Alabama pioneered the neutral site opener, beginning with a 34-10 whipping of Clemson in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta and continuing almost annually since. The Tide take their fans on yearly treks east to Atlanta, west to Dallas, or last year, south to Orlando. Later this month Alabama will open its season opposite Duke in Atlanta.
Moving forward, though, Alabama will turn away from neutral site in favor of home-and-homes. The Crimson Tide have lined up Texas in 2022-23, Wisconsin in 2024-25, West Virginia in 2026-27, Notre Dame in 2028-29, Oklahoma in 2032-33.
However, it if were up to Nick Saban — and why wouldn’t it be? — Alabama wouldn’t have to choose. They’d do both.
“I’ve always said, ‘Let’s play all Power 5 games,'” Saban told ESPN’s Chris Low. “I was in the NFL where we played all the games against NFL teams. But let’s play at least 10 Power 5 games. It would be better for the players, better for the fans, and I think you wouldn’t have to worry that if you lost a game that you wouldn’t have as much of a chance to still be in [the College Football Playoff]. They talk about strength of schedule now, but how do you really evaluate that?”
Low later explained Saban’s plan would see Alabama play a home-and-home game and a neutral site game.
Saban’s protege Kirby Smart evidently agrees. Thanks to Georgia’s annual rivalry with Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs will play 10 Power 5 every year and have 11 such games lined up in 2028 and ’29.
“If we don’t (play more marquee non-conference opponents), fans are going to quit coming,” Saban said, “and I can’t say I blame them.”