The 2014 season has yet to even kick off, and Alabama’s athletic director already has one eye planted firmly on 2015. Or, more specifically, the glaring hole in the Tide’s 2015 schedule.
Alabama currently has Wisconsin, Louisiana-Lafayette and, reportedly, an FCS opponent for that season and… well, that’s it. Thanks to the SEC opting to remain at an eight-game conference schedule, the Tide is desperately seeking a fourth non-conference opponent for 2015.
“We’ve called everybody we know,” AD Bill Battle told CBSSports.com. “Right now we’d take anybody.”
Presumably that “anybody” would include a second FCS opponent, although, with the new College Football Playoff set to commence this season and strength of schedule expected to play a part in it, the program would likely prefer to avoid that particular pastry if at all possible.
Of the 115 teams that will play at the FBS level in 2015 — we’re excluding the 14-team SEC for obvious reasons — less than 40 would be able to accommodate the Tide’s scheduling Hail Mary. With that in mind, below are the 10 FBS conferences — and independents — and the teams that have openings on their 2015 schedules:
AAC: East Carolina, Houston, SMU, Tulane, Tulsa, UCF, UConn, USF
ACC: Georgia Tech, Miami, North Carolina State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Wake Forest
Big 12: none
Big Ten: Penn State
Conference USA: Charlotte, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, North Texas, Rice
MAC: Bowling Green, Buffalo,Central Michigan, Western Michigan
MWC: Air Force, Colorado State, Hawaii, New Mexico, San Diego State, San Jose State
Pac-12: Arizona, Stanford
Sun Belt: Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas State
It’s highly unlikely that any of the teams in the Power Five conferences would jump at the opportunity to play the Tide as they all have games already scheduled against the power leagues, just as it would be unlikely UA would look at a game from that group with Wisconsin already on the schedule. If you take that as gospel, the field of possibilities is sliced to less than 30 at the FBS level.
Of that remaining group, 15 already have two games scheduled against Power Five conferences. Those from non-Power Five conferences are, normally, loathe to schedule more than two of those types of games. In fact, just five schools — Central Michigan, Hawaii, Troy, UT-San Antonio, Western Kentucky — have three games against the Power Five on tap for 2015.
That would seemingly leave a pool of just 10 teams that might be open to facing Alabama: Houston (Louisville), UCF (South Carolina), Charlotte (none), FIU (Indiana), Air Force (Michigan State), New Mexico (Arizona State), Louisiana-Lafayette (BCS team TBA), Texas State (Florida State), Tulsa (Oklahoma) and UConn (none).
BYU would seem like an option, although the Cougars are looking for another home game that season and, as the Salt Lake Tribune writes, “there’s no way on God’s green earth that Alabama would agree to travel to Provo.”
So, yes, it appears that, one, the Tide’s AD has quite the Battle on his hands and, two, whoever ends up becoming UA’s 12th game will likely realize quite the financial windfall for its athletic department.
One final note: Alabama and Colorado State announced in 2012 that it had scheduled a two-game series, both in Tuscaloosa, for the 2013 season as well as either 2015 or 2017. Why 2015 is not an option for CSU is something we’re attempting to have answered through official channels, although the fact that CSU also has Power Five games against Colorado and Minnesota — on the road — on its 2015 schedule could very well explain that part of the equation.
UPDATED 6:26 p.m. ET: According to TideNation.com, Alabama is in discussions with Southern Miss about filling out the former’s 2015 schedule.
The only problem with that? Southern Miss’ non-conference schedule is already filled that year: home games against Mississippi State (9/5) and BYU (10/17), road games vs. Appalachian State (9/19) and Nebraska (9/26). The Conference USA school would have to drop one of those four games, and it would seem very likely that the home games are untouchables — unless UA offered a guarantee above the $1.4 million payout Southern Miss is getting this year for its trip to face the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
The most likely game to be lopped off the Golden Eagles’ slate is App. State. Not only would it be the lesser of the buyouts — which UA may pick up anyway for the favor they’d be doing — but it also coincides with an open date on the Tide’s 2015 calendar.