The SEC announced the 2020 football schedules for all 14 of its member schools on Wednesday.
Here are our biggest takeaways.
Alabama, Auburn have major matchups before Iron Bowl
Just one week before the Iron Bowl, which has produced a team that’s played for the national championship in nine of the last 10 seasons, both Alabama and Auburn will host another premier SEC West program. Texas A&M travels to Tuscaloosa for a game on Nov. 21, 2020, while LSU goes to Auburn, which is a drastic change from their typical scheduling practices.
The two schools have historically hosted an FCS or Group of Five opponent, or had a bye week, prior to the rivalry game. That won’t be the case next season.
The SEC West and the Big Ten East are widely accepted to be the two toughest divisions in college football and Weeks 12 and 13 will potentially have huge College Football Playoff ramifications given the consecutive weeks of pivotal matchups that late in the year.
All four of the programs are ranked in the top 16 of the preseason Coaches Poll for this season. Alabama and Auburn, especially the former, have proven their ability to compete for the national title, while LSU and Texas A&M appear to be on upward trajectories as well.
That makes November 2020 a really interesting month, given the impact those games could have on the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff, as well as the fourth year of Ed Orgeron’s tenure as LSU’s full-time head coach and Year 3 of the Jimbo Fisher era at Texas A&M.
All four fanbases have national championship expectations, but in all likelihood, only one of them will be in a position to earn a spot in the playoff in 2020.
Alabama, Georgia meet in Week 3
This potential SEC Championship preview is scheduled for Sept. 19, 2020, which will mark the first time the Bulldogs have traveled to Tuscaloosa since 2007. There’s a chance, if not a strong likelihood, that both schools will be replacing their potential Heisman Trophy candidate quarterbacks in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Georgia’s Jake Fromm.
But even if the two signal-callers have moved on to the NFL, the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs have recruited and won at such a high level that this should still be a top-five matchup.
Alabama has won the last five meetings against Georgia, including two games during the 2018 calendar year that prevented the Bulldogs from winning a national championship and making back-to-back College Football Playoff appearances, respectively. The Crimson Tide happen to be the only program that has made the playoff in all five years of its existence, so if the Bulldogs want to win the national championship, there’s a good chance they’ll have to go through Alabama, whether it’s in the regular season, SEC Championship or the playoff — or maybe even multiple times in one season.
Georgia’s tough crossover games
Not only does Georgia travel to Alabama early in the season, but the Bulldogs host Auburn on Oct. 10, 2020, giving the ‘Dawgs potentially the most difficult combination of cross-division games with its potential SEC West foes. Depending on how Auburn stacks up with LSU, Texas A&M and Mississippi State next season, the Tigers could be the second-best team in the division, making Georgia’s path to an SEC East title, the SEC Championship and College Football Playoff much tougher than if the Bulldogs, say, played at Arkansas and hosted Ole Miss instead.
The 2020 season will be Year 5 of the Kirby Smart era. He’s nowhere near the hot seat, but if Georgia fails to make the playoff this season, then faces a difficult cross-division schedule in 2020, it could set up an angsty 2021 season in Athens, even if the Bulldogs are winning 11-plus games per year.
South Carolina’s brutal close to the season
The Gamecocks arguably have the toughest schedule in the country this season.
They might have the toughest November schedule in the FBS next year:
- Nov. 7: Georgia
- Nov. 14: at LSU
- Nov. 21: Wofford
- Nov. 28: at Clemson
Let’s just say South Carolina better hope it has at least five wins by the end of October.
Arkansas’ 2020 gauntlet
We hate to speculate too far into the future about hot seats and the coaching carousel, but we shuddered looking at Arkansas’ 2020 schedule.
After a season opener against Kent State, Arkansas’ schedule is as follows:
- Sept. 12: at Notre Dame
- Sept. 19: at Mississippi State
- Sept. 26: vs. Texas A&M (Arlington)
- Oct. 3: Charleston Southern
- Oct. 10: Alabama
- Oct. 17: LSU
- Oct. 24: BYE
- Oct. 31: Tennessee
- Nov. 7: at Auburn
That could be a 1-7 stretch, putting Arkansas’ record at 2-7 heading into its final three games against Ole Miss, UL-Monroe and Missouri. Even though they’re home games, playing Alabama and LSU in consecutive weeks is less than desirable.
Likewise for a trip to Notre Dame in Week 2 before the start of SEC play.