The COVID-19 pandemic has created plenty of obstacles for college football, but the SEC took a step forward in releasing its complete 2020 schedule for the upcoming season on Monday night. The SEC plans to begin its season on Sept. 26 and conclude with the conference title game Dec. 19 in Atlanta.
Here’s what you need to know about the revamped 2020 SEC schedule:
SEC Football: What to Know About the Revamped 2020 Schedule
Will the SEC Play or Cancel like the Big Ten and Pac-12?
Unfortunately, we have to begin our breakdown of the schedule here. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a schedule release doesn’t guarantee a season. The Big Ten released its revamped slate on Aug. 5 but canceled its 2020 season on Aug. 11. The SEC plans to kick things off on Sept. 26, awarding the conference plenty of time to navigate the pandemic. As commissioner Greg Sankey has indicated throughout the process, he will be patient and will take his time in making decisions due to data changing on a daily basis. In other words: The schedule provides optimism but doesn’t guarantee a season.
Flexibility is Crucial
Due to potential outbreaks of positive tests for COVID-19 among teams, flexibility in the schedule is important to navigating the season. Every team in the SEC has one bye week, which are clustered from Weeks 5-7. Additionally, no team plays on Dec. 12. Those two dates will allow the conference to reschedule any games canceled during the season.
10 Conference Games
The ACC and Big 12 will play non-conference contests, but the SEC is planning to play a 10-game conference slate in 2020. No SEC team will have any opponents outside of the conference.
East and West Divisions Remain
The ACC tweaked its format to accommodate a 15-team setup, but the SEC won’t change its usual East and West Divisions for 2020.
Season Starts Sept. 26
The SEC is hoping a late start (Sept. 26) will allow the conference to sort out all of the obstacles needed to navigate a full season in the midst of a global pandemic. The 10-game conference-only slate provides time for the community health situations to improve and the conference to lock in its testing protocols for the season. Essentially, playing within the SEC creates a bubble among its 14 teams with the same standards and playing conditions.
Rivalries on Thanksgiving Weekend Preserved
The SEC changed quite a bit of its schedule from the original version, but key rivalry games between Alabama-Auburn and Ole Miss-Mississippi State remain on Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 28).
Every Team Gets One Bye Week (Sort of)
The season is slated to kick off on Sept. 26 and end on Dec. 5. All 14 SEC teams get one bye week during that stretch, but every program doesn’t play on Dec. 12. That open date will allow the conference to reschedule any games that could be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic earlier in the year.
Only Three Teams Don’t Have Back-to-Back Road Games
Of the league’s 14 teams, only three – Alabama, Florida, Ole Miss – won’t play in back-to-back road contests this fall.
SEC Title Game Slated for Dec. 19
The SEC is pushing its conference title game back to Dec. 19 to accommodate the changes to the schedule. If everything goes according to plan, the league won’t have any games during the Dec. 12 weekend, allowing both teams to rest and prepare for the league title game. The SEC still plans to hold its championship game in Atlanta.
COVID-19 Testing Plan
Commissioner Greg Sankey indicated on Monday night’s schedule release show on SEC Network the conference plans to utilize a third party to establish common testing among the 14 teams. The SEC plans to test players at least twice a week, including 72 hours prior to competition. Players can also opt out of the 2020 season and retain their scholarship.
New Opponents and Added Games
Arkansas, at Texas A&M
Alabama, Auburn, Miss. State
Miss. State, at Arkansas
LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss
Ole Miss, at Alabama
LSU, Texas A&M, Arkansas
Alabama, at LSU
Texas A&M, Auburn, Ole Miss
Auburn, at Ole Miss
Alabama, Miss. State, Arkansas
Texas A&M, at Auburn
LSU, Ole Miss, Miss. State
LSU, at Miss. State
Alabama, Auburn, Arkansas
Kentucky, at Missouri
Florida, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Georgia, at Florida
Kentucky, South Carolina, Vanderbilt
Tennessee, at South Carolina
Florida, Missouri, Vanderbilt
Missouri, at Vanderbilt
Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky
South Carolina, at Kentucky
Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri
Vanderbilt, at Georgia
Florida Tennessee, South Carolina
Florida, at Tennessee
Georgia, Kentucky, Missouri
According to the SEC’s COVID-19 task force recommendations, these factors will be considered when canceling a game:
*Inability to isolate new positive cases, or quarantine high-risk contacts of cases of university students.
*Unavailability or inability to perform symptomatic, surveillance or pre-competition testing when warranted.
*Campus-wide or local community positivity test rates that are considered unsafe by local public health officials.
*Inability to perform adequate contact tracing consistent with local, state or federal requirements or recommendations.
*Local public health officials indicate an inability for the hospital infrastructure to accommodate a surge in COVID-19 related hospitalizations.