The intense reactions came immediately.
The Southeastern Conference’s live reveal on SEC Network of each school’s two new opponents had everyone talking headed into the weekend.
The SEC still hasn’t released the full schedule with the dates of when the games will be played — that should come within the next two weeks — but now every SEC school knows the 10 opponents it will face this season. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the conference “made every effort to create a schedule that is as competitive as possible and builds on the existing eight conference games that had already been scheduled for 2020.”
It wouldn’t be the SEC, though, if there weren’t strong feelings about the updated schedule.
To sort out which schools got good news and which schools may already be drafting sternly worded letters to league headquarters, we give you the winners and losers of the SEC’s new 10-opponent schedules.
The Crimson Tide made out well Friday when the SEC dished out Kentucky and Missouri as its two new opponents. It could have been better — aka Vanderbilt — but the most important thing for Alabama was avoiding Florida. Alabama already had two of the toughest SEC East teams, Georgia and Tennessee, and wasn’t eager to add the third. Instead, the nation’s preseason No. 3 team gets two very winnable games though Kentucky is no cupcake.
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The preseason SEC East favorite added the two easiest SEC West opponents, on paper at least, headed into the season. Arkansas and Mississippi State are both on their third coaches in as many years, with extra growing pains possible given the absence of a normal spring and summer schedule. The Bulldogs have the best chance to emerge out of the East, and nothing that happened Friday changed that.
Ed Orgeron had to be smiling after seeing Missouri and Vanderbilt as his two new opponents. The Tigers may be the biggest winner of any SEC school getting the teams perceived to be the SEC East’s two weakest headed into the season. Avoiding Georgia and Tennessee — the Tigers already had Florida and South Carolina — should make Baton Rouge a very happy city tonight.
The Rebels may now have the best foursome of SEC East opponents. With Florida and Vanderbilt already scheduled, Ole Miss added Kentucky and South Carolina. Neither one is a guaranteed win, but conversely, neither one is also an obvious loss the way Georgia would have been. Ole Miss could certainly go 3-1 with this slate which is huge given all the difficult games that come each year in the SEC West.
Poor Sam Pittman. The excitable “Yes Sir!” head coach got nothing but coal from commissioner Greg Sankey on Friday. Arkansas, already expected to finish last in the SEC West, added the SEC East’s two toughest teams, Georgia and Florida. Add in annual games against Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M, the Razorbacks are now scheduled to play four top 10 teams and six Top 25 teams. Ouch.
Welcome to the SEC, Eliah Drinkwitz. Your welcome bag is having to play three preseason top five teams. If Arkansas is the big loser in the SEC West, there’s no question Missouri fared the worst in the East. The Tigers added defending national champion LSU and preseason No. 3 Alabama to their schedule. Missouri was already facing an uphill battle to win more than a couple games this season, and the SEC just added two more obvious losses.
The Aggies avoided Georgia but I can’t imagine Jimbo Fisher is thrilled about adding Florida and Tennessee. This was shaping up to be an important year for Fisher headed into Year 3 of a 10-year contract with a 17-9 record to date. Even before COVID-19 changed everything, it wasn’t fair to say Fisher’s seat was even warm, but everyone seemed to understand better results in 2020 were important for the trajectory of the program. Getting Florida and Tennessee makes Texas A&M’s climb to the top of the SEC more challenging.
John Talty is the sports editor and SEC Insider for Alabama Media Group. You can follow him on Twitter @JTalty.