Alabama football once again appears ahead of their competitors by scheduling daunting home and home games. The Crimson Tide continue as the standard bearers for college football.
Since Alabama football coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide have mastered the neutral site opening game. Past opponents were Clemson, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin, USC, Florida State and this season’s first opponent Louisville. Atlanta, Arlington or Orlando have been the sites for these games increasing the Tide’s exposure in those states.
Having this type of matchup on a national platform gives Saban a profound recruiting advantage. Recruits realize that Saban is not above playing elite competition. Remember iron sharpens iron. This type of unique scheduling provides the Tide with an undeniable prime time slot. The country watches Alabama obliterate its opponent and later, ask for seconds.
In the movie Rocky III, Balboa’s manager Mickey had Rocky fight bums to pad his winning record and keep his heavyweight title. That is not the approach employed by Athletic Director Greg Byrne. He has worked expeditiously in scheduling quality home and home games for the fans. Byrne told Bama Online,
“So, I’ve had conversations with several different ADs about some home-and-homes, and then that have any merit to them I go and talk to Coach (Nick) Saban about them. Those are ongoing discussions, and there will be schools that have some interest in playing us, and there will some schools that don’t. And that’s OK, that’s part of the scheduling process.”
Here are five suggestions for series that fans would knock people over to attend:
5. Florida Atlantic Owls
Could you imagine a spry Nick Saban against a diffident Lane Kiffin in Boca Raton? Visualize 29,495 crazy fans expressing to Saban the mistake he made “mutually parting” ways with their head coach. Last season, Kiffin led the FAU Owls to an 11-3 record and a Conference USA Championship last year. He has Owl nation and the affluent city thrilled about football.
The Tide has faced the Owls twice in Tuscaloosa. The combined score of the Tide’s wins is 81-7. If this matchup were to transpire, it would need to occur before Saban retires or Kiffin heads to a more prominent football program.
The other big challenge would be making the payouts work. A 30K capacity stadium does not fund a Crimson Tide appearance fee. Then again, it is Boca – how much are WELL-heeled FAU supporters willing to ante up?
4. Florida State Seminoles
Observing the Crimson Tide at Bobby Bowden Field in Doak Campbell Stadium at night with 80,000 fans bidding to disrupt the team with their poignant tomahawk chops would provide a challenging environment for Alabama.
The jury is out on the type of team new head coach Willie Taggert will field. He has garnered a reputation for turning around football teams such as the University of South Florida and Oregon. Taggert is a hard-charging recruiter that will keep the Seminoles relevant for a long time.
Florida State played in Tuscaloosa in 1965 and two neutral site games in Jacksonville (2007) and Atlanta (2017).
3. Clemson Tigers
This game would draw plenty of interest as former Alabama player Dabo Swinney would face Saban twice without it being a winner take all contest. The last time the Crimson Tide played Clemson in South Carolina was in 1969. Legendary Bear Bryant was the coach. The grizzled head coach led the Tide to a 38-13 victory over Frank Howard’s Tigers. Clemson last appeared in Tuscaloosa in 1975 and lost 56-0.
Swinney has made the Tigers a national power with his strong recruiting and player development. Watching these two powerhouses duke it out in the regular season would be fun to watch.
2. Michigan Wolverines
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Saban versus quirky Jim Harbaugh on a brisk Saturday afternoon in the Big House would be quite entertaining. Since Harbaugh’s arrival, the Wolverines have underachieved placing the infamous bespectacled khaki pants wearing coach on the proverbial hot seat. Shocking 100,000 plus fans with a win would do wonders for critics that state Alabama is scared to play games past the Mason-Dixon line.
These storied programs have faced each other four times at neutral sites but never at home. Two matchups have occurred in Tampa, one in Miami and the other in Arlington, Texas.
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
The game’s two best coaches squaring off in a home and home matchup would create a buzz throughout college football. Both of these teams are at the top of college football’s landscape making it must-see television. Last time Alabama faced Ohio State in the inaugural College Football Playoff, they lost 42-35 leading to a Buckeyes’ national championship.
Lastly, there have been four matchups but neither at the home team’s stadium. Knowing this is quite surprising since these two blue blood programs are consistently mentioned annually as the nation’s best for no matchup to have occurred inside their respective stadiums.
Neutral site games are great money makers for the universities. However, Greg Byrne, I hope you are listening. Give the fans some exciting matchups at Bryant Denny Stadium to look forward to in the future.