This is simply an overview of each of the Alabama Crimson Tide's games this season; predictions come Thursday.
9.5 :: vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta)
For those with short memories, it was Bama's 34-10 thrashing of Clemson that put the Tide on the national map in 2008 and eventually helped boost them into the Top 10. Virginia Tech might "need" this game slightly more than Alabama in terms of national title prestige, but both have a makeup: The Hokies play Nebraska two weeks later and Alabama would have to go through Florida to get to the BCS National Championship Game anyway. So the winner gets a head start in the Race for No. 1, but it's not an elimination game. Alabama, for the record, is 10-1 all time against Virginia Tech; the only loss was in the only game played at a neutral site (1998 Music City Bowl), unless you count Birmingham as a neutral site.
9.12 :: vs. Florida International
Unless Ned is still around and tries to mix it up with Mt. Cody, there should be nothing to see here that you didn't see in 2006's 38-3 waxing of the Panthers. After all, Alabama never loses to teams from the Sun Belt Con-- Sorry. Forget I said that.
9.19 :: vs. North Texas
Alabama didn't join the Sun Belt while I was sleeping or something, did they? In any case, the Tide has won the two meetings between these teams by a combined score of 71-26.
9.26 :: vs. Arkansas
Fun factoid: There were two SEC teams Alabama defeated by five TDs or more in 2008. One was Arkansas. Can you name the other one? (See below.) Overall, the series has been pretty evenly matched, with Alabama having just an 11-8 edge (if you count the forfeitures, which is pretty much a caveat with all of Alabama's series records). It's just 9-8 since Arkansas joined the SEC. (Before that, the teams met in the 1961 and 1979 Sugar Bowls.) Oddly, the only place Alabama has a losing record against the Hogs is in Tuscaloosa. Guess where the game is being played this year.
10.3 :: at Kentucky
The two SEC schools once coached by Bear Bryant -- only one of which acknowledges his death -- meet in Lexington. These two teams have played 37 times. Kentucky has won twice. They have tied once. (Bryant lost to Alabama both times he faced them.) The only two losses have been in Lexington. That probably won't matter a great deal.
10.10 :: at Ole Miss
The second of four games against 2008 bowl teams in five weeks, and one of the most anticipated games of the year. Both teams play LSU later in the year, so assuming all goes according to plan, whoever wins this game comes out of it controlling their own destiny in the SEC West. Ole Miss last defeated Alabama in 2003, only their second earned victory (sans an Alabama forfeit, natch) since 1988. The Rebels were also one of only two regular-season opponents to come within four points of the Tide. (The other? Kentucky.)
10.17 :: vs. South Carolina
The Gamecocks have gone 2-1 against the Tide in the last three games in the series after going winless in their first 10 meetings. Mike Shula's last team pulverized South Carolina 37-14 in Columbia in the last game, though. Expect a similar result this season, though the final score might not be as ugly.
10.24 :: vs. Tennessee
Because the Tide scheduled their home games against the Vols almost exclusively at Birmingham until 1999, the two teams have met in Tuscaloosa only eight times. They've split those four games. Maybe Nick Saban will have the opportunity to thank Lance Thompson for his recruiting help. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and say he will try to thank Thompson's linebacking corps. Many, many times.
11.7 :: vs. LSU
Last year's overtime thriller was perhaps the closes that Alabama came to losing a regular-season game. After a late TD tied the game for LSU, Jarrett Lee tosses his fourth pick of the game in the first OT to set up the Tide victory. Not that either quarterback -- or either offense -- was all that stellar in that one. Both teams will look for better luck under center this year, the Tide with Greg McElroy and the Bengals with Jordan Jefferson.
11.14 :: at Mississippi State
Alabama broke its two-game CROOMing streak against the Western Division Bulldogs last year in a resounding 32-7 shellacking in Tuscaloosa. In new Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, they face one of just two offensive coordinators to score more than 30 points against them last year. He probably won't have that kind of performance against the Tide this year.
11.21 :: vs. Chattanooga
Alabama is 10-0 against Chattanooga. Think about that for a moment: the Tide has played Chattanooga 10 times. Are there no other patsies available? In fairness, eight of those matchups came before 1960, and the two teams haven't met in 15 years. Still, the Mocs have lost the last two games by a combined 95-20 score and only come within a TD once (21-14, 1953). Heck, half the time, they've failed to score. It's fair for Alabama to play this game before Auburn how? Oh, the Tigers have a bye week. Then they're even.
11.27 :: at Auburn (Friday)
For those of you who guessed that Auburn was the other SEC team that Alabama defeated by more than five TDs, you are correct. The 36-0 victory snapped a six-game losing streak for the Tide and a period in which they lost seven of eight. The last Alabama victory in the rivalry before that was in 2001, in Auburn, which just happens to be the location of this year's game. (That the game is no longer played in Birmingham, and that it is played on a Friday this year, just goes to show that nothing is sacred anymore.) Unless Auburn has found someway to give its offense an identity transplant, this shouldn't be an overly difficult game.
MONDAY: Alabama Aims for Something Special
LATER TODAY:Nick Saban Runs for Congress
WEDNESDAY: The Depth Chart
EARLIER TODAY: Feedback and Conclusions