A Quick Look at the 2009 Schedule: Can Alabama Crimson Tide Run It Again?

Ingram WorleyCorrespondent IDecember 9, 2008

Writer’s Note: This is not the complete 2009 Alabama football schedule. Some games and dates are subject to change, and at the present time, Alabama has one non-conference opponent that needs to be added. The conference games are set (although I had trouble confirming the date of the South Carolina game). Also, for the purposes of this article, we will assume that the Virginia Tech game to open the season at the Georgia Dome will be confirmed, although it is still pending at this time.

Like most Alabama supporters, the close of the 2008 campaign left me looking ahead to 2009. I am sure that most Alabama fans, like me, looked at the 2008 schedule as one that did not set up well for us. In fact, most felt that we needed to find a way to get through 2008 to make it to the more favorable 2009 schedule.

We all know what happened. Alabama ran the table and lost a tough game to Florida in the SEC Championship game.

However, in the bigger picture, Alabama proved that it had turned the corner. The talent level was rising, and the leadership was in place. What we feared as a brutal schedule in 2008 turned out to be Alabama’s first undefeated regular season since 1994.

I am looking forward to facing Utah in the Sugar Bowl in a few weeks. I think it is a giant game to grab the momentum heading into next season. A win would assure a top three finish and put a little more shine on what we have to offer recruits.

But for the fun of it, let’s look forward for a minute to 2009. In Las Vegas, before the season starts, one can find what are known as "future" lines on games. They will set a point spread for every game in the season, before the season even starts. I will use my completely unqualified opinions here to guess what those lines might end up being for Alabama in 2009.

September 5: Virginia Tech, Georgia Dome (Unconfirmed)

The finishing touches still remain to make this game an official date, but assuming that eventually happens, I see Alabama as the season-opening favorite. Undoubtedly, Alabama will be forced to answer questions at the quarterback and offensive line positions. This will certainly be a tough test for Greg McElroy or Star Jackson.

The game will obviously be a primetime national TV broadcast, complete with ESPN’s College Gameday and Erin Andrews on the sidelines. The Hokies will be coming off of an ACC title, and looking to improve on a four or a five loss campaign. However, Alabama’s defense remains mostly intact, and I believe Vegas will see a low-scoring affair.

Projected Line: Alabama –6

September 12: Florida International, Tuscaloosa

Alabama returns home to face Florida International, coming off a 5-7 season in the Sun Belt Conference. This will be a good tune-up for the new players, and maybe a chance to see what we hope to be another great recruiting class begin to find their place on the team. One has to figure Alabama to be a big favorite.                                    Projected Line: Alabama –28

Date TBA: South Carolina, Tuscaloosa

Again, Alabama gets a chance to face Steve Spurrier. Unfortunately for the Gamecocks, they have problems scoring points. I do not have any concrete evidence to back this up, but it just seems to me that Spurrier may have finally had enough. He looked tired this season. Some good things remain for South Carolina, though. The defense looks to be sound again, but by this point Alabama may be rounding into form.

Projected Line: Alabama –10

September 26: Arkansas, Tuscaloosa

Expect Bobby Petrino to have the Hogs improving, even though they did not become bowl eligible in 2008. This game is traditionally close (not including 2008) and don’t be surprised if this is as well. Arkansas will have the added motivation of avenging the brutal thrashing in Fayetteville, but I still believe Alabama has to be the favorite.

Projected Line: Alabama -13

Date TBA: Tulane, Site TBA

I have heard conflicting reports as to the status of this game. Originally, it was reported that Alabama was to travel to New Orleans for the game, then I heard that the game was not even officially on the schedule. We will assume that Alabama goes to New Orleans to face the ‘Wave. Alabama may still have a chip on their collective shoulder about the close affair in 2008, and may look to set that straight. Plus, the talent divide between the two squads should be widening by the minute. I would not expect a close game again.

Projected Line: Alabama –24

October 10: Kentucky, Lexington

This is one of two game on the schedule that really intrigue me. Kentucky was ravaged by injuries in the second half of 2008. The season could have ended up being a very successful one for the ‘Cats, but the late loss to Tennessee put quite a damper on the season. The Liberty Bowl against East Carolina might be a good indicator for what to expect next year. I expect Kentucky to be competitive. Couple that with the fact that the game is on the road, and this one could be a trap.

Projected Line: Alabama –10

October 17: Ole Miss, Oxford

While this game does not jump off of the schedule when you first glance at it, you may want to take a closer look. There is a very good chance that this will be Alabama’s most difficult test of 2009. The Rebels proved that they are a force when they went to Gainesville and handed Florida what will most likely end up being their only loss of the season. They have a very solid defense and a quarterback that seems to be improving by the game. Oh, and do not forget that they played Alabama down to the last possession in Tuscaloosa in 2008. Beware.

Projected Line: Alabama -3

October 24: Tennessee, Tuscaloosa

History has taught us that the Alabama-Tennessee rivalry is very cyclical. Alabama wins nine, Tennessee wins seven, Alabama wins three, Tennessee wins four. The recent years have not followed this trend quite as closely, but I have a feeling that Alabama is beginning one of those runs. Tennessee is a bit of an unknown going into 2009. A new coach and new system could work for them or against them. My bet is that in the SEC, year one in the Kiffin Era will be a learning experience.

Projected Line: Alabama –7

November 7: LSU, Tuscaloosa

This game is one that concerns me. LSU has a boatload of talent, and you can only expect the quarterback situation down there to improve. I have never been a huge Les Miles fan, but he seems to motivate well and will definitely have his team ready to play what is bound to be one of the focal games on their schedule. After the scene in Baton Rouge in 2008, you can expect the rowdiest Bryant-Denny crowd of the year. I think that in the end, that may be the difference.

Projected Line: Alabama –3

November 14: Mississippi State, Starkville

Ugghhh. I do not have much to say about ‘State. The debacle in the Egg Bowl and the "Disappearing Croom Act" have led me to believe that the program may have some issues. Expect them to continue in 2009.

Projected Line: Alabama –24

November 28: Auburn, Auburn

This one is always a mystery. Alabama has played some of its best Iron Bowls at Jordan-Hare, but have also been upset there. Depending on how Auburn’s season has played out to that point, this game could still have large implications for both teams. It would be hard for me to fathom Auburn’s competing for the Western Division next year, but who knows? This article projects what the game’s line would be at the beginning of 2009, so I have to see Alabama as the favorite. As we have seen this year, many things can change between the first game and the last.

Projected Line: Alabama –10

This does leave one open opponent for Alabama. I do not foresee a BCS conference foe to fill that spot, but rest assured that Nick Saban is always looking.

In my estimation, Las Vegas will have Alabama as the favorite in all of their regular season games to open the year. Obviously, these change from game to game. Without question, some teams will be better than expected, and some will not meet expectations.

It is fun to look ahead though. The future is bright in Tuscaloosa.