The SEC's 2021 college football schedule was released on Wednesday, and even though one season just finished, it’s never too early to take a look at next fall. The SEC used a 10-game slate to navigate COVID-19 in 2020, but the conference will return to its original eight-game schedule in ’21. While the impact of COVID-19 is unknown for next fall, there’s optimism and hope to play a complete (and uninterrupted) slate next college football season.
What are the big takeaways, tidbits and things to know for the 2021 SEC season?
Here’s what you need to know about the 2021 SEC schedule:
SEC Football: What to Know About the 2021 Schedule
Kickoff is Sept. 4
After a season of chaotic scheduling and week-to-week uncertainty, the 2021 calendar should have a level of normalcy. Barring any schedule changes for Week 1, the SEC is planning to kick off the ’21 season on Sept. 4. All 14 teams are slated to play that weekend.
Eight Conference Games
Last year’s shift to 10 conference games was done out of necessity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the conference is going back to eight games (as expected) for 2021.
Big-Time Non-Conference Matchups are Back
The 2020 season did not contain any non-conference games for the SEC in the regular season due to COVID-19. With some normalcy expected, the ’21 slate has a handful of exciting matchups. In Week 1, LSU travels to UCLA, Clemson and Georgia meet in Charlotte, while Alabama and Miami match up in Atlanta. On Labor Day, Louisville and Ole Miss battle in Atlanta. Week 2 has good non-conference contests like Texas A&M-Colorado in Denver, Pitt-Tennessee, NC State-Mississippi State and Texas at Arkansas. Auburn plays at Penn State in Week 3.
Rivalries Are Back
The shift to a 10-game SEC slate didn’t allow for the opportunity for rivalry games in 2020. However, one of the best parts of college football is back for ’21. Florida hosts Florida State, Georgia plays at Georgia Tech, Kentucky travels to Louisville, and South Carolina hosts Clemson on the Nov. 27 weekend.
All Games on Saturday... Except One (For Now)
As of late January, all but one of the games involving SEC teams will be played on a Saturday. Ole Miss versus Louisville on Sept. 6 in Atlanta is the only matchup slated for a date outside of a Saturday.
Every Team Has 1 Off Week
All 14 teams are slated to have just one off-weekend in the 2021 season. The earliest off date is Sept. 25 with Ole Miss, while Vanderbilt (Nov. 6) is the latest. The bulk of the conference has off dates on Oct. 23 and Oct. 30.
SEC Championship is Dec. 4
The SEC Championship Game was pushed back a couple of weeks due to COVID-19 in 2020. However, the conference is planning on its ’21 version to return to its normal date, as the East champion meets the West on Dec. 4 in Atlanta.
Here are some other tidbits by team to know about the 2021 schedule:
Alabama: The Crimson Tide won’t leave the state after Oct. 16. However, there are three conference road games in the first seven weeks, including trips to Florida and Texas A&M.
Arkansas: Second-year coach Sam Pittman has to navigate a brutal road schedule in 2021: at Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU and Alabama. Also, there’s only two conference home games in Fayetteville.
Auburn: New coach Bryan Harsin won’t have an easy start to 2021. The Tigers play at Penn State on Sept. 18, travel to LSU on Oct. 2, and take on Georgia on Oct. 9.
Florida: The Gators have arguably the toughest crossover slate with Alabama and LSU on tap.
Georgia: The annual battle with Auburn is now earlier in the year (Oct. 9), and the overall schedule (outside of the Clemson opener) is very favorable. Georgia won’t have back-to-back road games in 2021.
Kentucky: Coach Mark Stoops’ squad plays five of its first six games at home. The Wildcats end 2021 by playing four out of the final six on the road. The only SEC game in Lexington after Oct. 9 takes place on Nov. 6 versus Tennessee.
LSU: The Tigers play their first and final three games at home. Additionally, coach Ed Orgeron’s team has a tough stretch starting on Oct. 16 versus Florida, Oct. 23 at Ole Miss, and then Nov. 6 against Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Mississippi State: Mike Leach’s team will play three of the SEC West’s best – Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU – prior to Oct. 16. Also, the non-conference slate – at Memphis, Louisiana Tech and NC State – is tricky. Three of the final five games are in Starkville.
Missouri: The Tigers get three out of their final five SEC games on the road in 2021. Also, Missouri will go almost one month between home games (Oct. 16 to Nov. 13).
Ole Miss: Lane Kiffin makes his return to Knoxville on Oct. 16, while former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze returns to Oxford on Nov. 6. How’s that for drama? The Rebels have a favorable 2021 slate too. They should be favored to win crossover games against Tennessee and Vanderbilt, while Arkansas, LSU and Texas A&M all come to Oxford.
South Carolina: New coach Shane Beamer is going to have his hands full in 2021. Texas A&M – the annual crossover for South Carolina – is a projected top-10 team, Clemson is a playoff contender once again, and road trips to Georgia, Tennessee and Missouri are also on tap.
Tennessee: New coach Josh Heupel gets five of his first seven games at home. Lane Kiffin returns to Knoxville on Oct. 16. The Volunteers close with three consecutive home dates. The crossover of Alabama and Ole Miss is one of the toughest in the league.
Texas A&M: With the annual battle with Arkansas in Arlington once again, the Aggies only play three true road games – Missouri, Ole Miss and LSU. The matchup against Alabama on Oct. 9 is huge, and Texas A&M will miss the top two teams – Florida and Georgia – from the East.
Vanderbilt: New coach Clark Lea gets four of his first five games in Nashville. Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee all come on the road, but potential swing matchups versus Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi State take place at home. Vanderbilt has two back-to-back road treks – Oct. 9 and Oct. 16 and Nov. 20 and Nov. 27.
Alabama, at LSU
Arkansas, at Auburn
LSU, at Mississippi State
Texas A&M, at Arkansas (Little Rock)
at Texas A&M, Auburn
Ole Miss, at Alabama
Mississippi State, at Ole Miss
at Florida, Tennessee
at Georgia, Missouri (Little Rock)
Georgia, at South Carolina
at Kentucky, Florida
at Vanderbilt, Kentucky
at Tennessee, Vanderbilt
at Missouri, South Carolina
Won't Play in 2021
Arkansas, Auburn, Miss. State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Alabama, LSU, Miss. State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, Texas A&M
Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Miss. State, Ole Miss
Alabama, Arkansas, LSU, Miss. State, Ole Miss
Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Miss. State, Texas A&M
Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU, Texas A&M
Won't Play in 2021
Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Florida, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
Florida, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Tennessee
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina
Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt