ATHENS — The Big Ten released its schedule on Wednesday, and there were some marked changes that started at the top.
The first thing that jumped out at most everyone is that powerhouse rivals Michigan and Ohio State will meet in October — not at the end of the season — as they have since 1942.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 were the first leagues to announce their schedule model last month (July 9-10), both choosing a 10-game, conference-only slate.
The SEC followed suit with a 10-game, conference-only schedule last Thursday, one day after the ACC announced it would play a 10-game league schedule plus one non-conference game.
The Big 12 announced on Tuesday it’s playing nine conference games plus one non-conference opponent.
The Big Ten has tentatively scheduled Sept. 3 as its opening date for football games. The league’s final regular season games are scheduled to take place on Nov. 21 and the Big Ten Championship Game scheduled for Dec. 5 in Indianapolis.
It’s important to note the Big Ten schedule was built in a manner that would allow for either or both of the first two games of the season to be moved to later dates in the season.
The Big Ten also took the extra step of having two of its cross division games take place on the same weeks (Sept. 5, Nov. 21).
Each Big Ten team has two open weeks during the season, and the entire league is off on Saturday, Nov. 28.
The Big Ten also stipulated that the league title game could be moved back a week or two.
Here are three takeaways worth considering as the SEC considers how it will move forward with its schedule, which was already announced to start on Sept. 26 and finish on Dec. 19 with the league championship game.
1. Practicality over tradition
There’s nothing normal or traditional about what’s happening in college football amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Big Ten was wise enough not to force any issues with scheduling.
The SEC could follow that lead and schedule with practicality in mind.
For that matter, the SEC might consider righting the wrong that was placing Missouri in the East Division (while Auburn improperly sits geographically challenged in the “West”).
The biggest of the big deals, should the SEC juggle up traditional meeting dates, would be moving the storied Alabama-Auburn rivalry from the final week of the regular season.
2. Early start date
There will be great debate over this moving forward, as the Big Ten would seem to have an advantage in terms of flexibility by scheduling an earlier start date of Sept. 5.
The ACC start date is Sept. 12, and the Pac-12 and SEC have settled on Sept. 26. The Big 12 has yet to announce a start date.
The SEC has given its teams the universal “off” date on Dec. 12, providing some flexibility should a game (s) need be rescheduled.
The SEC has also revised its preseason practice schedules, ensuring the players won’t get overworked in the lead up to the delayed start to the season.
The first allowable practice is now Aug. 17. From Aug. 7-16 teams are allowed only 16 hours per week of strength and conditioning, meetings and walkthroughs.
3. Home and Away-Away
Another of the Big Ten’s most notable rivalries will take place in the same stadium two years in a row as opposed to home and way. Michigan State is traveling to Ann Arbor to play Michigan in 2020 — just as it did in 2019.
Georgia fans are familiar with that scenario. The Bulldogs played at Auburn in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013 to help accommodate the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri to the league.
Could that happen with this season’s SEC schedule, in terms of teams playing at an opposing stadium in back-to-back years?
According to one SEC athletic director, there has been no lobbying from schools about schedule preference, and the league office has absolute power in the decision. Everything is on the table.