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Vanderbilt photo by Hunter Long / Vanderbilt running back Keyon Henry-Brooks looks for running room during last Saturday's 41-7 loss to South Carolina in Nashville. The Commodores competed with just 56 scholarship players.

The Southeastern Conference is 21-0 this season when it comes to staging football games, but that undefeated record is coming to an end.

This weekend's Vanderbilt at Missouri matchup was postponed Monday and now will be played Dec. 12, which is the Saturday between the end of the regular season and the intentionally delayed SEC championship game. Vandy has endured the combination of injuries and COVID-19, whether positive tests or contact tracing or a league-high 10 players opting out, and is coming off a 41-7 home loss to South Carolina last Saturday in which the Commodores had just 56 scholarship players.

The league requires 53 scholarship players in order to play a game this season out of the full allotment of 85.

"Going into the South Carolina game, it wasn't advantageous, but we met the threshold," Vandy coach Derek Mason said Wednesday. "In coming out of that game, not only did we have more injuries, but we knew testing could wipe us out. When the testing revealed more contact tracing numbers, we understood where we were and that we weren't getting anybody back quickly."

Vanderbilt practiced Wednesday with scholarship numbers in the upper 40s.

"We all know what we're dealing with here," Mason said. "We're dealing with times that nobody has ever seen or have coached through before. The SEC is not the first conference to look at postponing a game, and right now, we're doing the best we can to ensure the health of our student-athletes. We're playing football in a pandemic, so we have to be smart and safe and make sure we're doing what's in their best interests.

"I don't think anybody owes anybody any apologies. We're trying to get our kids out there to where they can play and our fan bases around the country can see football. When we can't do that, we're disappointed, but it still comes down to the safety and welfare of the student-athlete."

A second league game this weekend, LSU at Florida, was postponed Wednesday — also to Dec. 12 — due to 18 scholarship players and three walk-ons testing positive for the Gators. Florida coach Dan Mullen announced Wednesday that two assistant coaches also tested positive.

These haven't been the best few days for Mullen, who let the emotions of Saturday's 41-38 loss at Texas A&M get the better of him. Mullen said the atmosphere at Kyle Field affected the outcome and implored Florida officials to allow the Swamp to be opened to full capacity this week.

School officials quickly shot down that idea for obvious safety reasons, and then came the spike in cases on Mullen's roster.

"I certainly apologize if I offended people," Mullen said Wednesday. "I think anybody who knows me and our program knows how we do things. We have great respect for all of our local health officials and for what they've been able to do, and what we've been doing here since July and really going all the way back to March."

The SEC has been as successful as any entity from the NFL to the high-school ranks in dealing with this unprecedented pandemic.

Next week is the Alabama-Tennessee game at Neyland Stadium. Usually that's when we all say, "Man, the season has really flown by so far," but this year's matchup will help represent the midway mark of the league's altered 10-game schedule.

That alone should be praised in terms of the SEC's continuing efforts to make the best out of an incredibly difficult situation.

"The biggest thing is you're one day away or one test away or one situation away from a possible situation like Florida is in," Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. "We've been fortunate. We feel like our players are doing a good job, but when they're not here at the facility, I don't always know what they're doing."

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AP file photo by Joshua L. Jones / Georgia football coach Kirby Smart

Pasquali's Pix

Clemson at Georgia Tech: The Tigers really aren't messing around this season, outscoring foes 59-0 in the first quarter and 121-20 in the first half. Tigers 38, Yellow Jackets 13.

Auburn at South Carolina: The Gamecocks are 0-8 against the Tigers since joining the SEC in 1992. Tigers 27, Gamecocks 22.

Kentucky at Tennessee: The Volunteers have defeated the Wildcats 17 consecutive times inside Neyland Stadium. Vols 24, Wildcats 16.

Louisville at Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish have won 21 consecutive games at Notre Dame Stadium, closing in on the 28 straight triumphs from 1942 to 1950. Irish 41, Cardinals 24.

Ole Miss at Arkansas: Lane Kiffin's Rebels lead the nation with eight offensive plays of 40 or more yards. They also lead the land by allowing a heinous 8.79 yards per play. Rebels 38, Razorbacks 31.

Texas A&M at Mississippi State: Aggies coach Jimbo Fisher provided welcome news on the COVID-19 front Wednesday, claiming his team has been tested twice since playing Florida and is "completely clean." Aggies 34, Bulldogs 24.

Georgia at Alabama: If these two stalwarts keep dominating the rest of the league the way they have so far, this could be the first of three Alabama-Georgia games this season. Crimson Tide 27, Bulldogs 24.

Other picks:

SMU 32, Tulane 29

Houston 35, BYU 32

Cincinnati 29, Tulsa 28

Miami 28, Pittsburgh 21

Syracuse 26, Liberty 16

West Virginia 44, Kansas 15

N.C. State 23, Duke 17

UCF 30, Memphis 23

Troy 41, Eastern Kentucky 14

Virginia 27, Wake Forest 20

Georgia Southern 48, UMass 9

MTSU 45, North Texas 24

North Carolina 31, Florida State 10

Virginia Tech 34, Boston College 13

Charlotte 22, FIU 7

Last week:

Winners — 12

Granthams — 9

Pasquali is now 52-17 overall (75.4%) this season.

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

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