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Georgia photo by Al Eckford / Georgia receiver George Pickens scores a touchdown during last November's 52-7 win by the Bulldogs at Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets will not play this season due to the SEC's 10-game league-only schedule.

The Southeastern Conference plans to have a 10-game football season that will consist solely of league matchups and will start Sept. 26.

That means no Tennessee trip to Oklahoma on Sept. 12 and no nonconference rivalry games such as Florida-Florida State and Georgia-Georgia Tech.

"This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said Thursday in a conference release. "This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities."

The SEC revealed its plans after a virtual meeting of the league's 14 chancellors and presidents. According to The Athletic, the vote was 13-1 to adopt the league-only format, with South Carolina president Bob Caslen the lone dissenter.

Caslen hoped the SEC would allow for one nonconference game so the Gamecocks could face longtime in-state rival Clemson of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

"We are pleased to have a plan in place for the Southeastern Conference this season," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "We believe it is the best option to keep players and staff safe and still maintain the integrity of the season. The safety of our team will be our highest priority throughout the season, but we are also excited that our players will have the opportunity to compete and play this season."

There will be one open date for each team during the middle of the season, and there will be a second open date on Dec. 12 for all league programs. The SEC championship game will again pit the two division winners, but that contest has been bumped back two weeks and now will take place Dec. 19 inside Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The two College Football Playoff semifinals at the Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl are currently scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021.

"We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur," Sankey said. "It is regrettable that some of our traditional nonconference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures."

Georgia and Georgia Tech have met annually since 1925, while South Carolina and Clemson have played each year since 1909. The SEC's league-only format mirrors decisions made earlier this month by the Big Ten and the Pac-12. On Wednesday, the ACC revealed plans for a 11-game season with 10 league opponents and a nonconference foe.

"A tremendous amount of thought and discussion went into making what we believe is a responsible decision on scheduling format, and it's exciting to be making progress toward competition," Tennessee athletic director Phillip Fulmer said. "Our student-athletes and coaches are working hard to prepare while prioritizing health and safety. There are still several logistical unknowns, but we appreciate Vol Nation being patient and sticking with us as we continue to work through these unique circumstances."

Said Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity: "The 10-game SEC schedule provides us the best opportunity to play football as safely as possible in a COVID environment. It's disappointing the schedule model does not make it possible to play Georgia Tech, but we look forward to renewing that rivalry in 2021."

The revised schedule for the SEC's 2020 season, which will include two new cross-divisional matchups for each team, will be announced once it is approved by the league's athletic directors.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524. Follow him on Twitter @DavidSPaschall.

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