With all due respect to our friends from the fine league that is the Southern Conference, Alabama doesn't really need to be playing them anymore.
With the success that coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are torturing the rest of college football with these days, the Chattanooga's, Western Carolina's and the Georgia Southern's have no business being a part of "The Process" at this time.
Yes, Alabama has played some serious competition on some pretty amazing neutral sites in the Saban era. Clemson, Virginia Tech, Michigan and Penn State are the kind of season openers that get fans' juices boiling long before the end of summer.
Saban has used this somewhat unique neutral site scheduling to help propel Alabama to the top of the recruiting world for years now. But there's a problem.
Aside from the openers, the rest of Alabama's non-conference schedule has left a lot to be desired.
Let's look at last season's slate for example. After the opener against Michigan in Dallas, Alabama played the lackluster gauntlet that is Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic and Western Carolina.
Unfortunately, the weakness of the latter three pretty much neutralizes the quality of the former. This leaves Alabama with an overall unimpressive non-conference schedule.
In 2013, Alabama will open with Virginia Tech in Atlanta. That gem is followed by home dates with Colorado State, Georgia State (really?) and Chattanooga once again.
Better, but not by much.
While I am well aware that most of college football's top dogs have similar approaches and similar non-conference schedule difficulty, I must be honest.
Alabama needs to take the bull by the horns and beef up the remainder of its schedule.
Let's keep the Hokies and the Rams, but the other two have no place on the Alabama schedule magnet that stares me in the face every time I grab a glass of milk.
Whatever happened to the annual game with Southern Miss? That annual rivalry lasted for over 20 years. Of course Alabama won the vast majority of them, but at least it was a legitimate opponent. Dumping the Mocs of southern Tennessee in favor of Southern Miss in 2012 would be a win for everyone.
That would leave the Georgia State game. Instead of a program that has existed for less years than Saban has been at Alabama, can we not get a game with a Duke or a Louisiana Tech?
Virginia Tech, Colorado State, Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech sounds like a reasonable schedule to me.
In 2014, Alabama opens with West Virginia, and later plays Florida Atlantic and (oh boy) Western Carolina again. This leaves one open date. Please, please let it turn out to be a Memphis or a Cincinnati.
Seriously, Alabama does not have to play four top 20 teams, but these FCS opponents have to go.
I am well aware that there are good reasons for the weaker games.
First and foremost, they do not require return games and allow the Tide to play these neutral site openers while keeping seven home games. That equals more revenue and helps to justify ever-expanding season ticket prices.
Secondly, the SEC slate is brutal enough and having a few patsies on the schedule allows the team to heal up a bit.
Still, something really needs to be done. How many of you have seen the Tide play Georgia Southern in Tuscaloosa. I have. It almost had the same level of intensity as the annual spring game.
I, for one, would be happy to give up an uninteresting and painfully meaningless home date with Western Kentucky in favor of a quality road game with Houston or Wake Forest.
While this article is written with the Tide in mind, the names can easily be changed. Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, they all do it. Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska are guilty of it too.
As for Alabama, though, leading the nation has become commonplace in recent years. National titles, top defenses, elite recruiting classes, Heisman trophies, All-Americans—we have it all.
The one thing we do not have is the best schedule. But again, it doesn't have to be the best.
It should, however, be one that can't be used against us.
It's time for Alabama to dump the FCS games in favor of opponents from Conference USA, the ACC or at least the MAC.
What I wouldn't give to see either Army or Navy make the trip to Tuscaloosa. With the state's vast military history, a game like that would be priceless.
Make it happen, Alabama, starting with that open date in 2014.
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