preparation than normal.

No other SEC team has more than one game against a team coming off an open date.

The situation is bad enough that Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore appealed to the SEC athletics directors to examine the problem. Unanimously, the athletics directors agreed with Moore that the schedule is unfair. As a result, the SEC has promised to attempt to rectify the situation as league schedules are determined for future years.

This season, Arkansas will have to play at Georgia the week before hosting Alabama on September 25. Florida will host Kentucky before traveling to Alabama on October 2.

The rest of Alabama's SEC schedule has the Tide going to South Carolina on October 9, the week following the Gamecocks' open date; Bama hosting Ole Miss October 16, the week after the Rebels' open date; The Tide going to Tennessee October 23, the week after the Vols' open date; both Alabama and LSU will have an open date the week before Bama goes to Baton Rouge on November 6; Alabama will host Mississippi State on November 13, the week after the Bulldogs' open date; and the Tide will host Auburn on Friday, November 26, after the Tigers' open date.

Early analysis of the conference schedule has a clear "Game To Watch." Alabama and Florida have won the last two national championships and have been the last two SEC Champions. That regular season match-up at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 2 is the top league game of 2010.

The top non-conference game is also an Alabama contest in Bryant-Denny Stadium. Coach Joe Paterno, the winningest coach in college football history, brings the Penn State Nittany Lions to Tuscaloosa on September 11. and selected the top ten games of the 2010 SEC season and half of them involve Alabama. The Alabama-Florida game was selected No. 1, followed by Alabama at LSU. Auburn-Alabama was No. 6, Ole Miss at Alabama No. 8, and Alabama at Arkansas No. 9. The Alabama-Penn State game was ranked top non-conference game by an SEC team this season.

Alabama opens the season in Bryant-Denny Stadium, which will seat over 101,000 with the South end zone renovation and expansion, on September 4 hosting San Jose State.

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