The SEC announced the 2020 college football schedule on Monday night and I’m weighing in with my two cents and five takeaways from the announcement.
The league had previously announced it would begin the season on Sept. 26. Earlier today, they released week one’s slate prior to the 7 p.m. full release of games.
Not exactly a sexy line up for the opening weekend for the SEC, although there are a few games I’ll at least like to see a few possessions of. South Carolina hosting Tennessee seems to be the “Game of the Week” if there is one. The two Eastern Division foes have been known to produce a tight contest with six of the last eight meetings being decided by three points or less. Last season, UT routed the Gamecocks in Neyland Stadium, 41-21. I don’t know why, but I think I’ll check out at least a quarter or two of Kentucky and Auburn although I suspect that one won’t be much fun after that point.
Tough sledding for newcomers Mike Leach at Mississippi State and Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss as they battle LSU on the road and host Florida at home, respectively. Ouch. If Covid-19 hadn’t made things hard enough for the first-year coaches at their new schools, they also pull two of the toughest teams in the league for their first game. Baptism by fire, I guess. Whew.
Arkansas, bless your heart. First-year Razorback head coach Sam Pittman wasn’t spared from the brutality of the SEC gauntlet, either. While we have to remember we’re talking Arkansas football and a first year head coach during a Pandemic era, it certainly doesn’t help when you have the schedule the Razorbacks were dealt.
What all do they have to look forward to? Well for starters, they open with a home game against Georgia. Week two at Mississippi State is more reasonable but right after that they head to the plains to take on quarterback Bo Nix and the Auburn Tigers. But to be fair, that’s probably a blessing in disguise.
Former Clemson OC and SMU/Arkansas head coach Chad Morris is back where he is probably best suited….as a coordinator. If we make it to late October and November, I’d love to see how that duo is able to attack defenses. Speaking of November…..yikes. Arkansas faces Tennessee at home, Florida on the road, LSU at home and Missouri on the road. They wrap it up with a home tilt against Alabama the first weekend of December.
Most Favorable Path to the CFP
Alabama appears to have a reasonable path to return to the playoff after a near miss last season. They open the year with a road trip to Columbia to battle the Tigers. Next up, a visit from head coach Jimbo Fisher, quarterback Kellen Mond, and the Texas A&M Aggies. They get the Bulldogs at home two weeks later prior to a trip to Rocky Top. Nick Saban and company do have to visit Tiger Stadium this season but they have a bye week before that big showdown. Their last big hurdle is a home game against Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Arkansas provides the regular season finale competition.
Must See TV
Week one may not be much to call home about but Hello, Oct. 17. We have a few intriguing games to look forward to that weekend. Alabama vs Georgia, Florida vs LSU, Kentucky @ Tennessee, and Auburn @ South Carolina. A very fair chance that could turn out to be a pair of top-ten games for the SEC that weekend both with potentially major playoff implications. While the latter two games don’t really fit that bill, could a trip to Williams Brice be a trap game for the Tigers? And could Tennessee be looking for it’s first win of the season at that point with South Carolina, Missouri and Georgia preceding it? We’ll see.
We don’t have the traditional rivalry week finales this season after the SEC elected to play a conference-only schedule. That decision ends an incredible streak between Clemson and South Carolina (who have played every year since 1908) and puts other big match ups like Florida vs. Florida State, Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and Kentucky vs. Louisville on the shelf until 2020.
However, all is not completely lost. We do get a key SEC-West game as Auburn welcomes Texas A&M to town for what could be a game with playoff and SEC title game implications. Unfortunately, we don’t get much else. Maybe, just maybe, a possible trap game for Florida in Knoxville but I wouldn’t bank on that just yet for Jeremy Pruitt. But other than that….yeah, it’s relatively boring. (I literally yawned as as I typed that)
All in all, this schedule release is a another step towards having SEC football this fall. As classes resume and students return to campus, it will be very telling about the prospects of the upcoming season the next two weeks. Hopefully, we don’t see what is unfolding at North Carolina become a trend across the country. The school has already decided to go to online classes only after at least four clusters of a Covid-19 outbreak have been reported.
Perhaps we all could learn a thing or to from Stark State College in Ohio.