USF football fans should be glad Nick Saban didn’t get his schedule wish

Why the biggest debate at the SEC spring meetings ripples to Raymond James Stadium.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban will go against USF at Raymond James Stadium this year.
Alabama football coach Nick Saban will go against USF at Raymond James Stadium this year. [ MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published May 30

DESTIN — Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t give a clear opinion Tuesday about whether he wants future SEC football schedules to be eight or nine conference games. He did, however, reiterate his general scheduling philosophy — one USF fans should be thankful hasn’t materialized.

“It’s better for strength of schedule that we all play all Power Five games,” Saban said at the SEC’s spring meetings. “However we get to that, I think that’s the best thing.”

But what’s best for Alabama might not be best for the Bulls, who host the Crimson Tide on Sept. 16. The game will probably not be competitive — USF is in for a rebuilding year under new coach Alex Golesh, while the Tide should again be a championship contender. But the attention and attendance at Raymond James Stadium will both benefit the Bulls … in a game that wouldn’t happen if Saban had his way.

Saban, however, does not run the sport. No teams schedule 12 games against Power Five opponents, so Alabama doesn’t, either. The Tide needs some weaker opponents to round out a 2023 schedule that includes eight SEC games plus Texas. USF made geographical sense and lets Alabama play in an NFL stadium. A two-for-one series (with trips to Tuscaloosa in 2024 and 2026) was cheaper than other options, too.

As conference coaches and administrators discuss options this week, Saban suggested another issue for them consider. Alabama has already loaded future non-conference schedules with big-name opponents; its 2025 schedule features Wisconsin and a trip to Florida State, and its 2026 slate includes FSU and West Virginia.

“If we go to nine games,” Saban said, “we’ll have to unwind that.”

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