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Georgia photo by Matt Stamey / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart talks to senior inside linebacker Monty Rice during last Saturday's 44-28 loss to Florida in Jacksonville.

It certainly seems as if the sky is falling on this 2020 Southeastern Conference football season with news Wednesday that this weekend's Georgia-Missouri game joined Auburn-Mississippi State, Alabama-LSU and Texas A&M-Tennessee on the postponement shelf.

Then again, perhaps this is the perfect time to point out that until this week, 40 of a possible 42 SEC games have taken place. Only the LSU-Florida and Vanderbilt-Missouri contests on Oct. 17 had to be pushed back to Dec. 12 before this week's quartet of delays.

"I certainly think that if somebody had told us this in June or July, I probably would have been a little shocked that the efficiency rate would have been so high," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Wednesday. "I'm not going to be quick to judge, because you don't know where it's headed. I certainly know where we are right now and that the seniors on this team and across the SEC would say that it's been a benefit for them and for the younger players in terms of growth and development.

"I know their mental health is much better, because these kids have been able to play and be part of something and not be in this state of unknown. A lot of these kids get the chance to go to college and get a great education because of football, and football is their love and passion. The fact they've been able to play, I think, helps them academically because their time is so structured. I think it's better for all of us."

Those are well-expressed remarks from the SEC coach who would be most desirous of playing this Saturday, given that his Bulldogs were thumped 44-28 by Florida in Jacksonville last weekend and were looking for an opportunity to bounce back. Mizzou had to postpone this week's matchup due to a shortage of defensive linemen.

The Alabama-LSU game may not get rescheduled because LSU has the Dec. 12 date at Florida, and the top-ranked Crimson Tide are all but destined for a Western Division championship and a Dec. 19 trip to Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium. So a 9-0 Alabama could face a 9-1 Florida in the league title game, provided these coronavirus-related issues subside.

"We knew that when we sort of took this on that we had testing protocols that were in the best interests of the players," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think that's been of utmost importance, and I think we knew the social tracing part of this would be the bigger issue than the testing, because with the testing, you sort of know exactly what you're getting. The social tracing part is a safety issue we have to go through, but you're quarantining people that you don't really know if they're sick or not.

"That's the part that's more difficult to manage, but it kind of is what it is, and you've got to trust that everybody is doing exactly what they're supposed to do to keep the players safe."

The league will use Dec. 19 as a makeup opportunity for those teams not in Atlanta, so that could be the date for Georgia-Mizzou.

Smart, who said Wednesday that "mental agility is the definition of 2020," believes the social tracing element has led to a misleading aspect to these postponements.

"Everybody thinks COVID is taking over these teams, and it's not," Smart said. "They're having one or two mild cases, but the contact tracing is what's causing people to not play. When you travel and you sit on a plane or in a small locker room or you sit on a bus, all of a sudden you go from having two guys with COVID to 14 guys with contact tracing, and now you can't play."

The three surviving SEC games this weekend aren't without impacts from COVID-19. Arkansas will be without coach Sam Pittman for its trip to Florida, and Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran may not be back from his absence.

In fact, the Vanderbilt-Kentucky game still could be postponed.

"While some teams don't have the opportunity to play this week, we do," Commodores coach Derek Mason said, "at least for now."

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AP file photo by Mark Humphrey / Vanderbilt football coach Derek Mason

Pasquali's Pix

Vanderbilt at Kentucky: Somebody has to lead the SEC in total defense this season. That somebody is the Wildcats at 19.0 points per game. Wildcats 34, Commodores 13.

Notre Dame at Boston College: These lone Catholic institutions in the Football Bowl Subdivision play for the Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl, with the Fighting Irish having won the past seven meetings. Irish 30, Eagles 21.

Arkansas at Florida: The Gators gave up 136 yards during the first four minutes in Jacksonville last Saturday and 141 yards in the final 56 minutes. Gators 35, Razorbacks 23.

Pittsburgh at Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have won seven consecutive night games at Bobby Dodd Stadium dating to a 2009 loss to Georgia. Yellow Jackets 22, Panthers 21.

South Carolina at Ole Miss: This is the second time Lane Kiffin has faced the Gamecocks and the first since Tennessee broke out those black jerseys. Rebels 35, Gamecocks 28.

Wisconsin at Michigan: This Jim Harbaugh hiring really looks like it's starting to take hold in Ann Arbor. Badgers 27, Wolverines 24.

Other picks:

Boise State 38, Colorado State 29

Cincinnati 42, East Carolina 21

Miami 27, Virginia Tech 20

Indiana 35, Michigan State 28

Coastal Carolina 26, Troy 25

Marshall 49, MTSU 16

Liberty 54, Western Carolina 7

Penn State 33, Nebraska 22

North Carolina 31, Wake Forest 24

Charlotte 40, Gardner-Webb 3

Appalachian State 34, Georgia State 19

Southern California 30, Arizona 27

Virginia 37, Louisville 30

Oregon 45, Washington State 26

Northwestern 28, Purdue 23

N.C. State 19, Florida State 14

Last week:

Winners — 14

Postponements — 7

Pasquali is now 114-45 overall (71.7%) this season.

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

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