Alabama head coach Nick Saban went on a familiar rant about Alabama’s schedule after last weekend’s blowout victory over New Mexico State. Although Alabama has pioneered the art of playing a good (or at least an above-average) opponent form a power conference on a neutral field and are about to embark on some fun home-and-home series in the coming years, sometimes Alabama gets picked on for some of the lesser opponents they face on the football field (as do many other power conference programs).
After drubbing New Mexico State by 52 points in Week 2, Saban was asked after the game how playing a team like New Mexico State helps prepare his team for the SEC schedule.
“We’re playing the best teams that we can get to play us,” replied Saban in his signature style anytime someone challenges him on the schedule. Saban then asked the reporter to “start calling around and see you can get somebody else to play us?”
“We’ll play anybody you can get to play us,” Saban proclaimed.
Anybody, you say? While many teams may shy away from facing Alabama, there is one school in the same state ready and willing to reserve a date. It’s Troy.
Troy has never faced Alabama or Auburn. They are not alone in being snubbed by Alabama and Auburn. Alabama has not played an in-state opponent in non-conference play since 1944. Auburn has been a bit more open to in-state opponents in recent years, but not quite to the degree where a team like Troy enters the mix. Auburn will host Samford later this season and hosted Alabama State in 2018, Alabama A&M in 2017, and Jacksonville State in 2015. Auburn played Samford previously in 2014. These have all been games against FCS opponents, while schools like Troy, UAB, and South Alabama can’t get a call back.
“I think we have a very good model that’s worked well for us and I don’t see that changing,” Alabama athletics director Greg Byrne said at the SEC meetings in 2017.
Troy has made an effort to start a scheduling dialogue though, although it has come up empty for years.
“Nothing would please us more than to be able to go play,” former Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said in 2013. “Take our program and take our people to Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare. I think it would be good for college football. It certainly will be good for the conferences and all the schools involved, would probably make more and spend less. I don’t think either coach at either place now or before is worried about losing, maybe it will happen one day. Maybe it will happen. I hope it will. I don’t know that it will happen in my tenure.”
Well, it didn’t happen in his tenure, obviously. But it didn’t happen in Neal Brown‘s tenure either, and Chip Lindsey‘s tenure is off on the same trend with Alabama and Auburn not getting Troy on the schedule.
Saban doesn’t make the schedules, and he has said repeatedly the decisions about that are not in his hands despite his comments about his desire to play tougher schedules (credit him for that at least). But until Alabama actually will play anyone who wants to play them, maybe Saban should scale back that response a bit.