Alabama Football 2011 Schedule: Game-by-Game Breakdown

Trent CalvertCorrespondent IFebruary 15, 2011

Alabama Football 2011 Schedule: Game-by-Game Breakdown

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    Backup RB Eddie Lacy takes it to the house against Michigan State
    Backup RB Eddie Lacy takes it to the house against Michigan StateMike Ehrmann/Getty Images

    The future looks bright for Alabama football. There are some losses that the Crimson Tide will definitely feel in 2011, but promising young players like Demetrius Hart, Jesse Williams and Aaron Douglas hope to ease the pain at key positions.

    Alabama is ready to take another shot at the national title after winning 10 games in 2010. One factor that affected Alabama was their grueling schedule, a factor that has been the downfall of many good SEC teams.

    While 'Bama's lineup of games this season will be a bit more forgiving, that's not saying much at all. The Tide will travel to several contests including Penn State, Auburn and a trip to the Swamp in Gainesville to face the Florida Gators.

    Here's a game-by-game breakdown of Alabama's 2011 schedule.

Kent State

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    CHESTNUT HILL, MA - SEPTEMBER 11: Dominick LeGrande #26 of the Boston College Eagles and Will Johnson #20 of the Kent State Golden Flashes chase after the fumble on September 11, 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. Boston College defea
    Elsa/Getty Images

    When: September 3

    Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

    Opponent's 2010 record: 5-7

    Alabama will work out the kinks against MAC opponent Kent State. Look for Nick Saban to give snaps to both A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, regardless of who wins the starting job. It is worth noting, however, that Kent State gave Miami a tough fight last year, losing 21-27.

    Another important thing to watch is who steps up on the offensive line. Aaron Douglas and the Kouandjio brothers, Arie and Cyrus, among others, hope to fill some vacancies on the O-line.

    Player to watch: nose tackle Jesse Williams. If the big man from Australia lives up to his potential, he'll be a star nose tackle for 'Bama and start things out with a bang against KSU.

    Prediction: Alabama 38, Kent State 10

Penn State

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    TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 11:  Quarterback Robert Bolden #1 of the Penn State Nittany Lions against Jerrell Harris #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 11, 2010 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When: September 10

    Where: State College, PA

    Opponent's 2010 record: 7-6

    There is no doubt Penn State is talented, so don't let 'Bama's 24-3 win at home last year fool you. This time around the Crimson Tide will have to travel into hostile territory to face the Nittany Lions on the road. Expect a hard-fought game with plenty of hard hits. However, I think 'Bama pulls away in the second half for the win.

    Player to watch: A.J. McCarron/Phillip Sims. This one is quite obvious. A.J. McCarron is favored to beat Phillip Sims for the starting spot, so it will most likely be A.J. who will face his first real road test against PSU.

    Prediction: Alabama 28, Penn State 17

North Texas

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    AUSTIN, TX - SEPTEMBER 2:  Quarterback Matt Phillips #18 of the North Texas Eagles drops back to pass against the Texas Longhorns on September 2, 2006 at Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin, Texas. The Longhorns defeated the Eagles 56-7.  (Photo by Ronald Ma
    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    When: September 17

    Where: Bryant-Denny

    Opponent's 2010 record: 3-9

    Alabama is expected to cruise past North Texas in preparation for the SEC opener against Arkansas. In 2009, the Crimson Tide beat the Mean Green 53-7. Don't expect much to change.

    This game does have significance, though, because it is Nick Saban's final chance to tune up the team before the slate of difficult SEC games begins.

    Player to Watch: Eddie Lacy. Lacy looks ready to step into the spotlight and get a good number of carries in 2011. This game provides a nice opportunity for him to show what he can do. It is also worthy to note 5-star RB recruit Demetrius Hart will be joining the team and might push Lacy for playing time.

    Prediction: Alabama 55, North Texas 10 

Arkansas

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Knile Davis #7 of the Arkansas Razorbacks runs with the ball in front of Nathan Williams #43 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in the second half during the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New O
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    When: September 24

    Where: Bryant-Denny

    Opponent's 2010 record: 10-3

    The Arkansas Razorbacks had a solid 10-win season in 2010 that ended in a 31-26 Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State. Now, coach Bobby Petrino faces several question marks on his team that threaten Arkansas' ability to follow up on last year's success.

    Offensive line and tight end are two positions that lost star players, but the loss that stung the most was quarterback Ryan Mallett. Nick Saban will try to test Arkansas' new quarterback, probably Tyler Wilson, with plenty of blitz packages.

    The past few Arkansas-Alabama games have all been great contests, and I don't expect a change in the trend this time around.

    Player to Watch: C.J. Mosley. The linebacker showed flashes of excellence in his first season and is ready to come into his own as a starting linebacker. Mosley is a player to watch all season long.

    Prediction: Home-field advantage helps propel Alabama to a 26-20 victory.

Florida

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 30:  Quarterback John Brantley #12 of the Florida Gators attempts a pass during the game against the Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on October 30, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    When: October 1

    Where: "The Swamp," Gainesville, FL

    Alabama and Florida have a promising rivalry going on at the moment. In 2008, the two teams met in an epic clash which Florida won due in large to do-it-all QB Tim Tebow. In 2009, 'Bama exacted revenge in route to the national championship. In 2010, Alabama dominated Florida at home.

    Looking ahead to this year's matchup, it will be Florida that is thirsty for redemption after a mediocre season. The raucous crowd at Gainesville will fuel the Gators, who will give Alabama what I think will be the toughest game in the regular season.

    Player to Watch: WR Marquis Maze. Without Julio Jones, Maze is the star receiver, and must step up and make big plays along with the other receivers at the inexperienced wide receiver position for 'Bama to win.

    Prediction: My pick for Alabama's upset. Florida 30, Alabama 27

Vanderbilt

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    LEXINGTON, KY - NOVEMBER 13:  Larry Smith #10 of the Vanderbilt Commodores runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats  at Commonwealth Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lexington, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    When: October 8

    Where: Bryant-Denny

    I almost feel sorry for Vanderbilt. While I have respect for the Commodores and realize that anything can happen in the SEC, I don't think Vandy has much of a chance. If Alabama does lose to Florida, chances are the Crimson Tide will release a lot of frustration on the Commodores.

    Player to Watch: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. I think Ha'Sean will come in and receive solid playing time as a freshman. The hyped recruit from Florida is a player to watch.

    Prediction: Alabama 42, Vanderbilt 17

Ole Miss

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    BATON ROUGE, LA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Houston Nutt of the Ole Miss Rebels against the Louisiana State University Tigers at Tiger Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    When: October 15

    Where: Oxford, Miss

    The Ole Miss Rebels will be a dangerous team as long as Houston Nutt is their head coach, as demonstrated by their upset of Florida during Nutt's first year. The Rebs will be psyched and going for the upset at home, but I think they lack the firepower to get it done.

    Player to Watch: Damion Square. Square is a dark-horse player to watch this spring and has the physical attributes to become a dominant force on the defensive line.

    Prediction: Alabama 28, Ole Miss 17

Tennessee

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 30:  Head coach Derek Dooley of the Tennessee Volunteers watches on against the South Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Williams-Brice Stadium on October 30, 2010 in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Im
    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    When: October 22

    Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

    Derek Dooley and the Tennessee Volunteers will invade Tuscaloosa for the annual cross-border clash on the third Saturday in October. Dooley is trying to get the UT program back on its feet after two underachieving seasons, and has the necessary talent to do so with the likes of RB Tauren Poole.

    Expect a great game near the standard's of 2009's last-second thriller. In the end, though, the Vols will likely be defeated.

    Player to Watch: Brian Vogler. Some might be surprised to see Vogler here, but 'Bama lacked a reliable tight end all of last season, and I think Vogler just fits the bill for tight end in Saban's offense.

    Prediction: Alabama 21, Tennessee 14

LSU

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    ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 07:  Jordan Jefferson #9 of the Louisiana State University Tigers looks to throw a pass during the game against the Texas A&M Aggies during the AT&T Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on January 7, 2011 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by
    Chris Graythen/Getty Images

    When: November 5

    Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium

    The Bayou Bengals are among the most formidable opponents Alabama will face all year. Coach Les Miles' offenses have been subpar, but LSU's defense has developed a reputation for big plays and hard hits.

    On the flip-side, 'Bama brings in an intimidating defense of its own and A.J. McCarron will have plenty of game experience by the time this game comes along. Unless LSU's offense sees major improvements this season, I foresee an Alabama victory.

    Player to watch: Courtney Upshaw. When healthy, "Jack" linebacker Courtney Upshaw is a beast. 'Nuff said.

    Prediction: Alabama 30, LSU 23

Mississippi State

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    GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 16:  Quarterback Chris Relf #14 of the Mississippi State Bulldogs hands off to running back Vick Ballard #28  against the Florida Gators  October 16, 2010 Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschm
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    When: November 12

    Where: Starkville, MS

    The cowbells will definitely be ringing when the Crimson Tide pays the MSU Bulldogs a visit in November. Dan Mullen, MSU's coach, is a great game-planner and will make sure the 'Dogs are ready to go.

    QB Chris Relf is a dangerous runner and could become one of the top quarterbacks in the SEC once he improves his passing skills. I think this one will stay close until the fourth quarter.

    Player to watch: WR Darius Hanks. Hanks is a good deep threat and an underrated asset to 'Bama's offense. This year he will have the opportunity to step out from behind the shadow of Julio Jones and show everyone how good he can be.

    Prediction: Alabama 34, MSU 27

Georgia Southern

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    COLUMBIA, SC - OCTOBER 9: Linebacker Ed Stinson #47 of the Alabama Crimson Tide drops a fourth-down pass after a fake field goal  against the South Carolina Gamecocks October 9, 2010 at Williams-Brice Stadium in Columbia, South Carolina.  (Photo by Al Mes
    Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

    When: November 19

    Where: Bryant-Denny

    I don't have much to say about this one, other than it won't be very pretty. Although he'd never admit it, Saban will probably have the team preparing for Auburn as well during this game week.

    Player to watch: Ed Stinson. Stinson may actually end up a starter this season, and I think this edge-rusher will perform. Stinson and Upshaw may prove to be a lethal combination working from both edges.

    Prediction: Alabama 48, Georgia Southern 0

Auburn

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    ATLANTA - DECEMBER 4:  Running back Onterio McCalebb #23 of the Auburn Tigers runs with the ball during the 2010 SEC Championship against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Georgia Dome on December 4, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  The Tigers beat the Gamecocks
    Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

    When: November 26

    Where: Auburn, AL

    Statistics and logic have nothing on the Iron Bowl. It is arguably the nation's most intense rivalry, and it is very unpredictable.

    This time around, things look pretty bleak for Auburn, which lost its entire offensive line, all-star Heisman winner Cam Newton, and Nick Fairley, a top defensive tackle, among others.

    There is still hope for the Tigers, though, in the form of young stars like Onterio McCalebb. Last time Alabama played at Jordan-Hare Stadium, the game went down to the last few seconds when Greg McElroy hit Roy Upchurch in the end zone for the game-winning play.

    AU offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is a genius and will keep AU in the game and get a legitimate shot at the win. In the end, I feel the more experienced and deep Alabama squad walks away with the victory, though.

    Player to watch: Trent Richardson. RB Richardson is ready for a Heisman run and has a very bright future.

    Prediction: Alabama 20, Auburn 14