April 14, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban during the spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
This is an overview. Predictions come later. Home games in CAPS.
9/1: vs. Michigan (Dallas)
9/8: WESTERN KENTUCKY
9/15: at Arkansas
9/29: OLE MISS
This opening month is a bit of a roller coaster ride. It all begins in Dallas with one of last year's big surprise teams, Michigan, The Wolverines will pose a tough test to start things off, but their roster is not as deep or complete as Bama's is. It slopes down to a home snack before another trip out to face Arkansas. That game will be the biggest test for the new-look Crimson Tide defense, and it doesn't have a whole lot of time before it to get any possible kinks worked out. It then drops down to FAU before rising a bit with Ole Miss. It's all up-and-down, up-and-down.
10/13: at Missouri
10/20: at Tennessee
10/27: MISSISSIPPI STATE
An early bye precedes a month of coin flip teams. They could be really tough or turn out to be not so bad, but we won't know until then whether it was head or tails for them. Here is where the obligatory reminder of Missouri having an offense not often seen in the SEC goes, but it's not like there's something out there this side of the A-11 that Nick Saban hasn't seen by now. The more interesting matchup will be seeing how Missouri's defense deals with the road graders on Bama's offensive line. It hasn't seen too many lines like that one in recent seasons. Tennessee presents an interesting challenge, as it's a rivalry game and (if everyone is healthy) the team has some firepower. Mississippi State has a history of giving Bama trouble from time to time, but it doesn't generally happen when the Tide is elite in a given season.
11/3: at LSU
11/10: TEXAS A&M
11/17: WESTERN CAROLINA
The biggest game of the season begins this month, and it will definitely be a tough one. LSU not only will be hosting this time around, but the Tigers get a bye week ahead of time. Bama hosts the other conference newbies the following week in the Bryant/Stallings/Franchione Bowl (one of these things is not like the other...), a game I have a feeling will be pretty ugly for the visitors. A virtual bye week then separates that from the Iron Bowl to close things out. Last year was the first time in Gene Chizik's three years as AU head coach that he didn't fare well in the game, so look for these Tigers to make it a bit closer.
While the first month is the most up-and-down, the whole schedule is a figurative roller coaster. The hills and valleys in September give way to a fog of mystery that could go either way in October, and the biggest hill kicks off a November that also is quite variable in its potential degree of difficulty. It's going to be an interesting ride in Tuscaloosa this year.