The release of the SEC football schedule on Wednesday features the return of non-conference matches and an opening day roster on September 4 that includes a Power 5 bout. LSU in UCLA, Georgia vs. Clemson (Charlotte, North Carolina) and Miami vs. Alabama (Atlanta).
Texas A&M, which came close to making the University Football Playoffs last season, will travel to Colorado in Week 2, recreating the previous Top 12 program bouts. The game will be played at Empower Field at Mile High in Denver.
Blonde, which will be led by new coach Bryan Harsin, will play on Penn State in Week 3.
Defending champions Alabama will kick off conference games that Saturday with a trip to Florida, setting up a rematch of last season’s SEC championship match, which was won by Crimson Tide 52-46.
“We are proud to have completed the 2020 football season under unique circumstances and will now focus on playing the 2021 football season on schedule,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. “The circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 virus will continue to guide our decision making if any adjustments need to be made.”
The SEC canceled all non-conference matches last season amid the pandemic, with teams playing 10 regular season matches against league opponents each.
The 2021 schedule will also feature two homecoming trips for the head coach.
Coach Ole Miss Lane Kiffin will return to Tennessee for the first time as head coach when the Rebel fight the Volunteers on October 16. Kiffin only spent one season as head coach at Tennessee in 2009 before leaving for the USC, sparking a commotion from students in Knoxville.
Former coach Ole Miss Hugh Freeze will return to his old hometown Freedom a trip to Ole Miss on November 6. Freeze spent five seasons as head coach at Ole Miss before stepping down in 2017 after school officials discovered a pattern that included phone calls to numbers associated with female escort services. Freeze took over the Liberty program in 2019 and have turned 18-6 in two seasons.
Other highlights of the SEC’s release schedule include:
On Friday, the SEC announced a roster of games for the final two weeks of the regular season, due to delays from the start of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The conference will play six games on December 12 – an open date set for all schools at the start of the season – and up to five games on December 19, including SEC championship matches.
number 5 Texas A&M (6-1) is scheduled to host Be Miss on December 12, a match originally scheduled for November 21 but was postponed due to COVID-19 issues in the Aggies program. Ole Miss has suspended team activities due to an increase in positive COVID-19 tests in its program and is scheduled to resume its activities on Wednesday.
The Aggies’ ability to play each of their last matches is a key part of their potential University Football Playoff hopes. The same is true for No. 6 Florida (7-1), who was scheduled to host LSU on 12 December in a match postponed from 17 October. The Gators currently lead SEC East.
In addition to SEC championship matches, on December 19 Ole Miss will travel to LSU and Missouri to travel to the State of Mississippi. Other games tentatively scheduled for that date are Texas A&M in Tennessee and Vanderbilt in Georgia. If Texas A&M and / or Georgia qualify for an SEC championship match, games not played by each team on that day will be declared no contest by the SEC.
The SEC on Tuesday canceled Saturday Alabama–LSU and Texas A&M–Tennessee games as a result of testing for COVID-19 depleted the list of available Tiger and Aggies names.
This came after Monday’s decision to postpone Blonde–State of Mississippi The game after the Bulldogs had similar problems with positive test results and subsequent contact tracing.
All three matches were considered postponements. Texas A & M-Tennessee and Auburn-Mississippi State are tentatively rescheduled for a December 12 open date; LSU already has games rescheduled for that date against Florida Gators.
The SEC said in a statement that “the opportunity to reschedule the Alabama game at LSU needs to be evaluated” and that “the rescheduling of matches on the remaining SEC football fixtures may include December 19 as the play date.”
All 14 SEC athletic directors agreed Tuesday that the conference should use December 19 as the dress-up date for any team that has a match postponed and does not play in the SEC title games that day, Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek told ESPN. The SEC president and chancellor still have to unanimously approve the recommendations.
“While it is unfortunate to have had multiple delays in the same week, we started the season with the understanding that interruptions to the schedule were possible and we remain focused throughout the season on the health of everyone around our program, ” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement,” We must remain vigilant, in our programs and in our communities, to prevent the spread of the virus and to manage activities that contribute to this disruption. ”
LSU has fallen below the 53-player scholarship threshold due to positive COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and non-virus-related injuries, according to a statement from LSU’s athletic director Scott Woodward.
“We are disappointed that there will be no football at the Tiger Stadium this weekend,” said Woodward, “but we will always prioritize the health and fitness of our student-athletes. We will continue to follow league protocol to return to safe and responsible play. “
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Monday some players, including rookies, would not be available. Some tested positive, while the majority dropped out as a result of contact tracing.
Testing has kept the program thin on the quarterback, and the number of players under quarantine includes starters in attack, defense and special teams, a source told ESPN. According to SEC protocol, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must be quarantined for at least 10 days. Anyone deemed a high-risk contact must be quarantined for 14 days.
On top of COVID-19 concerns, Orgeron said it was starting a quarterback Myles Brennan will not be available to play as he continues to have lower body injuries.
Texas A&M says it has three active COVID-19 cases, including two people who traveled with the team to South Carolina last week.
“The nature of away game travel (flights, meals, lodging, locker rooms, etc.) naturally leads to an increase in the number of student athletes, coaches and staff who meet mandatory quarantine criteria under contact tracing guidelines,” Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork said.
LSUfight against Alabama on Saturday was in danger as the Tigers dealt with multiple players in quarantine due to COVID-19 testing.
Several players, including the starters, will not be available, coach Ed Orgeron said Monday. Some tested positive, while the majority dropped out as a result of contact tracing.
Testing has kept the program thin on the quarterback, and the number of players under quarantine includes starters in attack, defense and special teams, a source told ESPN.
The school has been in contact with the SEC office as it continues to monitor the situation. On Monday morning, the game against Alabama will still be played.
Orgeron called it a “volatile situation” heading into the next round of testing on Tuesday, but would not give an exact number of players who will be sidelined.
“It will be challenging with the people who are eliminated,” said Orgeron.
According to SEC protocol, anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 must be quarantined for at least 10 days. Anyone deemed a high-risk contact must be quarantined for 14 days.
If LSU can’t play Alabama, rescheduling may not be possible, as the Tigers have gone through their open dates and rescheduled their game against Florida for December 12th.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said the deadline for the decision was unclear. Some of that time is determined by the reality of testing and contact tracing, he said Monday. “I don’t think any of us can dictate a timetable in this environment.”
On top of COVID-19 concerns, Orgeron said it was starting a quarterback Myles Brennan will not be available to play as he continues to have lower body injuries. Orgeron said the team could move players from other positions to provide depth.
Texas A&M athletics director Ross Bjork, whose program had to stop training after receiving several positive tests, said the SEC should open up the possibility of allowing a make-up game on December 19 to any team not playing a conference championship match.
He said the conference’s athletic directors could discuss the possibilities at their weekly Tuesday meeting.
“We anticipated all of this; that’s why the protocol is in place,” said Bjork. “That’s why we built the extra week. Hopefully we can create more flexibility by looking at week 19.”
In order for the match to be played on December 19, the athletic director must approve an additional schedule and then the president / chancellor of the university must approve it.
Information from ESPN’s Heather Dinich was used in this report.