When Does SEC Football Season Start? Week 4 Schedule as Conference Returns

The most unprecedented and unusual of college football seasons will take a significant step towards normality on Saturday, when the SEC joins the party after a two-week delay.

While the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big 12 kicked off proceedings as usual and the Pac-12 and the Big Ten opted to cancel their seasons—although the latter has since reversed the decision and the former may still do so—because of the coronavirus outbreak, the SEC bought itself time and postponed the start of the campaign by two weeks.

The starting gun on the 88th SEC season will be fired on Saturday at 12 p.m. ET, with Florida State taking on Ole Miss on the road, while Auburn welcomes Kentucky in the first matchup between ranked SEC programs of the season.

All 14 SEC teams will be in action on Saturday, including defending national champions LSU, who will host Mississippi State in the 3:30 p.m. ET slot in CBS' SEC Game of the Week. Georgia will also play in the afternoon slot, taking on Arkansas on the road at 4 p.m. ET, while Alabama headlines the primetime slots when it travels to Missouri at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Texas A&M and Tennessee will also play under the bright lights on the opening weekend, with the former hosting Vanderbilt and the latter traveling to South Carolina.

While the SEC has postponed the start of its season by two weeks, the conference dominates the AP Top 25 Poll, with eight ranked programs. Alabama is the No. 2 seed and only trails pre-season favorite Clemson in the polls, while Georgia and Florida are ranked fourth and fifth respectively. LSU begins its bid for back-to-back national titles as the No. 6 program in the AP rankings, while Auburn is ranked at joint-No. 8 along with Texas and Texas A&M rounds out the top-10.

Tennessee and Kentucky, meanwhile, head into the season as the No. 16 and No. 23 ranked programs respectively.

The SEC's decision to switch to a 10-game, conference-only schedule for this season means the conference will navigate uncharted waters this year as just one SEC team—Alabama in 1948—has played more than eight regular-season games against conference opponents in one year.

Even when conference championship games are included, no SEC team has played more than 10 times against a conference rival over the course of a season, but that will change this year.

The new format has already received praise from Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Auburn's Gus Malzahn and Georgia's Kirby Smart.

"I certainly think that playing 10 conference games makes it very challenging for the players, and it makes it very challenging for our team," Saban said on Monday in a Zoom news conference.

"I've always been an advocate of playing more games so that every player gets to play every team in the East [during their time with the Crimson Tide], and this is certainly going to create that opportunity to a large degree for a lot of our players.

"I can't really answer how it will impact the future. I think a lot of it will be determined by how this season goes."

SEC Week 4 schedule

  • (No. 5) Florida @ Ole Miss—12 p.m., ESPN
  • (No. 23) Kentucky @ (No. 8) Auburn—12 p.m., SEC Network
  • Mississippi State @ (No. 6) LSU—3:30 p.m., CBS
  • (No. 4) Georgia @ Arkansas—4 p.m., SEC Network
  • (No. 2) Alabama @ Missouri—7 p.m., ESPN
  • Vanderbilt @ (No. 10) Texas A&M—7:30 p.m., SEC Network Alternate
  • (No. 16) Tennessee @ South Carolina—7:30 p.m., SEC Network
LSU, Alabama, college football
Landon Dickerson #69 of the Alabama Crimson Tide lines up across Tyler Shelvin #72 of the LSU Tigers at the line of scrimmage during the second half at Bryant-Denny Stadium on November 9, 2019 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The two SEC rivals will collide on November 14 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Todd Kirkland/Getty