The SEC made the decision to move to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 season. We’ve already discussed what that means for the FSU game, but what does that mean for the rest of the schedule.
First things to know:
First game: September 26th
SEC Championship: December 19th
Each SEC team will play 10 games this season and the league will maintain its divisions. That was one issue that everybody agreed on and the eight SEC games that are already scheduled will remain.
“We are going to have divisions in the SEC. of the 10 conference games; the eight that are already scheduled are going to be a part of who we play,” Florida Gators Athletic Director Scott Stricklin said. “The question is who the other two are going to be. Hopefully, during the next few days, we can have a schedule. The league hasn’t given us a definitive timeline.”
For Florida, that means:
Home: Kentucky, South Carolina, LSU, Missouri, TBD
Away: Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, TBD
Technically, Georgia is the “home” team this year in Jacksonville, meaning they’ll likely be shafted out of being able to host five SEC games in Athens, as their trip to Jacksonville will count as a home game.
The issue is how do you determine who the other two teams are. A rumor began circulating and picked up steam that the SEC would just pick the cross-divisional opponent for 2021 and 2022 and put them on the schedule in 2020, creating an even 10 games.
“That was total speculation and spit-balling,” Stricklin shot down the rumor Thursday.
In that scenario, Florida would get Alabama and Texas A&M on its schedule in 2020. But what about 2021? Do Florida and Alabama play again? It wouldn’t make sense to just go with that scenario. Instead, the league has come up with multiple schedules and they will meet virtually this week to have the Athletic Directors vote on a final schedule.
“I don’t think we would ever get a schedule if we sat back and let everybody lobby who they want. They’re going to give us the schedule. I’m sure it’s going to be fair and equitable,” Stricklin said. “If there are any particular concerns, we’ll voice them once they show us the draft. But I’m confident we’ll be able to come up with something everybody feels good about.”
Some have asked and wondered why the league would choose to start late. The Big Ten is planning on starting its season on August 29. Could the SEC have not pushed the season back so far and possibly had a “plus 1” model? I asked Scott Stricklin that very question.
“All the medical experts that we hear from—the epidemiologist, the infectious disease experts, the people who are leaders public health—they will tell you that the month of August through Labor Day has a chance to be kind of rough in our region from a caseload standpoint, especially reintegrating schools and campuses and everything else,” said Stricklin.
The league, based on the expertise from doctors and epidemiologists, expects that when full student-bodies return to campuses that there will be an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
“This is serious stuff, right? And for all the talk about—hey we wanna play our in-state rival, but for all the talk about that, we’ve got a pandemic going that’s totally changing what normal is. and so, could we get away from Labor Day and buy some time? Hopefully, let the numbers level off and come down,” Stricklin said. “And those same medical experts believe that as September goes on into October that our caseloads are gonna come down and things are gonna look better. So we’re just trying to get in that window where there might be a better environment in our local communities that will allow us to try to do this.”
Thursday’s news was bittersweet. On one hand not having the opportunity to play Florida State, a rivalry that has played for 64-consecutive years is a tough pill to swallow. On the other hand, it’s an optimistic sign that there will be football to watch this fall.