Roundtable: Schedules, expansion & predictions

Alabama football: Crimson & White Roundtable

Alabama football: Crimson & White Roundtable

Picture Me Rollin hosts this week’s Crimson & White Roundtable. As always follow the Roundtable at its website.

1. There’s been a lot of talk about schedules and future opponents recently with Georgia Tech dropping off for 2012 and 2013. This question gets thrown around a lot, but it’s pertinent once again. Pretend you’re Mal Moore. Who do you target for a future home-and-home series or who would you seek for a one-shot, neutral site game?

I’d love to see the Penn State series renewed. That was perhaps the most unique rivalry I remember from the 1980s. However, that isn’t likely to happen with the growing demands of conference schedules. So, neutral site games seem like the most likely solution. I’d love to play in Dallas against just about anyone. It could be USC, BYU, Nebraska, Oklahoma or even Stanford or Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech. A game matching Alabama against any opponent from the west would add interest to the early season. A trip to Chicago would also be a good deal for another neutral site game. Alabama could play a powerhouse like Northwestern—since apparently beating Northwestern is a great thing for your program—or maybe Ohio State. Notre Dame would be the best such matchup at a neutral site game.

I know many fans don’t like these games instead of the extra home game, but I believe they serve important tactical purposes. While some programs engage in circus-style recruiting and then dodge major opponents, Alabama can dominate ESPN’s college football coverage for a weekend. There is no better advertisement for your program than playing big games. Despite what the newspapers might tell you.

2. The recently completed season has gotten us all filled with fresh, good memories. A new crop of players have completed their eligibility and endeared themselves to Crimson Tide faithful forever as have some guys that are still on the roster. Have any of the recent players unseated their predecessors for the top spots on your own personal “all-time greatest” players list? If so, who are they?

It would be hard not to include Rolando McClain on a list of top Alabama Crimson Tide football players. He is everything you would want in a representative of the University and state of Alabama.

3. Conference expansion is all the rage across the country, which in my opinion is a response to the recent and foreseeable dominance in the SEC. Now expansion of our conference is being discussed as a possibility. Are you for or against expansion of the SEC and why? Whether you are pro-expansion or not, list the teams you like to see added (and/or removed) to the league roster if expansion takes place.

I wrote a column on this over the weekend on expansion and why it isn’t a bad thing. However, I’ll save that rant for a posting later. I’ll simply say that expansion is inevitable if the Big Ten goes to 16 teams—that demands a response. It will mean certain expansion for the SEC if the rumors involving the Big XII losing two teams turns out to be true. It isn’t a bad thing because the creation of super conferences means the eventual creation of four 16 team leagues with each holding a conference championship. That will mean every team in major college football must go through a conference championship game before bowl season. That is a net positive for the SEC champion—even in an expanded conference.

As for an expanded SEC, Texas and Texas A&M would be nice additions because of the television markets. Texas is remarkable since it expressed interest in the SEC prior to when Arkansas joined the conference. If the SEC added these two teams, it would need to add two more teams to get to 16—Georgia Tech and FSU would provide geographic balance for divisions. Of course, the wildcard in all of this talk would be Oklahoma—would the Sooners be available if the Big XII gets raided? If so, where would they land? If they were available then the best expansion plan would be to shift Alabama and Auburn to the SEC East and add four teams from the Big XII region to the SEC West. But that all depends on a breakup of the Big XII.

If the BIG XII remains and the Big Ten only adds one or two schools, the pressure to expand won’t be as great. However, if the Big Ten makes a major move, watch out. The SEC will expand its television footprint.

4. Pre-season indications (which are admittedly totally my own prognostications) are that our two biggest rivals, Tennessee and Auburn, are going to suck and be somewhat improved respectively. Agree or disagree?

I’m not sold on either team’s quarterback. That said, Tennessee should be much worse than last season. Auburn will be about the same. If you look at Auburn’s schedule then you’ll see it has the opportunity to lose five games, but that depends on how good or bad LSU turns out to be. If LSU is good then five loses would be a reasonable projection. If LSU continues its downward trend then Auburn could make that a win. Of course, that is a big if.

5. Tell us what team will be the biggest surprise, good or bad, in the SEC this season.

I believe Georgia is going to be a pleasant surprise this year. Sure, everyone always expects Georgia to be good. And they will be. What I think will be most surprising is that Georgia and Mark Richt will correct the discipline problems and the concentration issues that have plagued the team over the last few years. This means I expect fewer penalties and improved cohesion on the team—that should mean a better chances to win the big games.