When Alabama takes the field next season, there will be no AJ McCarron. The Crimson Tide will be forced to start a new quarterback for the first time since 2010, and whoever wins the job will have to open the SEC slate with at home against Florida on Sept. 20.
It will be the first meeting between the Tide and the Gators since 2011 and will renew a rivalry that was at the top of college football just five years ago. In all, the teams have met 37 times, including seven SEC championship games. Alabama holds a 23-14 advantage and has won the last three contests in convincing fashion.
However, Florida is a program that won 11 games last year and should be one of the favorites to win the SEC in 2014 -- not an easy task for a first-year starter at quarterback.
The full SEC schedule for 2014 was released Tuesday, and it doesn’t get any easier for the Tide after Florida. Alabama opens the month of October with consecutive road games against Ole Miss and Arkansas before it returns home to face Texas A&M on Oct. 18. The Tide finish the month with a game at Tennessee, the fourth SEC opponent in as many weeks.
The most daunting game on the schedule will be a trip to Death Valley to face LSU on Nov. 8, but on a positive note the Tide will have the luxury of a bye the week before, giving them a chance to rest up and get healthy. It will be the sixth consecutive year Alabama has had an open week leading up to the LSU game.
Once they return home from Louisiana, the Tide will finish the season with consecutive home games against Mississippi State, Western Carolina and Auburn.
In all, Alabama will likely have one of the more difficult SEC schedules. On paper, there are no terrible back-to-back games like LSU and Texas A&M a year ago, but the four-game stretch in October won’t be easy and adding Florida as the Tide’s ‘rotating’ East division opponent makes the schedule that much more difficult.
Alabama opens the season with a game against West Virginia in Atlanta.