The SEC has released its long-awaited 2014 football schedule, and it contains several relatively significant tidbits about the football season following the one that opens in little more than a week. And, as predicted, it's likely to make more than a few people unhappy.
It's Aggies vs. Gamecocks to open the season. ESPN has been getting some SEC games onto its annual Thursday night kickoff, and South Carolina has been more than willing to provide some of those games, but this might be the biggest SEC match-up on opening night yet. Texas A&M will be coming off what's expected to be a successful year, but will likely be playing its first game without Johnny Manziel. (Barring, of course, a suspension in the whole Manziebilia mess.) South Carolina will almost certainly be playing its first game without Jadeveon Clowney. Two teams expected to have big years in 2013 coming into a season with a whole lot of question marks? Opening night match-ups rarely have this much intrigue.
Speaking of A&M ... Ever since the Aggies moved to the SEC, the Arkansas-A&M game has moved back to campus for a variety of reasons. (One of them being the different recruiting rules concerning SEC games.) But the new schedule lists the game as happening in Dallas, meaning it's likely headed to the Jerry Jones Death Star again -- though that's technically in Arlington. In any case, that would set up the second SEC neutral-site game on an annual basis, the other being the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.
Florida-Tennessee in October? Forget whether or not the Gators and the Vols are going to kick off the SEC slate for CBS; they're now not going to kick off the SEC slate for each other. The game that once kicked off the season has now been pushed clear into October, another concession to the realities of realignment. (Particularly since the game has faded in importance during the Fulmer-Kiffin-Dooley malaise, it's become less of a priority for CBS.) Florida will instead begin its league season with a home game against Kentucky on Sept. 13, while Tennessee will go to Athens on Sept. 27, tying Missouri for the latest start to the conference slate. The Third Saturday in October remains on the fourth Saturday in October for reasons passing understanding.
Non-permanent rivalries. The rivalry swap that has South Carolina taking on A&M and Arkansas facing Missouri on a regular basis. As Year2 noted, those rotations are: Alabama-Florida; Arkansas-Georgia; Auburn-South Carolina; Kentucky-LSU; Ole Miss-Tennessee; Mississippi State-Vanderbilt; and Missouri-Texas A&M. Les Miles has officially gotten his reward for the last few years of carping about the interdivision schedule, just like Steve Spurrier got his this year. So we can now pretty much expect annual complaints until the final rotation gets ironed out.