This pop quiz is being given because, as is natural in the college football information wasteland of late June, one of the annual topics is scheduling, who is scheduling whom and, invariably, what kind of non-conference schedule Alabama is playing.
The topic came up again Saturday and attracted enough attention that Alabama director of athletics Greg Byrne took to social media to state the UA position.
“Scheduling is challenging,” Byrne said via Twitter. “It takes two teams to make it work where there is mutual interest and dates that work.
“We are very appreciative of the schools who have agreed to H&H series (TX, WVU, ND & OU). Working on more & occasional neutral.”
Not to rip off Rob Base without giving proper credit, but the key phrase is “It Takes Two.”
So on with the quiz.
First, what is the appropriate number of Power Five teams for Alabama to be playing? Nine? Ten? Twelve?
Before you answer, here are some facts. Because all of its natural rivals are members of the Southeastern Conference, Alabama does not have an automatic ninth game built into its schedule annually, unlike Florida, Georgia or South Carolina. In order to get even a ninth game with a Power Five opponent, Alabama has to work.
The neutral site hosts try to help. So do the television networks. Does anyone remember the “Greatest Opener Of All Time” hype that surrounded the Florida State game just two years ago? Everyone wants to see Alabama play big games — and that includes Alabama. There are 51 teams available to Alabama for Power 5 non-conference games. The other 13 SEC teams do not count; ACC affiliate Notre Dame does.
So, Question Two: how many of those remaining 50 teams (with Duke already scheduled) want to schedule a home-and-home with Alabama? It’s hard to get a precise answer, although this is a fact: any Power Five team that is eager to play such a series will get a return call from Byrne if they make that intention public. Furthermore, if people don’t regard Duke as good enough, how many teams are “good enough?” Is Duke a better game than Georgia Tech? Duke certainly would have been in 2018, judging by the scoreboard.
That’s not to imply anyone is ducking anyone else. Teams have to be wise about who they play, and when, and where. Given the logistics, Alabama would probably have to think hard about a Week Two road trip to Seattle, for instance. It is possible, as Alabama showed in 1978. Back in those days of just six SEC games (and 11 total games), Alabama’s non-conference schedule was — hang on to your hat — Nebraska, at Missouri, Southern Cal, at Washington and Virginia Tech. And I am sure someone somewhere complained about Alabama playing Virginia Tech.
Third, what does Nick Saban advocate? Here is the cheat sheet for that: he advocates nine SEC games. He advocates 12 Power Five games, as long as all Power Five schools agree to do the same. The rest of the league — or at least a majority of the schools — have yet to support expanding the number of SEC games.
People can feel free to criticize some aspects of Alabama’s schedule. The FCS opponent? I’d agree on that point. The SEC schedule is out of UA’s control (and will probably get less social media heat next year, when Georgia rotates on for a game in Tuscaloosa.) Just remember, when you do, that it’s not just Alabama that you are criticizing.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.