Defending Southeastern Conference and national champion LSU will host Missouri and visit Vanderbilt in its expanded Southeastern Conference schedule, while Alabama will visit Mizzou and host Kentucky in league play revised by the coronavirus pandemic.
The league on Friday released two additional cross-divisional opponents in a docket shortened to 10 conference-only games with play beginning on Sept. 26. That’s three weeks later than the original opening weekend and two after several schools were scheduled to start SEC play. Dates are still to be determined.
The SEC will play 10 games over 11 weeks under the new schedule and conclude with the championship game on Dec. 19 in Atlanta after an open week. The divisional format will remain.
One question with the new SEC schedule was whether some schools' schedules would become tougher or lighter with additional foes. Each school lost four non-league matchups that for some were a mix of marquee challenges and perceived overmatched opponents.
LSU, looking to begin anew from a 15-0 championship season led by Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, had already lost an early non-conference matchup against visiting Texas from the Big 12. For the Tigers, who must navigate a tough West Division including Alabama each season, the road initially appears to be smoother with teams that finished at the SEC East bottom last year.
Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide gained a split of sorts against the Missouri Tigers but will face a Kentucky squad seeking its fifth consecutive bowl game and third win in a row. On the other hand, 'Bama is 37-2-1 all time against the Wildcats and has won the last six series meetings.
Defending East champion Georgia already has Alabama (road) and Auburn to deal in addition to its regular divisional battle with Florida. The Bulldogs gained a road game at Arkansas and will welcome Mississippi State and colorful first-year coach Mike Leach to Athens.
Mississippi and first-year coach Lane Kiffin will visit Kentucky and host South Carolina in hopes of bouncing back from a 4-8 finish. The Rebels already have Vandy (home) and Florida.
Florida's new lineup features a bit of both worlds. The Gators host an Arkansas squad that went 0-8 in SEC play last fall but travel to College Station, Texas, to meet an Aggies team coming off an 8-5 finish.
Finalizing the expanded schedule wrapped up a busy Friday of coronavirus-related adjustments for the SEC.
Earlier Friday, the SEC announced its initial COVID-19 protocols for fall sports including football. Testing for football will typically come six days and three days before competition.
Coaches, staff and other personnel will be required to wear face coverings on the sidelines at sporting events this fall. The initial guidelines include testing requirements, procedures for infections and contact tracing and protocols for quarantine and isolation.
“Our student-athletes, coaches and staffs are dealing with unique challenges," Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said. "We appreciate Commissioner (Greg) Sankey, the SEC Office and the SEC Medical Task Force for their dedication and leadership as we take the next steps in this process.”
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