A few weeks ago, the Southeastern Conference announced it would adopt a 10-game, conference-only schedule. Now, after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were postponing their fall seasons, the SEC, ACC, and Big 12 all agreed in moving forward with the 2020 season in the fall.
The conference finally notified its 14 participants of their 10-game schedule in its entirety on Monday to the joy of fans everywhere and ESPN executives who look at Monday afternoon ratings as a measure of success.
The gamut will be the following:
Week 1: Florida
The Rebels open up the season, welcoming the Gators to Oxford for the first time in 13 years. It’s also Dan Mullen’s first trip to Lafayette County since the 2016 season. Florida has a real shot this season, albeit with a shortened, all-conference schedule, to win the East.
Completion % under pressure among returning QBs in 2019:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 10, 2020
1. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota - 56.5%
2. Kyle Trask, Florida - 54.8% pic.twitter.com/8p9SkZ2OhH
Kyle Trask leads an offense that passed for over 300 yards a game a year ago and returns play-makers like Trevon Grimes and Kadarius Toney to give Mullen and Co. a chance at their first conference title since Tim Tebow was there. That is if they make it to the opener.
Week 2: at Kentucky
Mark Stoops had a similar renaissance a year ago with Lynn Bowden, Jr. It was his crazy athleticism and speed that helped right the ship and get to the Belk Bowl, winning it and finishing 2019 with an 8-5 record. Bowden is gone, but Stoops still has Kentucky seemingly poised for another productive season.
Center Drake Jackson career at Kentucky:— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 14, 2020
Pass-block snaps: 974
QB sacks allowed: 1 pic.twitter.com/R2Sdnel3yZ
Terry Wilson is back, coming off his season-ending knee injury, and Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood should spice things up in the quarterback room in 2020. There is enough talent defensively, led by Quinton Bohanna, Phil Hoskins, and Josh Paschal, to give them a puncher’s chance at spoiling the party atop the division.
Week 3: Alabama
The Crimson Tide are once again the class of the SEC.
Rinse and repeat.
Teams with the most 15+ yard plays since 2017:— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 7, 2020
1. Oklahoma - 336
2. Alabama - 266
3. Ohio State - 266
4. Clemson - 264
5. Oklahoma State - 263 pic.twitter.com/v1DkeJbTQW
Mac Jones should be the runaway starter at quarterback, coming off his impressive performance in the bowl game against Michigan. Sure, they lose Tua Tagovailoa, Henry Ruggs, and Jerry Jeudy, but the unit that averaged 511 yards and 47 points per game is still going to be good in 2020.
Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith are back and Jones will almost certainly build off of his strong finish to 2019 and lead Nick Saban’s crew to Atlanta once again. Byron Young, LaBryan Ray, and Christian Barmore return up front along with Dylan Moses, Shane Lee, and Josh McMillon to give Saban another star-studded defense filled with future NFL draft picks.
Week 4: at Arkansas
Week 5: Auburn
Another year, another false hope that Gus Malzahn and the Waffle House Crew will finally win the West. Bo Nix is back as the starting quarterback, but I don’t get the warm and fuzzies from this team. Yeah, okay, they beat the eventual Rose Bowl champion Oregon Ducks, but it was on a fluke touchdown and I just don’t see them getting so lucky again.
Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson are gone and the Tigers lost a lot of experience up front on offense, making it hard to believe Nix can work some magic again. Auburn, once again, will need to be carried by its defense that will once again be led by KJ Britt, Zakoby McClain, and Owen Pappoe.
Highest-graded red-zone defenses in 2019:— PFF College (@PFF_College) July 21, 2020
◾️ Cincinnati - 88.4
◽️ Oregon - 80.7
◽️ Pittsburgh - 80.6
◽️ Auburn - 80.5 pic.twitter.com/yvfzKxIzY7
Week 6: at Vanderbilt
Week 8: South Carolina
Will Muschamp enters year five in Columbia and is trying to bounce back from a 4-8 campaign a year ago when the Gamecocks were just a mess. They upset Georgia and beat a really talented Kentucky team, but weren’t exactly efficient in anything other than getting the ball to Bryan Edwards. Ryan Hilinski should continue to grow under Mike Bobo, the new Carolina offensive coordinator, and MarShawn Lloyd has all of the hype coming out of DeMatha High School in Maryland.
Defensively, Muschamp always has a unit that is capable of ruining someone’s weekend and the Gamecocks have another defensive lineman star in the making in Zacch Pickens. Javon Kinlaw is gone to the NFL, but everyone in Cola thinks that the former TL Hanna star will fill his shoes. And if he can’t do it, fellow five-star Jordan Burch will have to.
Week 9: at Texas A&M
Oh, Jimbo. It’s been seven years since you were on top of the college football world. And now, look at you, coming off an 8-5 campaign in College Station where apparently money can’t buy wins. Yeah, okay, Kellen Mond is back, but is that a good thing? Will the back-to-back top-10 recruiting classes be able to keep his head above water?
Me thinks they’ll just do a 10-game version of 8-5 and call it a year.
Week 10: Mississippi State
The Mike Leach Era has begun. Sure it got off to a rocky start with an ill-advised tweet, but hey, he likes pirates and throws the ball a lot, it’ll be fine, right? Joe Moorhead is gone and KJ Costello is in, giving Leach a proven signal caller who has been there, done that. Kylin Hill is very good and is sure to be great once again, but there are a ton of question marks in Starkville.
The Bulldogs will be implementing a new 3-3-5 defense under new coordinator Zach Arnett and hopefully on the shoulders of Errol Thompson, Nathan Pickering, Marcus Murphy. Leach teams hardly ever field consistently tough defenses and his offenses rarely lend to helping, so this marriage in Oktibbeha should get interesting sooner rather than later.
Week 11: at LSU
The final game of the regular season should be fun. Gone is Joe Brady. Gone is Joe Burrow. Gone is Dave Aranda. Gone is Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Will Ed Orgeron be able to hold it together? LSU hired Scott Linehan and Bo Pelini to replace the aforementioned Brady and Aranda, but I don’t see the Tigers going undefeated again on the arm of Myles Brennan and the arms and legs of Ja’Marr Chase.
Pelini is changing things back to a 4-3 defense, but it’s going to be a tall task to replace the likes of Jacob Phillips, Patrick Queen, Kary Vincent, Jr., and K’Lavon Chaisson off a unit a year ago that was outstanding at all three levels. FCS transfer Jabril Cox joins All-American Derrick Stingley, Jr. and senior JaCoby Stevens on a defense that will desperately try to ease the pressure on Brennan as he tries to get comfortable as the first-year starter.
What are your first impressions of this schedule? Should the Power 5 stick to a 10-game, conference-only schedule from here on out? Give us your questions, comments, and curse words in the comments below.