The only Southeastern Conference football game CBS has televised every year just got punted.
CBS announced Monday that it will open its coverage of the 2012 SEC season with Alabama at Arkansas on Sept. 15 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern. By picking the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks, two teams that finished in the nation's top five last season, the network bypassed the Florida-Tennessee contest for the first time since becoming the primary broadcaster of SEC games in 1996.
The Alabama-Arkansas game has been a week later than the Florida-Tennessee matchup the past three seasons but was bumped up this year as part of the schedule juggling that accommodated the league's additions of Texas A&M and Missouri.
"Normally you don't have that kind of selection on that day," CBS Sports executive vice president Mike Aresco told the Times Free Press in February. "Alabama and Arkansas is a game we've done the last three years, so it does give us some options on that first Saturday."
CBS has televised the Georgia-Florida game 15 times in the last 16 years and has televised LSU-Arkansas 14 times, and the network already has announced it will show those two rivalries again this year.
The SEC released its complete television schedule for the first three weeks of the season on the eve of today's media days event in Hoover, Ala., which as of Monday had a projected head count of more than 1,100 people. Representatives from the league's two newcomers will take the stage this afternoon, as will representatives from South Carolina and Vanderbilt.
Florida and Tennessee, which went a combined 12-13 last season, will play instead on ESPN with a 6 p.m. kickoff. The Volunteers and Gators last played on ESPN in 1994, when Florida won 31-0 at Neyland Stadium, and their game will be followed on the cable network by Texas at Ole Miss at 9:15.
Tennessee's game Sept. 8 against visiting Georgia State will be on pay-per-view, and it will kick off at 4. The Vols open their season against North Carolina State as part of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic on Aug. 31, and that previously established kickoff time is 7:30 on ESPNU.
Georgia will host Buffalo on Sept. 1, and that game will be televised at 12:21 on the SEC Network. The Bulldogs then will play twice at night, going to Missouri on Sept. 8 for a 7:45 kickoff on ESPN2 and hosting Florida Atlantic on Sept. 15 at 7:30 on CSS.
Other Sept. 8 kickoff times of note announced Monday are Auburn at Mississippi State (noon on ESPN), Florida at Texas A&M (3:30 on ESPN), Western Kentucky at Alabama (3:39 on the SEC Network), Washington at LSU (7 on ESPN) and Vanderbilt at Northwestern (8 on the Big Ten Network). Other Sept. 15 starting times include Louisiana-Monroe at Auburn (12:21 on the SEC Network), Presbyterian at Vanderbilt (12:30 on CSS) and Arizona State at Missouri (7 on ESPN2).
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.