The 2013 Alabama Crimson Tide football season is still many months away, but we did get a small piece of good news this week; a slight glimmer in the crushing blackness of the offseason with the release of Alabama’s 2013 schedule.
Of course I immediately started pouring over the Tide’s slate of games, trying to discern which games will be the toughest, which games could be potential traps, and which opponents have bye weeks before playing the Tide. Presented below are my way too early, first-pass thoughts on the schedule:
The move to two bye weeks is interesting. Alabama has open dates in weeks two and ten, and while my first thought about having a bye after playing only one game was disappointment, I realized the week three opponent is Texas A&M in College Station, so I am on board. The other open date is before playing LSU, so the Tide has off weeks before what should be the two toughest regular season games.
The non-conference schedule is pathetic, consisting of Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Georgia State and UT Chattanooga. I understand the Colorado State game. The paycheck will provide former Tide offensive coordinator Jim McElwain capital to help build his program, which is much deserved as a thank you for his years of service in Tuscaloosa.
Although he is now retired, I have to believe that Georgia State is on the schedule as a favor to former Alabama coach Bill Curry. Chattanooga is essentially a bye before the Iron Bowl, which itself in recent years has become a tune up game for conference and national championship games.
Virginia Tech is obviously the toughest non-conference game as the Hokies are a BCS program coached by one of the best in the game in Frank Beamer. The ACC has been less than formidable in recent years, and Virginia Tech has not been up to their typical standard the past few seasons. A potential monkey wrench could be the Hokies breaking in a new quarterback. If the new starter is somebody that not much film exists on, it could be a challenge. Normally a new quarterback against a Nick Saban defense would be nothing of concern, but after a certain redshirt freshman clinched the Heisman Trophy in Tuscaloosa last year, my guard is up.
The crossover games with East division teams look to be favorable this season as the Tide draw Kentucky and Tennessee, both of whom have new coaches. Kentucky gets Alabama at home, but at the end of a three-game stretch including Florida and South Carolina. Welcome to the SEC, coach Stoops. Tennessee has been delightfully horrid in recent seasons, and with the loss of most of their offensive production I expect that trend to continue, which absolutely fills my heart with joy.
The September 28th game against Ole Miss looks to be very interesting since Hugh Freeze is fresh off signing a recruiting class that was nothing short of phenomenal. Freeze and the Running Rebel Black Bear Fighting Faulkners made serious improvements last year, which coupled with the recruiting successes have raised expectations in Oxford. Ole Miss will not have the luxury of sneaking up on opponents in 2013, so it will be quite intriguing to watch how they handle the pressure.
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Although it is only late February and the Tide has been hit with the annual exodus of talent to the NFL the early indicators point to Alabama having a great chance to win the West and compete for the SEC Championship. Rebuilt offensive and defensive lines will tell the story of the 2013 season. Fortunately Nick Saban still captains the ship and continues to bring in the raw materials on the recruiting trails.