The Southeastern Conference on Wednesday finally released its 2014 football schedule, which will open with South Carolina hosting Texas A&M on a Thursday night SEC Network telecast.
South Carolina and Texas A&M will become permanent cross-divisional opponents next year, as will Arkansas and Missouri. The Razorbacks and Tigers are scheduled to play on the final Saturday of the 2014 regular season.
The rotating cross-divisional pairings for 2014 are Florida at Alabama, Georgia at Arkansas, Tennessee at Ole Miss, South Carolina at Auburn, Kentucky at LSU, Missouri at Texas A&M and Vanderbilt at Mississippi State.
"This might have been the most difficult schedule for the SEC to complete since the beginning of the league," Vanderbilt athletic director David Williams said. "There were many obstacles to overcome with Missouri and Texas A&M still being worked into the rotation and the launch next August of the SEC Network."
The absence of an Alabama-Georgia pairing next year means that the two teams that vied for last December's SEC championship will have at least a six-year gap between regular-season meetings. The last such matchup between the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs occurred in 2008.
When Missouri and Texas A&M joined the SEC last year, the league chose to maintain eight-game conference schedules with a new 6-1-1 format, in which every team plays its six divisional opponents, one permanent foe from the opposite division and one rotating foe from the opposite division. The 6-1-1 format is expected to be in place at least through the 2015 season.
"The SEC presidents and chancellors have committed to a review of football scheduling to be completed in time for preparation of the 2016 schedule," league commissioner Mike Slive said earlier this year. "The objective of this review is to develop a scheduling format for the 2016 season and beyond, which will be in the best interests of the conference. The conference's current 6-1-1 scheduling format will continue until a new format is approved by the conference membership."
Georgia's schedule next season contains consecutive mid-October trips to Missouri and Arkansas, which could be tight for Bulldogs fans and their traveling budgets.
There are several new wrinkles to next year's schedule in addition to the fresh slate of rotating foes. Auburn will host Arkansas on the first Saturday of the season, and the Florida-Tennessee rivalry will take place in October for the first time since 1991.
Tennessee has concluded the past 11 regular seasons with Kentucky and will do so again this year, but next year's Volunteers will play the Wildcats before facing Missouri and Vanderbilt. Kentucky will conclude the 2014 season against in-state rival Louisville.
On Thanksgiving night next year, LSU will visit Texas A&M.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.