The Southeastern Conference has released its composite 2011 football schedule, and this time with no backlash.
"I haven't heard any negativity," SEC associate commissioner Charles Bloom said Thursday.
Alabama quickly balked when last year's schedule was released, because the Crimson Tide were forced to play their final six league games against teams that had open dates the week before. The Tide wound up 3-3 in those games, the lone blemishes of a 10-3 season that culminated with a 49-7 thrashing of Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl.
This year's schedule originally had Alabama playing four SEC opponents coming off open dates, but Auburn switched a nonconference game against Samford from Nov. 5 to the week before the Iron Bowl.
"I can't think of any other situation that forced us to facilitate any other moves," Bloom said. "The schedule changes from year to year, so there wasn't necessarily the same number of open dates in '11 that we were having to deal with in '10. We asked Auburn to see if they could make the change, and they did."
This year's Iron Bowl is moving back to a Saturday after being held the Friday after Thanksgiving the past two seasons, with the Friday spot now going to the Arkansas-LSU game. That switch was announced in January. A more recent change is that Kentucky's opener against Western Kentucky at LP Field in Nashville has been moved up to Thursday, Sept. 1.
The only other Thursday matchup scheduled this year in the SEC occurs Sept. 15, when LSU visits Mississippi State.
Every SEC school is playing one member from the Football Championship Subdivision this season, and every league team except Ole Miss and Mississippi State has at least one opponent from another BCS conference. The Rebels do open at home against Brigham Young and visit Fresno State on Oct. 1.
Only two SEC schools have two games scheduled against other BCS conference programs, with LSU facing Oregon and West Virginia and Vanderbilt playing Connecticut and Wake Forest. Georgia plays Boise State in addition to its annual matchup with Georgia Tech.
SIZING UP THE 2011 SEC SCHEDULE
TOUGHEST START-Georgia opens against the disciplined Boise State Broncos and defending SEC East champion South Carolina, though both of those matchups are in the Peach State.
TOUGHEST STRETCH-Auburn, which has to replace eight starters on each side of the ball, begins October by playing at South Carolina, at Arkansas, hosting Florida and at LSU.
TOUGHEST CLOSE-Arkansas is the lone league team to finish against four bowl foes from a year ago, but the Razorbacks will host South Carolina, Tennessee and Mississippi State before visiting LSU.
TOUGHEST NONCONFERENCE-LSU can be forgiven for hosting Northwestern State and Western Kentucky, because the Tigers open against Oregon in Dallas and face West Virginia in Morgantown.
EASIEST NONCONFERENCE-Two years after facing a trio of 10-win teams (Georgia Tech, Houston and MTSU), Mississippi State is toning it down with Memphis, Louisiana Tech, UAB and UT-Martin.
BEST TRADITIONAL GAME-Alabama plays at Penn State on Sept. 10 in a matchup of teams that have combined for nine Associated Press national titles in the past 50 years.
BEST NONCONFERENCE GAME-LSU and Oregon, who meet Sept. 3, combined for 23 victories last season and could begin this year ranked among the top five teams nationally.