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This SEC team will be Alabama’s toughest opponent in 2024 and here’s why

Alabama football logo at Atlanta Marriott Marquis Hotel prior to 2018 CFP title game versus Georgia
Adam Hagy - USA Today Sports

Kalen DeBoer accepted the challenge to be Nick Saban’s successor at the University of Alabama.

The task comes with him navigating a tough schedule in the fall and propelling the Crimson Tide to a College Football Playoff National Championship opportunity. DeBoer, 49, has built a winning culture at each coaching stop in his career, but the expectations are much higher at Alabama. Tide fans want championships and a program it can always brag about.

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Some intriguing matchups are presented on Alabama schedule, but there is one team that will pose as the toughest test in DeBoer’s first season in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Kirby Smart is the head coach of that institution, and the team is the University of Georgia. Georgia travels to Bryant-Denny Stadium as the Crimson Tide’s fourth opponent on Saturday, Sept. 28. The matchup follows the Tide’s first road test of the DeBoer era, traveling to Madison (Wis.) to face the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium.

Smart, 48, senses an opportunity to make the Bulldogs the new gold standard of college football. He saw Saban own college football for nine years (2007-15) as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at Alabama. 

Smart grew up in Georgia, but he witnessed four national championships, four Southeastern Conference titles, two Heisman Trophy winners — Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry — several All-Americans, and numerous NFL Draft picks. He’s won two national titles as Georgia’s head coach, including one over Saban in the 2022 CFP National Championship matchup.

Saban usurped college football from Urban Meyer and Florida in 2009 to make Alabama the new power. Smart wants to seize Bryant-Denny Stadium in week four of the coming fall to take the keys from the Tide and make Georgia the new power.

The Bulldogs return Carson Beck at quarterback, but it lost Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey to the National Football League.

Malaki Starks, Mykel Williams, and Jalon Walker are back on defense, but Georgia has to locate other marquee players to continue being one of the best defensive groups in the sport. Alabama’s meeting with Georgia will determine how good Coach DeBoer is in his first season with the Crimson Tide. If the Tide handles Georgia with ease, then it could run the table unbeaten.

Smart returning to Tuscaloosa for the first time since 2020 makes this the toughest matchup.

Alabama has to defend home against the ‘Dawgs and show it has not relinquished the gold standard.

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Stephen M. Smith is the senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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