Sure there's the whole pesky matter of actually playing the 2013 season, which will kick off in a mere eight days. But this morning the Southeastern Conference released its schedule of conference football games for next year. The full slate can be found here on the SEC Digital Network site, but the highlights are these:
- Georgia's schedule is tough, but manageable. We draw perennial foe Auburn out of the west in the accustomed third week of November slot, in Athens. Perhaps the most worrisome part of the Red and Black's road to Atlanta will be back-to-back road matchups with Missouri (October 11) and Arkansas (October 18). I'm not so much worried about the Fighting Pinkels from the Show Me State. But the second long road trips in two weeks has a way of catching up with you. And I suspect that Bret Bielema's Hogs will be much improved in year two of his reign in the Natural State.
- Mark Richt's crew will have open dates before both the September 13th match up with South Carolina and the November 1st World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. They also will not face Alabama, LSU, or Texas A&M during the regular season. That sound you hear is Steve Spurrier having his annual hissy fit about the fact that the Dawgs don't have the Green Bay Packers or Baltimore Ravens on their schedule once again. I'm not saying we'll win a national title breaking in a new quarterback in 2014, but I am saying that this slate sets the floor a good bit higher than some past schedules. Predicting who'll be strong a full twelve months from now is a fool's errand, but at this point I have no major complaints.
- The Gamecocks, however, open the college football season on Thursday night, August 30, 2014 with a home date against what is likely to be a Manziel-less Aggie squad. They'll also get Auburn in Auburn on October 25th in year two of the Malzahn Era. While that could be sort of tough, there may not be a more cupcakey stretch in the conference than the Garnet and Black's three game run playing at Vanderbilt (September 20th), home versus Missouri (September 27th) then at Kentucky (October 4th). Mmmm. marshmallow fluff. But then again, if the Palmetto State Poultry drop that opener to Texas A&M they could be playing the Bulldogs to avoid functional elimination from the East race, with a road trip to Florida still on the docket for November.
- Gator fans will also likely be a little perturbed to face Alabama in Tuscaloosa on September 20th and LSU at home on October 11th. There's a reason many Gator fans really dislike their annual matchup with the Bayou Bengals, and this schedule is it. For them it's basically the worst case scenario. Short of every marijuana dealer in Alachua County leaving in the middle of the night and taking every bag of Funyuns in the county with them, obviously.
- In terms of compelling match ups on a week-by-week basis, August 30th will see Arkansas visiting Auburn in a contest between second year coaches which should serve as an early referendum on which squad is ready to lock down the vaunted fourth place position in the West. October 4th offers little in the way of excitement unless you believe Hugh Freeze can buy a win over Nick Saban, or you want to see Mr. Kristi Malzahn and Les Miles tangle in a thriller I'm calling "The Sack and Pillage in the Loveliest Little Village." October 18th will see Texas A&M travel to Tuscaloosa for a rematch everyone will be watching. Alabama and Tennessee will play The Third Saturday In October on the fourth Saturday in October (10/25/14). The WLOCP will, again, likely be the must watch game to kick off November. And the Crimson Tide's now traditional death match with LSU will occupy the national consciousness on November 8th.
- Sadly, Arkansas and LSU will not be reprising their usually entertaining Black Friday matchup, as that game has been moved up to November 15th. However LSU and Texas A&M will meet on Thanksgiving Day in a game that should be amply entertaining to give you an excuse not to go shopping.