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Road Games: Michigan*, Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, LSU
Anytime LSU appears on the road schedule, it has to be considered a potential loss, even by the likes of the Crimson Tide.
It the midst of the BCS National Championship Game victory celebration, it was easy to lose sight of the fact that we had our first conference non-champion bring home the BCS hardware.
In fact, Alabama was only the third non-champion to make the game (the others being Nebraska after the 2001 season and Oklahoma after 2003), and the first non-divisional champion ever to get an invite.
And while Crimson Tide fans are certainly pleased to have their ninth major national championship, it won't be lost on Nick Saban and his players that they failed to bring home the SEC title last season.
Add in the rest of the nation's reaction to the all-SEC title game, you can bet that we likely won't be seeing that again anytime soon.
That means an SEC title will be at a premium this season, and if the Tide have any hope of repeating, they will need to secure a victory in Atlanta on December 1.
But just getting to Atlanta won't be a foregone conclusion.
Saban has a defense to rebuild, as only five starters return. The offense remains in decent shape with seven starters, including quarterback AJ McCarron and outstanding offensive tackle Barrett Jones returning for 2012.
But even the slightest misstep this season could spell disaster for the Tide.
This year's “warm-up” non-conference game for Alabama is certainly a doozy. Michigan and Alabama will tangle in Dallas in a Week 1 neutral road game for both teams. While Alabama should be favored in this game, it's important to remember that this isn't the Michigan team we all laughed at under Rich Rodriguez.
New head coach Brady Hoke has reinvigorated this program, and the Maize and Blue are ready to take on all comers—including Alabama.
The game could be a lot closer than Alabama fans will find comfortable.
The Tide won't have long to rest after Week 1. The following week is a laugher against Western Kentucky before it's right back on the road for the start of the SEC schedule.
And you can expect Arkansas to be ready for the Tide this year.
The road schedule finishes up with games at Missouri and Tennessee before the Tide get their much-anticipated rematch with LSU in Baton Rouge.
If everything goes as planned for both of these teams up to this point, we could again see this November 3 game as an SEC-West title showdown with the winner earning a trip to Atlanta.
Tuscaloosa is a difficult place for road teams to win, but LSU managed to slip one past Alabama last season. Can the Crimson Tide return the favor in 2012?
(*Neutral site game)