Alabama Football: 3 Matchups That Could Derail the Tide's BCS Title Hopes

Geoff Ratliff@@geoffratliffContributor IIISeptember 25, 2012

If the Crimson Tide hope to repeat as BCS National Champions, they'll have to go through LSU once again.
If the Crimson Tide hope to repeat as BCS National Champions, they'll have to go through LSU once again.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Alabama’s road to a second straight BCS National Championship will begin to get bumpy even though they’ve rolled through their competition so far. The remaining schedule looks manageable, but there are three potential potholes that could slow down the Crimson Tide’s race to the title. 

Nick Saban’s squad has shown no signs of a championship hangover thus far. Alabama opened the season with a suffocating 41-14 performance against Denard Robinson and the Michigan Wolverines.  

The 27-point victory on September 1 was their smallest margin of victory to date. The Crimson Tide narrowly missed out on posting their third consecutive shutout in a 40-7 win over Florida Atlantic last Saturday. 

Alabama has upcoming road games against SEC newcomer Missouri and Tennessee next month, followed by a visit from No. 21 Mississippi State. The Tigers, Volunteers and Bulldogs, however, do not pose credible threats.

Mizzou proved it isn’t SEC-ready in blowout losses against Georgia and South Carolina. Tennessee has the conference’s best quarterback in Tyler Bray, but the Volunteers failed their ready-for-the-big-time test when they fell apart against the Florida Gators, at home no less. 

Mississippi State might have a prayer if this game was played in Starkville. Unfortunately for them, the game is in Tuscaloosa. 

So after breezing through the preliminary trials in October, Alabama will kick off November with the first of three games that will determine their championship worthiness. 

At LSU Tigers, Saturday, November 3

The Crimson Tide will roll into Baton Rouge looking to avenge their lone loss from last season.  

Technically, Alabama rendered its 9-6 overtime loss at home meaningless by annihilating LSU in last season’s BCS title rematch. But they’d love to twist the dagger by earning a victory at Tiger Stadium on the way to an undefeated regular season.

LSU will have revenge on its mind as well. Les Miles led his team to one of the most dominant regular seasons in college football history before seeing all the hard work go to waste by getting blown out in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, in their home state no less.

The Tigers are the No. 2 team in the country and will be playing for more than bragging rights. They could very well begin the Alabama game with an 8-0 mark, needing a victory to stay on their own championship path.

Auburn Tigers, Saturday, November 24 

Auburn found out last year that college football life is a lot harder without Cam Newton in it. That lesson has remained fresh on their minds in 2012 as the Tigers are off to a disastrous 1-3 start and are 0-2 in SEC play.  

Auburn’s opening schedule has been brutal with three of their four games against ranked opponents. Even their lone victory was an overtime win against a Louisiana-Monroe team that stunned Arkansas when the Razorbacks were No. 10 in the polls. 

Regardless of what Auburn’s record is at the time, head coach Gene Chizik will have no problem motivating his team to get up for the biggest rivalry in college football. Even if the Tigers are eliminated from bowl contention by the time November 24 arrives, they’ll play like the SEC West title is on the line.

If Alabama’s players are at all inclined to take Auburn lightly, they’d do well to pay attention to their 12-10 loss to LSU this past weekend. That game was a testament to the threat that Auburn poses to a team with national championship aspirations.

Georgia Bulldogs, SEC Championship Game in Atlanta, Saturday, December 1

The Georgia Bulldogs overcame an 0-2 start last year by winning 10 consecutive games on their way to the SEC East title. Unfortunately for Mark Richt’s group, they ended the season the same way they started. 

Georgia was crushed by LSU 42-10 in the SEC title game and went on to suffer a heartbreaking triple-overtime loss to No. 17 Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.

This year’s group has avoided another slow start. Georgia is off to a 4-0 start and a No. 5 ranking in both polls. The Bulldogs are using 2011’s failure to fuel the push towards a 12-0 regular season before facing Alabama in this year’s SEC title game.

Junior quarterback Aaron Murray leads a Georgia offense that ranks ninth in the country in scoring with 47.5 points per game. That group will challenge an Alabama defense that gives up a mere 5.3 points per game—second in the nation. 

Georgia fans are sick of watching other SEC teams hoist national championship trophies as their own team continually comes up short of expectations. They will pack the Georgia Dome in December—less than two hours from their campus in Athens—to cheer their Bulldogs on, providing the toughest, and loudest, obstacle to the Crimson Tide on their road to repeating as BCS National Champions.