The South Carolina football season is going to look a lot different in 2020, as it appears the SEC could move to a conference-only slate next year.
With the Big 10’s recent announcement to have conference-only competition for its fall sports, there has been speculation on what next season’s football schedules will look like. The SEC has yet to voice their decision for the upcoming year, but there is a feeling that all Power Five conferences will follow the Big 10’s protocol.
It may answer some questions about the 2020 season, but it also leaves many questions. How many games will be played? Will conferences focus on geographical proximity when scheduling? Will we see more cross-divisional games?
With much uncertainty, here’s Garnet and Cocky’s best stab at what the South Carolina schedule might look like next year, with the assumption that there will be 10 games.
THE EASY WAY (PLUG AND PLAY)
The easiest solution seems to be keeping the original eight SEC games for each team, and plugging in two more contests with cross-divisional opponents. The Gamecocks already have LSU and Texas A&M on the slate, leaving Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State as the remaining western division options.
In our hypothetical situation, we’ll use Auburn and Mississippi State as South Carolina’s plug-ins, since they represent two of the closer cross-divisional trips and neither has played the Gamecocks since the 2015 season.
That would result in a schedule that looked something like this:
This option seems most sensible as it keeps all division matchups intact, and provides an easy solution to filling open dates.
THE PROXIMITY-BASED WAY (HOME AND HOME SERIES)
There’s also been talk of creating home and home series between SEC foes that are closer to one another in geographic proximity. This could cut down on travel time and expenses for universities. It would also allow for more bus travel, as opposed to flying during the pandemic.
In this schedule, we see home and home series against three Eastern division foes, similar to an NFL slate, and fill the remaining dates with the next closest options.
It may result in the following 2020 schedule:
This option seems a little more far-fetched, but home and home series are certainly not out of the conversation. Scheduling these matchups across the conference could pose some roadblocks, though.
Assuming that the Southeastern Conference does go through with all-SEC competition, it will be interesting to see the league’s scheduling process. Obviously, safety is first and foremost. Second would be ensuring a competitive balance within the conference.
Things won’t necessarily be perfect, as there’s always a team that gets the short end of the stick (for example, the team that gets the luxury of playing Alabama twice… yikes!), but both of the before mentioned schedules present alluring matchups for Gamecock fans, and it would definitely be fun to see some teams from the SEC West that aren’t typically on the slate.
For now, all we have is speculation but we should have more certainty by month’s end. Stay tuned to Garnet and Cocky as the situation continues to evolve.