At 10:00 this morning, following multiple rumors and interminable delays, the 2012 Southeastern Conference schedule finally was released. The SEC slate has been rearranged to accommodate the addition of the Missouri Tigers and the Texas A&M Aggies to the league, effective as of next football season.
As anticipated, the transitional 2012 schedule consists of eight conference games, featuring only one rotating opponent from the other division, as was the case when the SEC expanded in 1992. Closer to home, and largely as previously reported (with one surprise), the defending SEC East champion Georgia Bulldogs will be called upon to negotiate the following slate next autumn:
Sept. 1: Buffalo Bulls
Sept. 8: at Missouri Tigers
Sept. 15: Florida Atlantic Owls
Sept. 22: Vanderbilt Commodores
Sept. 29: Tennessee Volunteers
Oct. 6: at South Carolina Gamecocks
Oct. 13: open date
Oct. 20: at Kentucky Wildcats
Oct. 27: Florida Gators (at Jacksonville)
Nov. 3: Mississippi Rebels
Nov. 10: at Auburn Tigers
Nov. 17: Georgia Southern Eagles
Nov. 24: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Dec. 1: Alabama Crimson Tide or LSU Tigers (TBD)
Aside from the fact that I’d prefer to see the ‘Dawgs visit only one Columbia, but not both, in any given year, I like that schedule, even though only three conference clashes will take place between the hedges, with all of Georgia’s toughest SEC tests occurring outside of Athens. The Red and Black will open at home against a Division I-A lightweight before going on the road to face defending Independence Bowl champion Mizzou in the game that officially will welcome the Tigers to the SEC. Three straight home games follow before the Classic City Canines travel to Williams-Brice Stadium for what promises to be an even more exciting showdown than usual, given the high likelihood that this midseason encounter will have measurable implications for the Eastern Division race by that juncture.
The non-conference slate (complete with its well-placed triple-option tune-up against Georgia Southern seven days before the season-ender against Georgia Tech) remains undisturbed, and the back half of the scheduled rotation with longstanding opponent Ole Miss will take place as planned, albeit one week prior to the Bulldogs’ trip to the so-called Loveliest Village. This is a good schedule, though it does not deliver everything for which the Classic City Canines had hoped, as the planned pre-Cocktail Party bye week has been replaced by a conference road outing. It would be nice if that open date came either one game earlier or one game later.
Nevertheless, a resurgent Georgia squad should be in a prime position to make a run at a fifth SEC Championship Game appearance in an eleven-season span next autumn, though I would caution everyone, from the trash-talkers to the nay-sayers, that it is highly unlikely that every team the Bulldogs face will replicate in 2012 the record it compiled in 2011. Just as the Athenians improved from six wins to ten from last year to this, so, too, will some of the above opponents see their victory tallies increase between this year and next. Don’t presume that teams that were bad or mediocre this fall won’t improve next fall, or that the Arkansas Razorbacks suddenly are entrenched as a perennial powerhouse after years of inconsistency.
As for the charge, surely to be leveled by crybabies and conspiracy theorists in certain Columbias I could name, and already leveled by Stewart Mandel and others who take that idiot seriously, that a Red and Black outfit that negotiated such a slate would have made its bones without having played Alabama or Louisiana State, I would simply say that, as a matter of fact, Georgia will play either the Bayou Bengals or the Crimson Tide, we just don’t yet know which. We do know when and where, though: December 1, in the Georgia Dome.
Until and unless that happens, though, the meme will reign supreme, and some of the selfsame folks who would defend the Boise St. Broncos for facing such a slate will rag on the Red and Black for a “soft” autumn featuring just three conference home games. What are your thoughts on the 2012 SEC schedule? Feel free to ask your questions and share your observations in the comments below.