The SEC portion of Bama's schedule sets up very well. The Tide avoids both of the SEC Eastern Division's top two teams – Florida and Georgia. Instead, Alabama's crossover foes from the East are Kentucky (Oct. 3 at Lexington) and South Carolina (Oct. 17 at Tuscaloosa).
Bama's two toughest conference opponents project to be Ole Miss and LSU. The Tide must play at Ole Miss (Oct. 10 in Oxford) but gets LSU at home (Nov. 7 in Tuscaloosa). Other than Ole Miss, Bama's SEC road games are against three teams that posted 2-6 league records last fall – Kentucky, Mississippi State and Auburn.
As for Alabama's non-conference schedule, it features one quality opponent, one mediocre opponent and two stiffs.
The Tide opens in the Georgia Dome against defending ACC champ Virginia Tech, which went 10-4 and beat Cincinnati 20-7 in the Orange Bowl last January. The Hokies are the quality team.
The mediocre opponent is Florida International, whose 5-6 record in 2008 included a 42-0 loss at Iowa.
That brings us to the stiffs, North Texas and Chattanooga. Each team went 1-11 last fall, with Chattanooga doing so while facing 10 teams from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Div. 1-AA). The two Football Bowl Subdivision teams the Moccasins faced, Oklahoma (57-2) and Florida State (46-7), took them to the woodshed. The immediate availability of quarterback B. J. Coleman, a transfer from Tennessee, will make the Mocs a little better in '09 but not THAT much better.
Bama has one stretch in which it must play consecutive SEC games against South Carolina, Tennessee and LSU but all three contests are at home and there's an open date between the Vols and the Tigers.
Bottom line: Bama plays just one quality SEC team (Ole Miss) on the road and plays just one quality team (Virginia Tech) outside the conference. Thanks to a favorable schedule, the Tide has a great chance to go 10-2 with an 8-4 team.