The 87th year of official SEC Football will begin on Saturday with quite possibly the most anticipation of any season that has come before it. While the 2020 season will have its normal share of storylines - new faces, returning stars, breakout players, etc. - the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 will make this season one that is remembered for years to come.
On July 30 the SEC announced it was establishing a new start date of September 26 for the 2020 season to allow its universities to focus on the healthy return of their campus communities and the gradual re-introduction of athletics. The Conference also announced the 2020 season would consist of 10 SEC games and no non-conference contests. The new 2020 schedule was announced two weeks later, nearly six weeks before the start of the season.
In addition, the SEC Football Championship Game will be played December 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, rescheduled from the original date of December 5. The revised schedule includes one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools.
While fan attendance and the world-renowned SEC tailgating scene will not be what we are accustomed to this season, the national significance, media exposure and quality of play is expected to remain unchanged. While things off the field may look, feel and sound a little different at times this season, the competition on the field remains as fierce, talented and competitive as ever.
Entering the seventh season of the College Football Playoff era, the SEC has placed three different teams in the Playoff during the first six years of the CFP - more than any other league. The SEC has been represented in the Playoff each year since its inception.
A historic six teams from the SEC are currently ranked in the Top-10 entering the season, including three (Alabama, Georgia, Florida) in the Top Five. LSU, the defending national champions and first team in SEC history complete a 15-0 season, begins the new year ranked No. 6. Overall, eight teams begin the season in the Top-25, with three more receiving Top-25 votes.
There are four new faces in the SEC coaching ranks this season, three of which are in the SEC West. Eli Drinkwitz takes the helm at Missouri, Sam Pittman takes over at Arkansas while Lane Kiffin and Mike Leach begin their tenures at Ole Miss and Mississippi State, respectively. Despite the changes to the season schedule, it should be noted the Egg Bowl will remain Thanksgiving weekend as per tradition.
The SEC has advanced to the national championship game 13 times in the last 14 seasons. Ten times since 2006 the SEC has won the college football national championship. The SEC is 9-4 all-time in College Football Playoff games, playing in five of the six CFP National Championship Games, while winning three. The SEC is 6-1 in CFP Semifinals, and 8-3 overall in CFP games not versus each other. The SEC leads the nation with seven teams advancing to the Playoff since its inception in 2014. Three different programs (Alabama, Georgia, LSU) have made Playoff appearances in the SEC. The league also leads the nation in the CFP era with championship game appearances (6).
All eyes as usual will be focused on the battle to secure a spot in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta again in 2020, as only once since 2006 (2014) has the winner of the SEC Championship Game failed to advance to the national championship game. That battle will take place and be the focus each and every week this season with a 10-game, conference-only schedule.
We hope you enjoy the return of football in the SEC.
Chuck Dunlap is a 20-year veteran of the SEC and currently serves as the Director of Communications for SEC Football. Follow him on Twitter at @SEC_Chuck