At some point, you have to wonder how much Alabama's schedule looks unintimidating because of scheduling practices and how much it looks unintimidating because of Alabama. There's no doubt that it's a little bit of both; you don't put Florida Atlantic, a down Southern Miss team and an FCS team on the docket because you want to challenge your team. (The Tide should get some credit for trying with West Virginia, given that no one knew that the Mountaineers were headed for a Dana Holgorsen-sized black hole when the game was agreed to.) On the other hand, it's hard to get too concerned for the Tide in October against a slate that would prove at least a little bit tricky for most teams.
Time passes. Go back several season and this is a pretty tough opening slate. West Virginia was perhaps the most consistent program in the waning years of the Big East, Southern Miss was a decent enough mid-major and Florida was still the Tim Tebow Show. This year -- not so much. The line in the West Virginia game is hovering somewhere around a 26- or 27-point edge for the Tide. Side note: It's the first time the Mountaineers and the Tide have ever played each other. Florida Atlantic is Florida Atlantic, and Southern Miss is coming off a 1-11 season. In fact, the Eagles have gone 1-23 over the last two years. Florida is the wild card here; if Will Muschamp really is able to capitalize on returning a lot of players and turn UF into a contender again, that could be a difficult game. But the game is in Tuscaloosa, and Alabama will certainly have enough time to prepare for it.
On the road again. The bad news: Alabama has three road games in October. The good news: Two of them are Arkansas and Tennessee. The last time Arkansas and Tennessee, or either one of them individually, defeated the Tide was in 2006. The most interesting game here might be the first true road trip of the year, when Alabama goes to Oxford to face what could be a high-octane offensive attack. Still, Ole Miss hasn't beaten the Tide since 2003 and has only done so nine times in 59 tries. Texas A&M comes to Tuscaloosa without Johnny Manziel, which should help Nick Saban's cardiac health.
Tigers and Bulldogs and Tigers -- oh my! It will be interesting to see how the season has shaped up when the Tide visits Baton Rouge for the Game of the Century (TM). It's not implausible that both teams could have one loss or fewer, setting it up for another well-hyped clash between presumed SEC West powers. And then Alabama hosts Mississippi State. The Tide's winning percentage in that series is just a shade under .799, so the upset seems just a bit unlikely. This will be the fourth time that WCU has played Alabama, and they have yet to lose by less than 46 points. And then there's the Iron Bowl, which had more than enough juice even before the "Kick Six" cost Alabama a chance to play for the national title and the opportunity to go through the offseason without seeing the same painful highlight over ... and over ... and over. If the Tide loses a second straight game to the Tigers, it won't be because they lacked adequate motivation.