The SEC released its 2016 schedule on Thursday, and Alabama will spend plenty of time away from Tuscaloosa early.
Nick Saban’s team opens with five road games (including one neutral site) in its first nine contests before finishing with three straight at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Let’s break down the sked a little further…
- Best matchup: @ Ole Miss (Oct. 17)
For obvious reasons, the nation will have its eyes glued to this game. Hugh Freeze’s Rebels have upset the Tide in two straight seasons, and will still have Chad Kelly under center in Oxford next year. Worth noting: Saban has not lost three straight against a single opponent since his days at Michigan State (vs. Purdue, 1997-1999).
- Toughest matchup: @ LSU Tigers (Nov. 5)
Leonard Fournette is probably not going to sit out his junior season, so the Crimson Tide will likely run into him again next year. By that time, the future NFL first-rounder could be gunning for his second straight Heisman Trophy. Of course, Fournette needs to put up big numbers in T-Town next week if he wants to win his first one.
- Toughest stretch: Oct. 8-22 (@ Arkansas, @ Tennessee, vs. Texas A&M)
That doesn’t seem so bad, does it? Alabama’s schedule is broken up nicely — the Tide might not play back-to-back ranked opponents all season. They’ll also have their traditional bye week before LSU, and then another “traditional bye week” vs. Chattanooga before the Iron Bowl.
- Biggest trap game: vs. Mississippi State (Nov. 12)
Put yourself in the Tide’s shoes in early November 2016: You’ve just finished the meat of the SEC schedule, culminating in a hard-fought game at LSU. You’ve got Chattanooga next week, then a date with Auburn. This Saturday, Mississippi State comes to town. ‘Bama hasn’t lost to the Bulldogs since 2007.
Easy win, right?