CBS has targeted the Oct. 2 game between Alabama and Florida at newly expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium as its prime-time telecast for the 2010 football season.
The Crimson Tide and Gators have not met during the regular season since 2006 but have collided the past two years in the Southeastern Conference championship game. Alabama won last year's meeting 32-13 and then defeated Texas in the BCS championship game, after Florida won the '08 encounter 31-20 before beating Oklahoma for the BCS crown.
"How do you argue with that?" CBS executive vice president Mike Aresco said Thursday. "It's developed into the rivalry du jour. It's clearly now the biggest game, and this is almost like a rubber match, although they may end up playing again in Atlanta."
Alabama will start its fourth spring under Nick Saban today, and Florida is scheduled to begin its sixth under Urban Meyer on Wednesday.
Florida has played in the lone CBS prime-time game for six straight seasons, three times against Tennessee (2004-06) and three against LSU (2007-09). It will be the first such contest for Alabama since CBS became the primary network for SEC telecasts in 1996.
CBS will use its 3:30 telecast Oct. 2 for the Tennessee-LSU contest in Baton Rouge.
"That gives us a terrific afternoon game," Aresco said. "When you do a prime-time game, you want to make sure you've got a good afternoon game, because that necessitates that you do a doubleheader."
CBS will start its SEC football coverage Sept. 18 with the Florida-Tennessee game in Knoxville, which is a matchup the network has televised every year since '96. The network cannot show a game Sept. 11 because of its U.S. Open tennis coverage, so ESPN will have the luxury of televising Alabama-Penn State, Tennessee-Oregon and Georgia-South Carolina on its family of networks.
Aresco expects ESPN to televise Alabama-Penn State in prime time and realizes that's a good one that got away.
"The U.S. Open pretty much goes all day with the women's final that night," he said, "so even if we tried to compress everything to do Alabama-Penn State, you would have to severely compress the tennis. What if you have rain delays? So we never even went to the tennis people.
"We explored moving that game a week earlier, but Penn State didn't want to, which we understood. It's going be tough enough with a new quarterback going in to play the defending national champion."
Alabama's final six SEC opponents this fall (South Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, LSU, Mississippi State and Auburn) are scheduled to have bye weeks before facing the Tide, so the Tuscaloosa university has asked the league for relief. The Tide's open date this season comes before their Nov. 6 trip to Baton Rouge.
"We're looking at it, but I'm not sure what can be done," SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said Thursday.