Nick Saban hasn’t been afraid to put marquee programs on his team’s schedule. Since 2008, Alabama has faced Clemson and Virginia Tech in Atlanta. They’ve played Penn State at home and then on the road. They’ll open with Michigan at Cowboys Stadium in Texas this season. And Bama’s scheduled to return to Atlanta for their 2013 (Virginia Tech again) and 2014 (West Virginia) openers.
According to Badger AD and former coach Barry Alvarez, ESPN tried to set-up an Alabama-Wisconsin neutral site game recently, but UW favored a home-and-home series instead. Alvarez told The Wisconsin State Journal that Saban declined that offer.
With the exception of the Penn State game at (Un)Happy Valley last fall, you’ll note that Saban has lined up key games with big-time foes mainly at neutral sites. Perhaps he’s of the John Calipari school. Of course, football is different than basketball… and lining up one neutral site game is different than lining up two or more per season.
As for Wisconsin, the Badgers are trying to beef up their schedule as college football transitions to a new playoff era. One with a selection committee that will base its picks to some extent on strength of schedule.
UW is scheduled to play eight Big Ten games per season and will also be taking on a Pac-12 team each year as “big league” foe #9. Alabama would have been a 10th quality opponent.
Alabama and other top SEC programs will likely try to keep at least nine quality foes from other power conferences on their schedules each year, but if schools like Wisconsin are trying to line up a 10th name opponent, that still puts the SEC behind the eight ball when it comes to the new playoff selection panel. And that’s not even counting the Pac-12 where teams will play at least 10 power conference teams per year and some — like Southern Cal — will face 11 or even 12 depending on the year.
Just more evidence that the SEC will eventually have to go to a nine-game football schedule. Whether the league’s coaches and ADs are frightened to do so or not.
(Oh, and for the record, Bama fans lost out on a great road trip in this deal. Camp Randall Stadium and the city of Madison are favorites of this writer.)