Alabama Football: Under-the-Radar SEC Games Tide Must Not Overlook

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 23, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 22:  The Alabama Crimson Tide offense against the Tennessee Volunteers defense at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 22, 2011 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

There's little doubt in anyone's mind that the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are playing the best football in the country right now, but they aren't unbeatable and need to look out in a tough conference slate.

With the level of success that the Crimson Tide have accomplished in the last half decade, it's hard to say how much they'll be mentally preparing for the teams that may not be ranked.

There's no doubting that they've circled games like LSU and Florida on their schedules and head coach Nick Saban will do all he can to keep his team focused week in and week out, but the SEC is strong from top to bottom and many teams on their schedule are too dangerous to be overlooked.

Let's take a look at the games that No. 1 Alabama could easily overlook but can't afford to.


At Tennessee—October 20

A Tennessee-Alabama game will never be overlooked all that much by either team, simply due to the historical relevance that the third Saturday in October brings. But this series has been lopsided in recent years, and there's no doubting that Alabama's players know that.

While the Vols may have flopped late in their game against Florida and ended up losing badly, they showcased their talent and ability on both sides of the football throughout the first half. The same thing happened in Tuscaloosa last year, when Derek Dooley's squad went into the locker room with a 6-6 tie at half.

Tyler Bray was kept out of that game with a broken thumb, and who knows what could've happened early if they had him and Justin Hunter. 

The Vols have plenty to work out by the time Alabama strolls into Knoxville, but they have plenty of time to turn it around and figure out a way to play elite football for 60 minutes. 

If they can do so, it could be a dangerous Tennessee team when 'Bama visits on Oct. 20.


At Missouri—October 27

Jam-packed between what should be two emotional weekends, the Crimson Tide will need to pull together and play their best ball in a daunting away SEC matchup against Missouri.

The Tigers have squandered two opportunities to put their name on the SEC map so far this season, but they'll learn from their mistakes. If all goes well, quarterback James Franklin will be healthy.

Franklin was highly effective early in the season when his Tigers nearly came up with a big-time upset against Georgia, but his health has deteriorated since. Head coach Gary Pinkel's first job is getting his dual-threat weapon healthy.

Missouri may not have notched their marquee victory just yet, but they've proved that they can handle what the SEC brings. Look for them to come out with some fire at home and make this a tough victory for Alabama.


Auburn—November 24

Auburn's poor record is an unfair indication of their overall ability to win games, and this proved to be true in a tough, 12-10 loss to LSU.

Running into a very talented Clemson team was a poor way to start the season schedule-wise, and they didn't play their best ball against Mississippi State. Gene Chizik is on the hot seat, and nothing will throw more ice onto that chair he's scorching in than a win on the road against Alabama.

This game has had a direct impact on the BCS National Championship in recent years, and this should prove to be true once again if the Tide are undefeated. There's nothing that War Eagle nation would love more than to keep their hated rivals out of the championship race.

If Auburn's defense can dominate like they did against LSU and the offense can gain some team behind Onterio McCalebb, this game could be much closer than we all thought.