TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Congratulations, Chattanooga.
You have won the opportunity to be Alabama’s Iron Bowl tune-up for the 2016 season.
Your prizes include a trip to Bryant-Denny Stadium, which will surely be half empty by halftime, and $500,000.
No disrespect to Chattanooga, which is a fine program, but this would be better as an open date. It’s going to be cold and boring for what probably will be an early game on SEC Network.
Auburn hosts Alabama A&M the week before the Iron Bowl. It has become an annual tradition for both sides in the rivalry to schedule essentially an extra bye week before the big showdown.
These are the weeks when Nick Saban usually blows up at the media because reporters (and fans) don’t really care to write (or read) about the matchup with Chattanooga, so some reporter likely will either ask about the big point spread or a look-ahead question about the Iron Bowl.
2015 record: 9-4, 6-1 Southern Conference
Coach: Russ Huesman, 8th year, 50-33 overall
Returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense
Game time: TBA
Matchup to watch
Alabama defensive linemen vs. Chattanooga offensive lineman Corey Levin
Levin started last season at left tackle before moving to left guard so it’s tough to say which Alabama defensive lineman he’ll see on a regular basis. But Levin is as talented as they come. He is a two-time winner of the Jacobs Blocking Award as the top offensive lineman in the SoCon. He’s one of only 11 players in league history to win the honor twice. Levin last season was named a first-team All-American by the American Football Coaches Association, STATS.com, the Walter Camp Foundation and College Sports Madness.
A three-year starter on the offensive line, Levin was named one of the top 10 NFL prospects in the FCS by Athlon Sports.
Levin will have his hands full in Tuscaloosa as he’s likely to see multiple NFL prospects when he lines up against Alabama’s defensive front. Whether it’s against down linemen like Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson and Da’Shawn Hand or pass-rushing outside linebackers like Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, Levin will get the opportunity to prove himself.
If he can hold up against this level of talent, Levin could improve his draft stock and earn himself some serious money.
Why Alabama will win
How does one politely say a team doesn’t have a chance without it sounding disrespectful? Saban is all about preaching that Alabama treats every opponent the same and that the players should respect every team the same.
But no one seriously believes that the players look at Chattanooga the same way they do, say, LSU.
Alabama gets an easy win. Chattanooga gets a fat check for its program. Everyone goes home with something.
Alabama 41, Chattanooga 6