Crimson Tide 2020 schedule — Three key questions
Ten games in eleven weeks. That is the task ahead of the University of Alabama Crimson Tide in the race to the 2020 SEC Championship.
As part of a special Monday evening presentation on the SEC Network, the conference announced this year’s slate of games under the unique 10-game, conference-only format. In addition to the adapted format of the regular season as part of its preparation to manage COVID-19 conditions, the conference has built in a second open week leading up to the championship game on December 19.
The Tide kick off the season on September 26 at Missouri. After that things get interesting.
Here are three key questions, and some answers, based on what we know right now:
1. What is the Tide’s toughest game?
We know head coach Nick Saban preaches the importance of viewing and preparing for every opponent the same. But a few games just leap off the page.
One oddity of the 2020 scheduling format is that the Iron Bowl will be played the second-to-last week of the regular season. Should be a great game.
The Tide’s traditional matchup against LSU has been preserved in early November. It will be fascinating to see what a trip to Baton Rouge looks like in the midst of COVID-19. The stadium would be sold out — if permitted. However, imagine the contagion running through that stadium in a normal year? We doubt there will be few fans, if any, allowed to attend this time around. Even more uncertain is the kind of team taking the field for LSU after a massive amount of departures. The defending national champions will have the Tide’s attention, but we will pass on this one, too.
The Georgia Bulldogs come to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2007. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart will have this game circled in dip spit. Smart has announced he is going to maintain an active four-deep roster to prepare for any outbreaks on his team. To his credit, they are probably just that talented. Yet, we cannot help thinking there are real questions about how quarterback Jamie Newman will fair against a Saban defense. The graduate transfer from Wake Forest has not had success against anything like what he will see at Bryant-Denny.
That being said, Texas A&M is the answer to the question. The Aggies come to a fan-less or fan-limited Bryant-Denny Stadium during the season’s second week. Prior to that game, head coach Jimbo Fisher’s squad has a warm-up game against Vanderbilt at home. Fisher will undoubtedly spend the next month preparing specifically for the Tide, a game he needs desperately to quell the murmurs among a school and fanbase that has guaranteed him $75 million. Add in an experienced, talented senior quarterback in Kellen Mond, and this will be the Tide’s toughest game.
2. Is there a trap game?
Assuming there is a trap game on the schedule of a Saban-coached team is sort of a silly exercise. It is preseason, though, so let’s play along.
We will go with the Tide’s October 24 game in Knoxville. On one hand, Alabama’s 13-game win streak over Tennessee shows just how far apart these two programs have drifted since Saban’s arrival in Tuscaloosa. On the other hand, every previous long streak in the series has ended at some point. That does not really matter when Alabama has been the better team on every Saturday it has showed up the last 13 years.
It only matters on that day, however. And the Tide will be coming off a physical, marquee matchup against Georgia the week before. Tennessee gets Kentucky the Saturday prior. Former Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt enters his third season as head coach in Knoxville. This game means something extra to the Rainsville native who began his coaching career as a graduate assistant in Tuscaloosa in 1997. A top-shelf recruiter, Pruitt has finally replenished the Vol program with some serviceable talent.
This will not be the same type of Tennessee team the Tide have easily handled in recent years.
3. In what game will Bryce Young announce himself as the quarterback of the future?
We are big fans of Mac Jones in this space and think the junior quarterback can lead the Tide to a national championship.
However, Young’s talent is undeniable.
The opener against Missouri would be the logical choice for the entirety of the depth chart to receive meaningful game reps. With a tricky stretch of games coming after its visit to Columbia, Saban may see a need to get Jones extended time running the offense.
Then comes the showdown with Texas A&M, a circus atmosphere surrounding Lane Kiffin’s first game against Saban after getting shown the door by him, a war against Georgia and finally a potential trap game at Tennessee. That is a big-league stretch of games.
Which is why we are going with the Tide’s first run-in with Mike Leach as Mississippi State’s head coach. Appropriately played on Halloween, this game sees the pirate bring his patented Air Raid offense to Tuscaloosa. We doubt he brings much of a defense.
Look for the Tide to put up something in the 70-point range against Leach’s Bulldogs and Young to contribute some eye-popping numbers to go along with an impressive highlight reel.
Check out the Tide’s full 2020 schedule:
Sept 26 – at Missouri
Oct 3 – Texas A&M
Oct 10 – at Ole Miss
Oct 17 – Georgia
Oct 24 – at Tennessee
Oct 31 – Mississippi State
Nov 7 – Bye
Nov 14 – at LSU
Nov 21 – Kentucky
Nov 28 – Auburn
Dec 5 – at Arkansas
Dec 19 — SEC Championship Game
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia