The month of January has been a wake-up call to Alabama fans. First, a loss in the College Football Playoff semifinal, but the Crimson Tide have been there before. Then, Nick Saban retired, ending the most dominant 17-year stretch in college football history. Now, Alabama’s roster is flooding the transfer portal.
Currently, 21 Crimson Tide players are in the transfer portal, including Isaiah Bond who has already committed to Texas and SEC Freshman of the Year Caleb Downs. Alabama may have made the right call bringing in Kalen DeBoer from Washington, but unlike Saban, DeBoer is mortal.
Like Saban, who went 7-6 in his first season in Tuscaloosa DeBoer could be in for a rough inaugural year. Alabama hasn’t won less than 10 games since the 2007 season, and the Crimson Tide have only lost more than two conference games twice over that span.
This season could be a lot different. It’s a new SEC, with the addition of Oklahoma and Texas, and after 11 SEC titles in 17 years, it might be an SEC without Alabama at the top.
Let’s go through every SEC game on Alabama’s schedule and see where DeBoer can find wins. The Alabama roster is a long way from finalized, but knowing what we do right now, this is how I see the SEC slate playing out.
Week 5 September 28: vs. Georgia L
Alabama’s first SEC matchup of the year is the toughest SEC matchup of the year. Kirby Smart is the new top dog in the conference and the Dawgs should roll the Tide after Alabama’s 3-0 start with wins over Western Kentucky, USF, and Wisconsin in non-conference play.
Week 6 October 5: at Vanderbilt W
No matter what, Alabama will always be able to find a win against Vanderbilt. Week 5 could be ugly against Georgia, but at least Alabama has a soft landing in Week 6 against a Vanderbilt team that went 0-8 in conference play last year and lost its two best receivers, London Humphreys and Will Sheppard to the transfer portal.
Week 7 October 12: vs. South Carolina W
If Shane Beamer had continuity at quarterback, then I would give South Carolina a puncher’s chance to come into Tuscaloosa and win, but Beamer will likely be deciding between Luke Doty and Robby Ashford at the most important position on the field.
Even with DeBoer losing talent from Alabama, he’s held onto Jalen Milroe and that gives Bama an advantage at quarterback nearly every week.
Week 8 October 19: at Tennessee L
The Tide may not have an advantage at quarterback in Knoxville this season. Nico Iamleava turned heads in his Citrus Bowl debut, a 35-0 win over Iowa.
The former five-star QB threw for 151 yards and one touchdown, but he added 27 yards and three more scores with his legs. He looked dynamic against a quality Iowa defense and will make Josh Heupel’s offense terrifying for the rest of the SEC again.
Of the players in the transfer portal for Alabama, three are cornerbacks, and Terrion Arnold is off to the NFL. DeBoer will have a difficult time rebuilding his secondary and teams like Tennessee can take advantage of that.
Week 9 October 26: vs. Missouri L
Cody Schrader was Missouri’s most dynamic offensive weapon in the Tigers’ 11-2 2023 season. He’s off to the NFL, but Luther Burden III will be back catching passes from Brady Cook. Burden was one of the best receivers in the country in terms of yards after the catch, and was the real key to Missouri’s offensive success last year.
By this point in the year, teams will be smelling blood in the water, and this could be Missouri’s best chance to beat the mighty Crimson Tide for the first time since 1975.
Week 11 November 9: at LSU W
Jayden Daniels papered over a lot of structural issues with the LSU football program last season and now that the Heisman winner is gone, the Tigers might be in for a rude awakening in the Brian Kelly era.
The LSU defense was one of the worst in the entire country a year ago, and while Kelly did replace Matt House with Blake Baker as defensive coordinator, it might not be an easy fix. Kelly had to replace his offensive coordinator too, after Mike Denbrock left for Notre Dame.
The Alabama program is in a transition right now, but the LSU program may not be far behind.
Week 13 November 23: at Oklahoma W
In Week 13, Alabama will run up against another former five-star sophomore quarterback, Jackson Arnold. Only, Arnold didn’t look nearly as good as Iamaleava in his bowl game debut. Arnold threw three interceptions in Oklahoma’s 38-24 loss to Arizona.
By the end of the year, I imagine that DeBoer will have begun to perfect his passing game with Milroe. The two are a perfect match for an elite downfield passing attack, and that type of offense has proven to carve up a Brent Venables defense.
Week 14 November 30: vs. Auburn L
Hugh Freeze almost got Alabama in his first Iron Bowl. Yes, Jordan-Hare voodoo played its part in nearly costing Alabama a shot at the SEC championship game in 2023, but Freeze seems to be building Auburn into a formidable opponent.
Whether it's Payton Thorne, a transfer like Will Rogers, or freshman Walker White at quarterback, they’ll have young talented wide receivers to throw to and the whole team will have an overwhelming sense of relief that Nick Saban isn’t patrolling the opposing sideline.
It feels like the year for the Tigers to take the Iron bowl before DeBoer can build the Alabama program in his vision.