Predicting what's going to happen during the 2009 college football season before spring drills come to an official end is a fruitless, pointless exercise; a sheer waste of time and energy. But true college football fans simply cannot help themselves. Why postpone the argument over what teams will contend for conference and national titles for another three months when we can begin right now, this very instant.
So here's our best guess as to how the 2009 Alabama football season will play out. Of course, take it all with a grain of salt. Football I know, the future I don't.
Sept. 5 - Virginia Tech (Atlanta) - Last year's ACC/SEC Challenge in Atlanta put Alabama's resurgence on the map. Bama beat Clemson in the high-profile opener, 34-10, on their way to a perfect regular season. But this is a new Alabama team, breaking in new starters at quarterback, runningback, free safety and left tackle. On the other hand, Virginia Tech returns do-everything quarterback Tyrod Taylor, tailback Darren Evans and six other starters on offense. On defense and special teams, the Hokies should be strong, as they usually have been under Frank Beamer. Despite fielding a young team last season, Tech blistered its way through a down ACC year and into a BCS bowl. Chances are they'll be in position to do it again in 2009. Virginia Tech 20, Alabama 17
Sept. 12 - Florida International (Tuscaloosa) - FIU makes a return trip to Tuscaloosa, after Bama crushed the Panthers, 38-3, in 2005. FIU managed a respectable five-win season in 2008, but that doesn't mean the Tide is worried about this match-up. Alabama 51, FIU 6
Sept. 19 - North Texas (Tuscaloosa) - The Mean Green makes it two Sun Belt teams in a row for Bama and five in the past three years, including the 2007 Louisiana-Monroe disaster. Todd Dodge may have been one of the top prep coaches in the Lone Star state, but he hardly seems cut out for the college game. The Green finished 1-11 last season, with their only win coming against independent Western Kentucky. Alabama 58, North Texas 10
Sept. 26 - Arkansas (Tuscaloosa) - The Razorbacks enter their second year under head coach Bobby Petrino looking to pick up where they left off at the end of the 2008 season. Gone is the unfortunately named quarterback Casey Dick, replaced by Michigan transfer Ryan Mallet. Running back Michael Smith returns after giving at least one SEC school (Auburn) fits last season. But the biggest loss - center Jonathan Luigs - will take time overcome; perhaps through week three of the season. The defense, which wasn't particularly good in 2008, returns all 11 starters in 2009. Still, Alabama catches the Razorbacks at a perfect time during the season, after a physical match-up with Georgia and before a big tilt with Texas A&M in Dallas. Alabama 24, Arkansas 17
Oct. 3 - Kentucky (Lexington) - Mike Hartline returns to quarterback the 'Cats, who entered the Alabama game last season at 4-0, lost in a close game, and finished the season 3-6. The defense, Kentucky's strong suit last season, has sustained significant losses across the board. This game will be the first true road game for Alabama QB Greg McElroy, but Commonwealth Stadium is hardly an imposing place to debut when compared to the rest of the SEC. Alabama 31, Kentucky 17
Oct. 10 - Ole Miss (Oxford) - If there is anything we learned watching SEC football last year, it is that the stars beginning to align for the Rebels. Second-year coach Houston Nutt loses a bunch of offensive linemen, including first-round NFL Draft lock Michael Oher, but he returns all of his offensive playmakers. QB Jevon Snead, WR Shay Hodge and dynamic running back/wide receiver Dexter McCluster will all be back for 2009, as will eight starters on defense. The game returns to Oxford this year for the first time since 2007, when a late-game receiver-out-of-bounds call gave Bama a close and controversial win. Ole Miss 27, Alabama 21
Oct. 17 - South Carolina (Tuscaloosa, Homecoming) - Steve Spurrier's been coaching up the Gamecocks since 2005, and in all that time the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback has struggled to find an effective field general. At this point, it's unknown who'll start for Carolina in 2009, but if retreads Stephen Garcia and Tommy Beecher are still in the rotation by this point in the season, it might be another long year in Columbia. Alabama catches the Gamecocks at a poor time in the schedule, between physical games at Ole Miss and home against Tennessee, but should prevail nonetheless. Alabama 28, South Carolina 14
Oct. 24 - Tennessee (Tuscaloosa) - Ever since the Vols hired Lane Kiffin several months ago, fans around the country have been trying to determine whether or not he's a mad genius or a mental case. We should have some idea by this point in the season. Tennessee's schedule is top-heavy in 2009, with UCLA, Florida, Auburn and Georgia all waiting in line before the Tide to get their first crack at Kiffin. If the Vols begin the year poorly, then the team could have morale issues heading into this rivalry match-up. Two of the team's four best players return in 2009 in QB Jonathan Crompton and S Eric Berry. But the Vols should struggle with the loss of Arian Foster at tailback and Robert Ayers at defensive end. Depth is an issue in Knoxville and will continue to be, until Kiffin's recruiting classes begin to stack up. Chances are Alabama will take its third in a row in the series. Alabama 20, Tennessee 10
Oct. 31 - BYE WEEK
Nov. 7 - LSU (Tuscaloosa) - With Nick Saban at the helm in Tuscaloosa, the LSU rivalry is firmly entrenched at No. 3 on Alabama's hit list, well behind Auburn and a whisker from Tennessee. The Tide's overtime win in Death Valley last year was an instant classic. LSU's issues under center look to be solved with Jordan Jefferson's emergence late last season. And, although several offensive playmakers have made their exit (namely WR Demetrius Byrd), many more return in 2009, including RB Charles Scott and WR Brandon LaFell. Seven starters return on defense, which underperformed in 2008. They say the Tide doesn't lose in Baton Rouge, but they do lose at home quite often in the series. In fact, Alabama hasn't beaten the Tigers in Bryant-Denny in a decade. The streak continues. LSU 24, Alabama 17
Nov. 14 - Mississippi State (Starkville) - Will this game lose a bit of its fire now that Sly Croom has been shown the door? Perhaps. Croom's ability to get the Bulldogs fired up to play Alabama was instrumental in the 2006 and 2007 games, both of which were inexplicably won by State. New head coach Dan Mullen is an offensive guru and he'll need every bit of his moxie to squeeze the talent out of a pretty bare cupboard. The addition of QB Tyler Russell could finally put the woeful Bulldog offense on the right track, but Alabama will simply be too deep to beat. Alabama 28, Mississippi State 13
Nov. 21 - Tennessee-Chattanooga (Tuscaloosa) - Much like the Louisiana-Monroe game two years ago, Alabama should be wary of the non-conference sandwich match here. The Mocs finished 1-11 in 2008, scoring seven points or less in eight of their 12 games. Are they any threat on paper? No, not at all. But neither was Monroe. Alabama 38, Tennessee-Chattanooga 14
Nov. 27 - Auburn (Auburn) - Much has already been made of the decision to play the Iron Bowl on Black Friday, but scheduling snafus won't play a role in determining the outcome of the state's biggest game of the year. What kind of team Auburn will be in 2009 remains a mystery. Gus Malzahn is a dynamic offensive schemer, but does Auburn have the personnel to run his system effectively in 2009? That remains to be seen. Fans seemed to have little patience for the spread last season, so how long will they tolerate it this season if things go south early on? That remains to be seen. Ted Roof, Auburn's new defensive coordinator, has bounced around schools throughout the country (including Alabama as a graduate assistant in the late '80s) with varying degrees of success. Will he be able follow through on Auburn's tradition of tough, run-clogging, hard-hitting defense? That remains to be seen. Is Gene Chizik the genius we thought he was in when he bolted for Texas, or the goat we assume he is after a terrible tenure in Ames, Iowa? Indeed, that remains to be seen. This game, once utterly unpredictable, has been anything but these past few seasons. We knew Auburn would win two years ago. We knew Bama would roll last year. Until we see what now is unseen, we'll have to assume that the Tide's roll will roll on. Alabama 21, Auburn 13
If these predictions are true - and I'll be somewhat shocked if they all are - that means that the Tide's due a 9-3 season. Considering all the new starters Alabama will be debuting on offense, that's a pretty solid year. Depending on how Ole Miss and LSU finish out, Alabama could very well end up representing the SEC West in Atlanta for a second-straight year. Either way, 9-3 would likely translate into a Capital One of Cotton Bowl postseason scenario.
But it's a little too early to start thinking about that, right?
This story is part of Birmingham Weekly’s Alabama Spring Football Preview Package. Check back frequently through the month of April for more on Alabama, Auburn and UAB football.