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Sunday Conversation: 2021 Alabama Schedule Back to Normal?

Will we ever see the 10-game SEC schedule again?

SEC Championship - Alabama v Florida
Here comes the ... BOOM!
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

It’s been almost three weeks since Alabama completed one of the most historical and memorable seasons in college football history. It was an unfathomable run of 13 straight wins over Power-5 teams, most of which were blow out wins. None of it would have been possible without the crazy worldwide circumstances that caused the SEC to alter the schedule. Thanks to the blueprints laid down by the 2020 season, college football conferences know how to proceed in the future.

A fledgling vaccine for Captain Trips has been introduced that is giving some folks hope that things will go back to normal. Even if sticking everyone in the word with a needle eradicates this virus, it is a bit presumptuous to think that everything is going to go back to normal. For those of you who know what a breeze air travel was before 9/11 came along, you know what I am talking about. Expect to see some “bubble” inspired policies to stick around.


Last week, the SEC and ACC announced their 2021 schedules that had the old pre-2020 format. The Power-5 non-conference game, three cupcake games, and 8 conference games are all back on most everyone’s slate. Even Notre Dame has gone back to being an independent.

So, it’s back to normalcy, right? Not entirely. There is no guarantee that the virus will be contained to a test tube in a subterranean room of the CDC by the time Labor Day rolls around. But there is something bigger. Due to the great success of the expanded all-conference schedules, the gears in the heads of college football power brokers are churning. ESPN would much rather air games with Alabama against Kentucky and Missouri than ones with Kent State and UT-Martin.

Alabama vs Missouri
Bama-Mizzou had more viewers than a cupcake game would have produced.
Photo by Kent Gidley/Collegiate Images/ Getty Images

Might we see a return to the 2020 format in the future? Maybe someday we will get a faction of that, but not in the immediate future.

While the ten game all-conference only schedule was so enjoyable to watch as a fan, it had its drawbacks. Among them are the physical tolls on the players, the financial loss of less home games, and the lack of development for younger players against cupcakes.

Even still, it appears that college football is heading in a more Power-5 exclusive direction. As early as 2012, Nick Saban has been beating the drum for a nine-game SEC schedule. He has more recently been an advocate of ten P5 games per season, but he has been repeatedly shot down by the other conference coaches. He finally got a confernce ally in Gus Malzahn but now he is gone. However, there is a new generation of newbie coaches in the conference, five of whom are 44 years old or younger, not including Lane Kiffin and Kirby Smart who are both 45. Perhaps they will bring on new attitudes with an eye towards the future of college football.

After a year-long examination, the Knight Commission recently made a recommendations of a structural overhaul for top Division I football programs. In short, their main suggestion was that the five Power-5 conferences move towards autonomy, away from the NCAA, with a new entity created to govern it. A break away from the NCAA is not a new topic of conversation but the Knight Commission has given it wheels.

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
NCAA President Mark Emmert sees his power eroding away.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

As it is now, the only real power the NCAA wields is over rules enforcement. They have no say in the post-season which is overseen by the non-affiliated College Football Playoff and the bowl operators, most of which are run by ESPN. The reality is that the five Power 5 commissioners plus Notre Dame AD Jack Swarbrick run the show in college football. It is only a matter of time before they kick the increasingly inept NCAA to the curb for good.


For now, it is back to eight SEC, one P5, and three cupcakes. For Alabama, it’s still the P5 game to kickoff the season and mutual byes before playing LSU. But this year, the SEC has flip-flopped the cupcake slot before the Iron Bowl for Arkansas. Auburn is at South Carolina the week before hosting the Crimson Tide.

Sep. 4 vs Miami Hurricanes (Atlanta, GA)
Sep. 11 vs Mercer Bears
Sep. 18 at Florida Gators
Sep. 25 vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Oct. 2 vs Ole Miss Rebels
Oct. 9 at Texas A&M Aggies
Oct. 16 at Mississippi State Bulldogs
Oct. 23 vs Tennessee Volunteers
Oct. 30 bye
Nov. 6 vs LSU Tigers
Nov. 13 vs New Mexico State Aggies
Nov. 20 vs Arkansas Razorbacks
Nov. 27 at Auburn Tigers