Alabama Football: Tide to have toughest schedule of Saban Era

(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images) /

Alabama football gets a bad reputation for having easy schedules, but that cannot be said in 2020. The Crimson Tide will have the toughest path to the CFP.

Strength of schedule has always been important in the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee, and people always use it to disrespect Alabama football. Critics bring up an easy season opener, a weak non-conference schedule, and only a couple of true tests in the SEC. That will not be the case in 2020. Alabama will have one of the toughest schedules in all of college football and possibly their toughest in a decade.

According to FPI, Alabama will face the third-toughest schedule in college football behind only Maryland and South Carolina. That is due to a perfect mix of non-conference games, the growth of the SEC West, and playing two tough SEC East opponents. Let’s look at how their schedule shapes up.

Their first test of the 2020 season will be on a neutral field against the USC Trojans. USC lost a few key contributors from last year, but they are a dark-horse candidate to win the Pac-12. With Slovis returning, their offense will be well-developed. Nick Saban has never lost a season opener at Alabama, but the Trojans will be a formidable foe to start out the season. They have no other true tests outside of the SEC, but this is a big one.

Alabama football’s traditional SEC East opponent is obviously Tennessee, and the Volunteers have been building something special in recent years. I think they are still a couple of seasons away from competing in the SEC East, but this game will be tougher than it used to be.

Alabama’s rotational game in the SEC East will be the Georgia Bulldogs, which adds so much to their schedule. It will be a home game, but Georgia is always a tough opponent. They’ve won their division each of the past three seasons, and they look to reload with Jamie Newman at quarterback. Georgia has all sorts of question marks, but they will be looking to get their first win against Alabama football since Saban has been the head coach. Kirby Smart will also be looking to be the first former assistant of Saban to beat him.

When you look at the SEC West, almost every team appears to be on the rise. Both Auburn and LSU are coming off of wins against the Tide, Texas A&M is still improving with Jimbo Fisher, and both teams in the state of Mississippi have new head coaches.

It helps that the Iron Bowl and the Georgia game are at home, but Alabama will be traveling to play LSU. The new structure of scheduling means that they no longer get a cupcake game before the Iron Bowl, so they won’t be 100 percent going into that game.

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Alabama can still run the table and have an undefeated season, but it will be an impressive feat for all those involved.