Alabama-USF Makes Up For Crimson Tide's Few Reliaquest Bowl Appearances

Many may ask why Alabama is visiting USF this Saturday, but fans must look no further than Alabama's limited Reliaquest Bowl history

Alabama has appeared in the Outback Bowl twice
Source: Michigan Athletics

The most bizarre game on the week three slate is Alabama's unprecedented road game against USF at Raymond James Stadium. Brett McMurphy tweeted interesting stats regarding this game below.

Once a fixture at NFL stadiums through their numerous appearances in Kickoff games, it is clear why Alabama is playing USF at their borrowed home. Alabama has not played a regular season game in an NFL stadium since the 2021 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic. 2022 became the first non-pandemic season since 2011 that Alabama did not participate in a neutral site "Kickoff Classic" at an NFL stadium.

Playing USF in their home stadium is a low-risk endeavor that fulfills this recruiting pitch while giving the Crimson Tide two future home games against USF in the process.

Arguably, the most surprising aspect of this rare home game is the rarity of Alabama's trips to Tampa. The SEC's long-standing partnership with the Reliaquest (formerly Outback) Bowl dates back to 1995. However, the Crimson Tide have appeared in the Tampa bowl game just twice in that span. For much of the Outback Bowl's existence, Alabama has been simply too good for a bowl long-viewed as a consolation prize to the Sugar and even Citrus Bowls.

Alabama made its first appearance in the Reliaquest Bowl on January 2nd of 1988, then called the Hall of Fame Bowl. 7-4 Alabama played Michigan, who also went 7-4. Alabama finished fifth in the SEC out of 11 teams, while Michigan finished fourth in the Big Ten out of 10 teams and a game below Indiana of all teams. Michigan prevailed 28-24 over the Crimson Tide on the strength of Jamie Morris' 234-rushing yards and three-touchdown performance.

Nine seasons later, Alabama received an Outback Bowl bid as a reward for a season where they came one game short of a Fiesta or Orange Bowl bid after losing to eventual national champion Florida in the SEC Championship Game. Awaiting them was Michigan, who finished fifth in the Big Ten and went 8-3. The Wolverines slid into the Big Ten's #4 bowl slot thanks to the Big Ten sending two teams to Bowl Alliance bowls.

Despite Michigan outgaining Alabama 415-247, the Crimson Tide got revenge in a 17-14 win largely due to Dwayne Rudd's 88-yard pick-six.
These are Alabama's only appearances in the Reliaquest/Outback Bowl. Both appearances predate the life of Raymond James Stadium. Alabama's only appearance at Raymond James Stadium came during the 2016 College Football Playoff Championship against Clemson.

While Tampa is a great tourist city, Alabama being too successful to appear in the Reliaquest Bowl is an amazing problem to have, if you can even call it one. Hopefully, Alabama fans enjoy this rare and strange opportunity this Saturday.