Alabama's Toughest Enemy Could be Its Own Mindset | SEC 2013

Kevin Liles-USA TODAY Sports

There's no such thing as an easy schedule in SEC football. But the Tide came about as close as they could to getting one this year

This is an overview. Predictions come later.

8.31.13 | vs. VIRGINIA TECH (Atlanta)
9.14.13 | at TEXAS A&M
9.28.13 | OLE MISS

Look at the first two games on Alabama's schedule, because it's the closest that the Tide comes to playing two road games in a row all year. And I think we all know which team has the shortest trip and is likely to have the most fans in the Georgia Dome at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff. And the Tide get a bye week between the game against the Hokies and the trip to College Station. Give Alabama some credit for at least trying to schedule a credible non-conference opponent in 2013; after all, the Tide couldn't have known when the game was scheduled just how fringe-y a Top 25 team that Virginia Tech would be. But the way the schedule falls out takes a slight measure of impressiveness out of the first two games. After that is a home scrimmage against Colorado State before Ole Miss comes to town for an intriguing match-up that might be the last time Alabama plays a bowl team until November.

10.12.13 | at KENTUCKY
10.19.13 | ARKANSAS
10.26.13 | TENNESSEE

And here we have the coasting part of the schedule, where the most dangerous opponent Alabama faces might be complacency. Georgia State is one of the newest additions to the FBS, and Alabama should have no trouble putting eight or ten touchdowns on the board. The trip to Kentucky isn't much of a threat barring Mark Stoops being a miracle worker, and Arkansas and Tennessee are also facing coaching transitions that are more likely than not going to involve one or two more tough years before things turn around. That said, the last three teams do have at least some SEC caliber players, so the Tide can't get in "roll their helmets out on the field" mode, and one doubts Nick Saban will allow them to. The only possible problem is that the team gets too used to winning easily before the calender turns to November and they run into ...

11.9.13 | LSU
11.23.13 | CHATTANOOGA
11.30.13 | at AUBURN

... the biggest remaining obstacle on the schedule. The Alabama-LSU game has been must-see television for years now, and there's no reason to think this season will be any different. The stakes likely won't be quite as high as they were in 2011 -- even if Alabama holds onto its No. 1 ranking through the first two months of the season, it's not likely LSU will be No. 2 then -- but it's still a colossal game given what remains of Alabama's schedule. Mississippi State could push the Tide a bit, but we've been waiting on that for years, and a home game against Chattanooga followed by a game at Auburn look to be easy pickings for the Tide. It's not a glide path to the SEC Championship Game and a potential national title, but it's about as close as they come.

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