Alabama football’s 2021 schedule analysis: offensive October and home dates late in season

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama's 2021 football schedule includes consecutive road games in early October, three home games in its final four and the typical marquee neutral-site, non-conference game to start the season.

Here are some takeaways from the schedule, released on SEC Network on Wednesday afternoon:

Home sweet home

Four of Alabama's last five games are at home, and many of them are favorable matchups against Tennessee, New Mexico State and Arkansas. The lone outlier is LSU, a team that is likely to rebound from 2020, but to what degree remains to be seen.

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Making the trip to Auburn for Bryan Harsin's first Iron Bowl as Auburn's coach will end the regular season, but UA will have experienced the benefits of home cooking for quite awhile before that trip.

Quick tests

Alabama's first three weeks include a neutral-site game against Miami, whose three losses of 2020 came to top-25 competition, and a rematch of the SEC Championship Game with Florida two weeks later in Gainesville.

That tricky stretch comes with UA breaking in four new position coaches and an offensive coordinator, plus a new starter at quarterback, running back, wide receiver and three on the offensive line. It would behoove Alabama to find its new offensive identity quickly — in preseason practice, if at all possible.

Offensive October

If Alabama has struggles defensively, its October schedule will likely expose them. Lane Kiffin's Rebels seemed to have a formula for offensive success against the Crimson Tide, and Texas A&M was one of just three teams to hang 450 yards of offense on UA. Mike Leach has another year to install his Air Raid at Mississippi State, and there is good reason to project offensive progress in Josh Heupel's first season at Tennessee.

Florida will present UA difficulties, but it is not quite like the tests of October, where at least three of those teams could present solid offenses.

One more neutral-site game

UA's season opener against Miami, played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, is its last neutral-site regular-season game scheduled until at least 2035, as it shifts to playing home-and-home series with Power 5 opponents.

In the last three seasons, UA has played neutral site games against Louisville, Duke and had a scheduled game against USC that didn't happen due to COVID-19 schedule changes. In the next three seasons, UA will host Texas and play road games against Texas and Wisconsin.

Here is Alabama's 2021 schedule:

Sept. 4: Miami (Atlanta, Georgia)

Sept. 11: Mercer

Sept. 18: at Florida

Sept. 25: Southern Miss

Oct. 2: Ole Miss

Oct. 9: at Texas A&M

Oct. 16: at Mississippi State

Oct. 23: Tennessee

Oct. 30: Open

Nov. 6: LSU

Nov. 13: New Mexico State

Nov. 20: Arkansas

Nov. 27: at Auburn

Dec. 4: SEC Championship Game

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson