A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
“Well, bless your little pea-pickin’ heart!” – Tennessee Ernie Ford
Thursday Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey announced 10-game, conference-only schedules for the league’s 14 members this fall. The season will begin September 26 with the season finales scheduled for December 5. The SEC Championship Game in Atlanta will be played December 19, which means the weekend of December 12 can be used to play any games postponed due to outbreaks of the covid-19 virus.
Prior to Sankey’s announcement, it was thought the SEC would go with the same scheduling model announced Wednesday by the Atlantic Coast Conference. The ACC announced it would go with a 10-plus-1 schedule – 10 conference games and one non-conference, a move that would have preserved interconference rivalry games like Florida-Florida State, South Carolina-Clemson, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Kentucky-Louisville. By adding Notre Dame as a conference member for at least the 2020 season, the ACC gets the exposure of 10 conference matchups with the Irish that will be televised. For a league that is generally viewed as Clemson and the 13 Dwarfs, adding Notre Dame was a coup.
But, Thursday, Sankey and the big, bad SEC threw a bucket of ice water on the ACC coup. Instead of following suit, the SEC announced it will go with a conference-only schedule that not only eliminates the rivalry games but gives the conference some wiggle room that won’t necessarily be there with an 11-game schedule. By pushing the start of the season back to September 26, Sankey gave the SEC added weeks to figure out logistics such as playing games with or without crowds, chartering planes for road trips and working out television schedules for CBS, ESPN and the SEC Network. Moving the final regular season weekend back to December 5 gives every SEC team 11 weeks to play 10 games with the safety net of December 12 in case the virus flares up at one or more schools.
The SEC decision makes plenty of sense, but it also creates a nightmare for the athletic directors who now have to juggle schedules. Tennessee Ernie would be doing a lot of heart blessing for the SEC athletic directors if he were still alive and kicking. Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin finds himself with three consecutive open dates to finish the season – November 21, November 28 and December 5. He can likely fill November 21 with Arkansas, which is also open. The Gators and Kentucky were originally scheduled for September 12. Since Florida’s game with FSU and Kentucky’s game with Louisville (both on November 28) were eliminated, this is the perfect time to re-schedule the game.
Alabama’s September 19 season opener with Georgia is almost certain to be moved back a week since both have an open date. That will be must see TV so figure it will be the CBS showcase game at 3:30. There is a problem for Alabama on November 14. There isn’t a team from the SEC East with an open date that day so the league is going to have to shuffle schedules to accommodate the Crimson Tide.
Although there are plenty of other open dates up and down the league that will require plenty of thought and some shuffling around to make the schedules work, there is that December 5 finale, an open date for every team in the league. Sankey has to be very careful here to avoid matching up two teams that might meet two weeks later in the SEC Championship Game. There has been rumors flying that the Gators would add Texas A&M and Alabama to the schedule. It would some effort to get both on the UF schedule. One of them is possible for that December 5 date, but considering the Gators and Alabama go into the season as the two teams to beat there is that possibility of a rematch and that could be a ratings disaster.
Although moving the start of the season back to September 26 leaves the networks with scheduling voids, they will have a chance to make up for lost revenue because the directional schools and other cupcakes will be zapped from the schedules. Conference games only will make for better television.
With all the non-conference games eliminated, here are the SEC games already on the schedule and the open dates that will have to be filled:
ALABAMA: 9/26 Open; 10/3 at Ole Miss; 10/10 at Arkansas; 10/17 Mississippi State; 10/24 Mississippi State; 11/7 at Tennessee; 11/14 Open; 11/21 Texas A&M; 11/28 Auburn; 12/5 Open
Needs to reschedule: 9/19 Georgia
ARKANSAS: 9/26 vs. Texas A&M (Arlington, TX); 10/3 Open; 10/10 Alabama; 10/17 LSU; 10/24 Open; 10/31 Tennessee; 11/7 at Auburn; 11/14 Ole Miss; 11/21 Open; 11/28 vs. Missouri (Kansas City); 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/19 at Mississippi State
AUBURN: 9/26 Open; 10/3 Kentucky; 10/10 at Georgia; 10/17 Texas A&M; 10/24 Open; 10/31 at Mississippi State; 11/7 Arkansas; 11/14 Open; 11/21 LSU; 11/28 at Alabama; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/19 at Ole Miss
FLORIDA: 9/26 at Tennessee; 10/3 South Carolina; 10/10 LSU; 10/17 at Ole Miss; 10/24 Open; 10/31 vs. Georgia (Jacksonville); 11/7 at Vanderbilt; 11/14 Missouri; 11/21 Open; 11/28 Open; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/12 Kentucky
GEORGIA: 9/26 Open; 10/3 Vanderbilt; 10/10 Auburn; 10/17 at Missouri; 10/24 Open; 10/31 vs. Florida (Jacksonville); 11/7 at South Carolina; 11/14 Tennessee; 11/21 at Kentucky; 11/28 Open; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/12 at Alabama
KENTUCKY: 9/26 South Carolina; 10/3 at Auburn; 10/10 Open; 10/17 Vanderbilt; 10/24 at Missouri; 10/31 Open; 11/7 at Tennessee; 11/14 Mississippi State; 11/21 Georgia; 11/28 Open; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/12 at Florida
LSU: 9/26 Ole Miss; 10/3 Open; 10/10 at Florida; 10/17 at Arkansas; 10/24 Mississippi State; 10/31 Open; 11/7 Alabama; 11/14 South Carolina; 11/21 at Auburn; 11/28 at Texas A&M; 12/5 Open
MISSISSIPPI STATE: 9/26 Open; 10/3 Texas A&M; 10/10 Open; 10/17 at Alabama; 10/24 LSU; 10/31 Auburn; 11/7 Missouri; 11/14 at Kentucky; 11/26 at Ole Miss; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/19 Arkansas
MISSOURI: 9/26 Open; 10/3 at Tennessee; 10/10 Open; 10/17 Georgia; 10/24 Kentucky; 11/7 at Mississippi State; 11/14 at Florida; 11/21 Open; 11/28 vs. Arkansas (Kansas City); 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/12 Vanderbilt
OLE MISS: 9/26 at LSU 10/3 Alabama; 10/10 at Vanderbilt; 10/17 Florida; 10/24 Open; 10/31 Open; 11/7 at Texas A&M; 11/14 at Arkansas; 11/21 Open; 11/26 Mississippi State; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/19 Auburn
SOUTH CAROLINA: 9/26 at Kentucky; 10/3 at Florida; 10/10 Tennessee; 10/17 Open; 10/24 Texas A&M; 10/31 at Vanderbilt; 11/7 Georgia; 11/14 at LSU; 11/21 Open; 11/28 Open; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/19 Missouri
TENNESSEE: 9/26 Florida; 10/3 Missouri; 10/10 at South Carolina; 10/17 Open; 10/24 Alabama; 10/31 at Arkansas; 11/7 Kentucky; 11/14 at Georgia; 11/21 Open; 11/28 at Vanderbilt; 12/5 Open
TEXAS A&M: 9/26 vs. Arkansas (Arlington, TX); 10/3 at Mississippi State; 10/10 Open; 10/17 at Auburn; 10/24 at South Carolina; 10/31 Open; 11/7 Ole Miss; 11/14 Vanderbilt; 11/21 at Alabama; 11/28 at LSU; 12/5 Open
VANDERBILT: 9/26 Open; 10/3 at Georgia; 10/10 Ole Miss; 10/17 at Kentucky; 10/24 Open; 10/31 South Carolina; 11/7 Florida; 11/14 at Texas A&M; 11/21 Open; 11/28 Tennessee; 12/5 Open
Need to reschedule: 9/12 at Missouri