The Southeastern Conference released its 2014 schedule which will follow the 6-1-1 model for at least one more season. There are some significant changes which coincide with the launching of the SEC Network and the first season of the college football playoff.
A couple of interesting matchups highlight the schedule including Texas A&M against South Carolina to open the season and Florida playing Alabama in Tuscaloosa to open the Crimson Tide's conference slate. The permanent crossover games are still in tact for now, however Arkansas will now play Missouri, while Texas A&M will take on South Carolina.
The schedule also is spaced out much better over the season's 14 weeks, avoiding the annual “cupcake weekend” that we see right before Thanksgiving.
A few highlights
- Florida will play at Alabama in the Tide opener. The Gators have not won in Tuscaloosa since 1998 and the last two trips have not been competitive.
- Texas A&M will open the season on a Thursday night in Columbia to face South Carolina. This game will not feature Jadevon Clowney and Johnny Manziel. This will also be the debut of the SEC Network.
- LSU will play at Texas A&M on Thanksgiving which is a huge tilt on a Thursday night. The Tigers also draw Kentucky from the East to go with permanent crossover Florida.
- Tennessee will play Georgia before it plays Florida for the first time since the re-scheduled 9/11 game in 2001. The game will also be played in October.
- Georgia's SEC West opponents will be Arkansas and permanent crossover Auburn.
- Arkansas will play at Missouri for the first time since 1906 and as mentioned, expect this to be an annual rivalry.
- Kentucky will move its in-state showdown to the end of the season with Louisville.
Upset alert for Week 1
The SEC has several big games during the opening week of the 2013 season, but it also has some games that teams need to cross their T's and dot their I's. I like the SEC to win all these games, but they must show up ready to play a good game.
Toledo at Florida - The Gators have been banged up on the offensive line and could be without top running back Matt Jones. The Rockets won nine games last season and return their entire offense.
Western Kentucky at Kentucky - I think the Wildcats will be favored, but they did lose to the Hilltoppers last season. Mark Stoops has a dangerous opener against Bobby Petrino.
Washington State at Auburn - The Tigers are going to be forced to play a lot of young guys in the secondary and on defense due to injuries. They will face a Mike Leach offense that will be much improved in Season 2 at Wazzo.
This and That...
Alabama suspended cornerback Geno Smith for the opener, but will need him for Texas A&M. The Tide could play dime (six defensive backs) the entire game this season and will need their third best corner. The Aggies also present a problem with the size of their receivers; at least three starters measure 6-foot-3 or taller. The word on the street is that Manziel will play in the season opener as the Aggies and Manziel have “lawyered up” in hopes of putting the autograph story behind them.
Georgia had two true freshmen at corner in their most recent scrimmage and that has to be a little concerning for coordinator Todd Grantham. They played Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins and both responded with interceptions. The Bulldogs open with the high-flying Clemson Tigers and need Damian Swann and freshman phenom Tray Matthews to get healthy quick.
Kentucky will not announce its starting quarterback for the opener, but it did announce who it will not be: Patrick Towles. Towles could be looking at a redshirt year as the third-team guy behind Jaylen Whitlow and Maxwell Smith. I think if all the measurables are equal, Mark Stoops has to go with Whitlow because of his mobility.
Mike Davis is the starting running back at South Carolina. But more concerning is the health of Bruce Ellington, their leading returning receiver. Ellington is a do-everything weapon for the Gamecocks but has been slowed in camp. Steve Spurrier's team opens with a dangerous North Carolina squad a week from Thursday.