The SEC has made an official decision regarding the 2020 college football season. Here’s how that’ll affect Auburn.
With an announcement on Thursday, the SEC is following in the footsteps of the Big-12, Pax-12 and ACC by moving to a conference-only schedule for the 2020 college football season.
Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the fate of the upcoming football season has very much been in doubt and even with the conference’s recent announcement, it doesn’t mean that a season will actually take place.
Several players across the country have already tested positive for COVID-19 and some players have even started to opt out of the season altogether. Nonetheless, as it stands now, The SEC (and therefore Auburn) will play a 10-game, conference-only schedule that has been pushed back to September 26 with the SEC championship tentatively scheduled for December 19.
“After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said.
The decision was made by the SEC presidents and felt like it was bound to happen at some point. But, how does this affect Auburn specifically?
Well, for starters, their 2020 schedule will look very different than originally planned. Although the ACC had already announced a conference-only schedule weeks ago, Peach Bowl CEO Gary Stokan had stated earlier in the month that the three Chick-fil-A Kickoff games — one of which was Auburn’s Week two matchup against UNC— was still scheduled to happen.
With the SEC’s recent announcement, that game seems to officially be off the table. The Tigers’ season opener against Alcorn State was also cancelled prior to Thursday’s announcement. A conference-only schedule for Auburn will also eliminate Southern Miss (Week four) and UMass (Week 11).
Therefore, that leaves Auburn with games against Ole Miss, Kentucky, UGA, Texas A&M, Mississippi State, Arkansas, LSU and Alabama. That’s only eight games so where will the other two games come in?
Well, per Sports Illustrated writer Ross Dellenger, every team’s two remaining games will be determined based on the team’s strength of schedule. With Auburn already facing a tough SEC schedule, there’s a good chance the Tigers may get to play some of the lower-tier teams in the league.
According to Dellenger, the decision to move to a conference-only schedule was a 13-1 vote by the SEC presidents with South Carolina president Bob Caslen being the only dissenting vote due to the team’s rivalry with ACC opponent Clemson.
The SEC’s commissioner has also stated that the SEC’s mid-season bye week will be spread to all schools across a three-week period. SEC coaches have also voiced that they do not expect all of their current SEC games to be played on the original date so don’t be surprised if there is a bit of mixing in terms of Auburn’s slate of games.
Lastly, when you look at the effects of a shortened-season on Auburn’s players, there was some concern that established NFL prospects like junior receiver Seth Williams and senior linebacker K.J. Britt may skip the season to prepare for the NFL or obviously. not play at all if the season is cancelled.
However, assuming the SEC’s new plan goes as planned, I wouldn’t expect Auburn’s top draft prospects to skip any or all of the season. Everyone on Auburn’s roster can benefit from another season in terms of draft stock and with almost every other conference in college football already trying to do a shortened season, a decrease in stats (due to less games being played) shouldn’t be a big deal in the slightest.