SEC football makes its long-awaited return this weekend. The big question on everyone’s mind: Will the revised 10-game season be completed?
The conference postponed the start of its 2020 season by three weeks, but all 14 programs will be in action this Saturday.
The regular season will run through Dec. 5, the original date of the SEC Championship Game. Each team will have one midseason bye, as well as a league-wide bye on the week of Dec. 12.
The SEC will maintain a two-division format, and the rescheduled Championship Game will be Dec. 19.
At least that’s the plan. But if this pandemic-altered football season has taught us anything in the first three weeks with a few games played, it’s this: The only thing you can count on is the unpredictable.
Consider these statistics from The Associated Press:
There have been 49 games involving a Football Bowl Subdivision team played through three weeks, and at least 18 games have been postponed. Based on those numbers, there’s a 36.7% chance a game that’s on the schedule right now won’t be played.
This week, Notre Dame has already postponed its game against Wake Forest because of an uptick in positive COVID-19 tests. South Florida, the team Notre Dame played last week, might have to do the same for its game against Florida Atlantic.
Virginia Tech is making its third attempt this week to open its season. Two weeks ago, the Hokies were slated to play North Carolina State but that game was canceled because the Wolfpack had too many players test positive for COVID-19. Virginia Tech’s next game against Virginia was postponed because the Hokies had too many positive tests.
Last Saturday, both the Charlotte-North Carolina and Baylor-Houston games were canceled within 72 hours of kickoff.
The SEC will not be immune from these last-minute decisions as the season unfolds.
Alabama will open its season on Saturday with a trip to Missouri, which is expected to sit at least half a dozen players due to isolation and quarantine protocols tied to testing and contact tracing.
Leading up to this weekend’s SEC season kickoff, at least 11 practices were canceled across the 14-team conference, including a conference-high six at Vanderbilt, due to COVID-19 testing and quarantine protocols.
Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt each canceled a handful of practices due to COVID-19 concerns. Others pushed through altered practice routines in smaller groups.
And a total of 28 SEC players have opted out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns and other matters.
So as schools prepare for Saturday’s openers, we offer a list of “hopes” for the 2020 season.
• We hope that Alabama head coach Nick Saban leads the Tide to yet another College Football Playoff.
• We hope the No. 8 preseason ranked Auburn Tigers emerge as one of the surprise teams of the 2020 season and also make the CFP.
• We hope the state of Alabama gets another national championship win.
• We hope the scaled-down crowds of fans attending games at Bryant-Denny and Jordan-Hare stadiums will meet their responsibilities as fans in the age of COVID-19 — and do everything they’re supposed to do to keep themselves and their fellow spectators safe.
• We hope that every Alabama and Auburn football player gets through this football season in safe fashion and with good health.
Indeed if that final wish is fulfilled, it will represent the biggest “W” of all for the Tide and Tigers during the 2020 football season. And that’s the one victory we should be rooting for during the Saturday afternoons to come.