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November 23, 2009

Column: Schedule puts Tide at disadvantage

TUSCALOOSA _ In the University of Alabama football building, it wasn't Monday today, but Tuesday.

One has to wonder if everyone's assistants ran around the offices and changed all the calendars, sort of like a supped-up version of Daylight's Savings, or if it messed up anyone's holiday shopping.

Then again, scratch that, because no one associated with the program is thinking about Thanksgiving or Black Friday, much less Christmas this week (except Saban's wife Terry, who will have a number of players over for turkey Wednesday night). Auburn still captures that kind of attention despite last year's 36-0 slaughter.

Because this year's rivalry game will be played on Friday instead of Saturday, everything had to be moved up practice-wise, so the Crimson Tide started preparing for the Tigers on Sunday instead of taking a day off.

This is especially problematic for two reasons:

1. Television dictated a bad decision.
Someone at CBS apparently forgot that Alabama-Auburn is one of the country's best rivalry games, if not the best, challenged only by Michigan-Ohio State and maybe Army-Navy (if you're into nostalgia).

Even junior Greg McElroy said "It took about six minutes during recruiting" to figure out how big this rivalry is, and he's from Texas.

Granted the Tigers (7-4) were supposed to be down this year, but that's no excuse for scheduling the 74th meeting at a time when most people would rather be shopping.

Instead, Saturday's showcase viewing games will be Florida State at Florida at 2:30 p.m. on CBS, followed by the prime-time kickoffs of Arkansas at LSU on ESPN and Georgia at Georgia Tech on ABC or ESPN2.
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech?

"You're small fish in a big pond in Atlanta," said senior tight end Colin Peek, who played for Georgia Tech before transferring to the Capstone. "It never really seemed that big there."

2) Alabama is being put at a clear disadvantage.

Not only did Alabama lose a day of preparation, but Auburn is coming off a bye and has the added perk of playing at home.

For those who wonder how important an off week can be, remember how tired the Crimson Tide was when it barely held off Tennessee, 12-10. It's also partly why Auburn has lost four of its last six games following a 5-0 start.

"I think it helps probably more physically more than anything," senior left guard Mike Johnson. "No matter whom the next opponent is you're still going to be running the same plays and trying to defend the same plays for the most part. Just having that extra week to get your legs back under you is going to be huge for them (Auburn), and I know they're excited. They're a good football team. We're going to have to work that much harder."

The No. 2 Tide did its best by resting starters nearly the entire second half against Chattanooga on Saturday, but this should have sent up a red flag at Southeastern Conference headquarters.

Overall, the league has very little to do with the scheduling of games outside of the rotation of opponents each year, leaving most it up to the schools and the rest to television. That's fine and dandy, but consider Alabama's schedule next season.

South Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn have all scheduled byes the week before playing Alabama. While that's an amazing compliment, the Tide will once again face a gauntlet of five consecutive Saturdays against an SEC opponent with Tennessee at the end, and also hosts Penn State.

As Saban would say, "It is what it is," in terms of preparation and keeping the team's focus on the task at hand.

However, here's what it also is: baloney.


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