Alabama's 2009 schedule looks to be just as favorable as last year's, if not easier.
Its first game against Virginia Tech, however, is being hyped as one of, if not the best, non-conference games of the year.
The other three non-conference games do leave something to be desired. But there are teams out there, like the Texas Longhorns, for example, who have cupcake games, as well.
Either way, it is time to take a look at each non-conference game in detail and preview the match-ups.
The Hokies, a potential top five team to start the year, look to contend for a national championship.
This game should be a great defensive battle that won't yield many points.
Alabama's defense gave up only 14 points per game, while the Hokies gave up only 16 points per game in 2008. Both teams will be tested this day.
Alabama will have to be at their best to stop a Virginia Tech rushing attack that scored 23 touchdowns last year.
To combat this rushing attack, Alabama will rely on Terrence Cody, Brandon Deadrick and Lorenzo Washington to allow the linebackers to focus on keeping Tyrod Taylor a passing quarterback.
Last season, Taylor only passed for 1,037 yards and two touchdowns. Alabama only gave up 74 yards rushing a game last season, and returns nine starters from that team.
I give the advantage to the Tide defense to be able to stop the Tech offense. The Tide offense will have to gel on the offensive line if they want to have any chance at moving the ball against the equally stingy defense.
The Tide has the size advantage against the Hokie defensive line, but Virginia Tech has the more experience playing as a unit. Seeing as how this is the first game of the year, that could be a big advantage for the Hokies.
Alabama's wide receivers, on the other hand, will have a physical type of play that the Hokies defensive backs won't be able to handle.
That, and the fact that the Alabama offensive play calling will be balanced enough to keep the Hokie defense guessing, is reason enough for me to believe that the Crimson Tide will walk away with a narrow victory on Sept. 5.
After playing the Virginia Tech Hokies, this game should seem like a cakewalk.
The Golden Panthers are ranked as one of the worst 10 teams in the nation. The only good news for FIU is that they have their leading passer from a year ago returning, as well as their whole offensive line.
Paul McCall passed for over 2,300 yards and 15 touchdowns for team that was nearly bowl eligible.
The biggest threat for the Alabama defense to face is wide receiver T.Y. Hilton. Hilton, as a second target, had over 1,000 yards receiving and seven touchdowns as a freshman. He looks to build on those numbers as a sophomore and primary target.
Alabama will most likely lock down Hilton with Javier Arenas, its most experienced cornerback.
FIU will get its few chunk of yards here and there, but the 'Bama defense will not have too many problems
shutting down the Golden Panthers offense.
FIU's rushing attack could only manage 1,184 yards combined for the whole team last season, with its leading rusher only having 481 yards.
The Alabama offense should be able to put up some gaudy numbers against a Golden Panther defense that gave up 340 points en route to a 5-7 season. The only BCS teams that they faced, they lost to (Kansas and Iowa, 40-10 and 42-0, respectively).
Don't look for Alabama to let them stick around like Tulane did last year, and don't look for a close score.
After racking up some gaudy numbers against a bad FIU team, Alabama will get another "off week" against the Mean Green.
North Texas is ranked 119 out of 120 teams in college football.
They gave up 571 points last year and this match-up won't help matters. Nothing about the North Texas team posses any threats to Alabama, whether it be on offense or defense. This will be another barn burner that will yield more points, yards, and defensive stats to pad their numbers.
My guess is that the starters will be out by the third quarter. This will be a practice game that will only have the purpose of helping the team play better together.
I hate to say this about any team, but the Mean Green have NO chance of winning this game.
Ending the non-conference for Alabama is the UTC Mocs. Last year, the Mocs got dismantled by Oklahoma, 57-2.
The only reason it wasn't worse is because the Sooner starters were benched at halftime.
B.J. Coleman, a UT transfer, should be the quarterback starter and the only bright spot on a Mocs team that hasn't had a winning season in a LONG time.
I expect Alabama to be looking ahead to Auburn during this game. They won't have to try too hard to win this ball game.
I expect to see a 50 plus point game and few, if any, points given up.
But Saban will expect them to play at their best while the starters are in the game, so that they will be ready for the Tigers in the last game of the year.
This is the biggest reason I don't see the Mocs getting anywhere close to scoring in this game.
Looking over Alabama's non-conference schedule, I see that they have one of the weakest in the nation.
The only thing saving them from being labeled as the worst is the first game against Virginia Tech.
This could be the best game of the year, that will push Alabama's limits and show us what this team will really be made of.
I think the Tide will show us that they are to be taken seriously as national championship contenders.
They have the talent, they have coaching, and this year, they have the talented depth to win every game.
Nick Saban won't let them take play off or slack in any game, whether it be Virginia Tech or UTC.
The only games that Alabama will have to fight to win, other than Virginia Tech, will be conference games, and some of those are questionable.