Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive talks with reporters during Southeastern Conference Football Media Days in Birmingham, Ala., on Wednesday. (AP)
Don’t bother penciling the Georgia Bulldogs as favorites to win the Southeastern Conference East Division again next football season.
The SEC did that Wednesday.
After weeks of anticipation, the SEC revealed its 14-team conference schedule for 2012 that includes new members Missouri and Texas A&M. Each school next year will play its six divisional foes, its permanent opponent from the other division and one other member from the opposite division.
That other member for Georgia will be Ole Miss, which went 2-10 this season, while the other member for South Carolina will be LSU, which is currently 13-0 and ranked No. 1.
“We’ve got LSU and Arkansas, so we’ve got two pretty good ones from over there,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said after Wednesday’s practice for the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska. “They are two of the top three right now, and that’s the way it is. It is similar to this year, and that’s just the way it is. It’s called the rub of the green.
“We’ll do the best we can with it.”
The Bulldogs won this season’s East with a 7-1 league record but did not have to play LSU, Alabama and Arkansas, which were ranked 1-2-3 nationally entering Thanksgiving week. Spurrier’s Gamecocks beat Georgia 45-42 and still held the tiebreaker after losing at home to Auburn, but they face Arkansas every year and lost to the Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
Georgia coach Mark Richt declined to discuss the 2012 schedule at an Outback Bowl news conference in Tampa, but Bulldogs athletic director Greg McGarity does not believe there will be a backlash from South Carolina fans in the months ahead. Before Missouri joined the league, the Bulldogs were scheduled to play at Alabama.
“I think all of the conference schools that were involved in this realized the tremendous challenge that was before everyone to schedule 14 teams and make it work with schedules and things of that nature,” McGarity said. “There is no perfect schedule for any one institution. It is what it is, and we went to Ole Miss last year, and they’re coming to our place this year, but the discussion among the ADs was never about who you played in the conference.
“It all revolved around our nonconference opponents.”
Head-to-head games between SEC teams have been scheduled for every week of the 2012 season, beginning Thursday, Aug. 30, when South Carolina visits Vanderbilt on ESPN or ESPN2. Missouri and Texas A&M will kick off their conference schedules Sept. 8, when the Tigers host Georgia and the Aggies host Florida.
Next year’s schedule is not based on any previous or future formats. SEC athletic directors will convene at the spring meetings to begin formulating scheduling principles for the ’13 season and beyond.
“It was a very difficult process to put this schedule together from a conference standpoint,” Vanderbilt vice chancellor David Williams said. “The entry of two new members at two different points in time were complicating, and the SEC has a strong desire to preserve the eight-game league schedule, which also made it more difficult.
“Fans should keep in mind that this league schedule is only for the 2012 season.”
McGarity said “you never say never” when asked about the SEC eventually shifting to nine league games, but he added that it would be difficult for schools such as Florida, Georgia and South Carolina that end each season against an in-state foe from another league. The Bulldogs have games scheduled with Clemson in 2013-14 and Ohio State in 2020-21.
The SEC also announced that its 21st championship game will be held Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...