Alabama, Florida offer easy solution to SEC’s COVID-19 scheduling headaches

The Southeastern Conference schedule is running out of room after a week of COVID-19 outbreaks forced four games to be postponed.

Three games remain on the schedule this week, including Vanderbilt at Kentucky, South Carolina at Ole Miss and Arkansas at No. 6 Florida. The Razorbacks, however, will not have coach Sam Pittman on the sideline after he tested positive for COVID-19.

Four games involving ranked SEC teams have been postponed:

How will the SEC make up for those postponements with just four regular-season weeks left? SN takes a closer look at the easiest solution:

Games that can be rescheduled

The SEC intentionally left Dec. 12 open on the schedule before the season started, and that date is starting to fill up. No. 24 Auburn can play at Mississippi State, and No. 5 Texas A&M can play at Tennessee that weekend. Those problems are solved.

If there are no more postponements, Arkansas, Kentucky, Ole Miss and South Carolina will all have played a full 10-game schedule.

The logistical hurdles, however, begin with Georgia-Missouri and Alabama-LSU. This is where the SEC has some untangling to do.

How does Dec. 12 look now?

Vanderbilt, Missouri, Georgia, LSU, Florida and Alabama all are affected by this week’s postponements.

Here is what the Dec. 12 date looks like now:

How does the SEC solve the problem with Alabama and Georgia, who would miss out on a 10th game? It’s an uncomfortable solution, but one that the schedule could play out:

Hope Alabama, Florida clinch divisions before Dec. 12

This is the best-case scenario at this point.

Look at the remaining schedules for both teams:

Alabama (6-0): vs. Kentucky, vs. No. 24 Auburn, Arkansas
Florida (5-1): at Vanderbilt, vs. Kentucky, vs. Tennessee, vs. LSU (Dec. 12)

Assuming both teams sweep those games, they would effectively clinch their divisions before Dec. 12. Alabama would be 9-0 and have the head-to-head tiebreaker on Texas A&M. Florida would be 8-1 and have the head-to-head tiebreaker on Georgia.

At that point, you could say the division races were settled on the field.

That would make the SEC’s next step that much easier to pull off.

Have LSU play Georgia on Dec. 12

The Tigers would potentially lose games against Florida and Alabama, but at this point the three-loss defending national champions might not want those games on the schedule.

LSU could play Georgia instead — a nice name brand matchup that would allow both schools to complete their 10-game schedules. Nothing like a SEC championship rematch, right?

Let Florida-Alabama have a Dec. 12 bye

If the Gators and Crimson Tide clinch, then those schools could be given a bye week to prepare for the SEC championship game. That would also help reduce COVID-19 risks leading up the Dec. 19 game in Atlanta.

Conspiracy theorists would not like that move: It might be seen as a devious way for the SEC to get two teams in the College Football Playoff, should the Gators upset the Crimson Tide. The SEC can respond by saying even a 10-game schedule with built-in bye weeks isn’t perfect amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

They will get one team in no matter what at this point. There’s no guarantee both teams would get in, and it’s better to absorb that then the alternative argument within the conference by not making this move.

Florida fans might ask why they should risk their Playoff hopes and take a second loss by playing LSU when Alabama doesn’t have to.

Be ready for more postponements

That’s the best-case scenario for every team playing a 10-game schedule, and there are still four weeks left in the regular season.

That is why the SEC should take a wait-and-see approach before making any final decisions about Dec. 12. The SEC easily could have more teams fail to complete a 10-game schedule. The key for SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will be to maintain as much flexibility as possible leading up to Dec. 19.

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