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Auburn football: A closer look at the 2020 schedule

It has been apparent for months that college football would not be spared the strangeness and uncertainty of 2020.

Earlier this year, colleges and universities from coast to coast cancelled spring football and sent their athletes home due to COVID-19. As spring turned to summer, players returned to campus with stringent restrictions and protocols developed by medical professionals.

The month of July brought about announcements from each of the Power Five conferences that their 2020 football schedules would be changed. In the SEC, that meant eliminating all non-conference games and adding two more SEC opponents. The end result of that process is a 10-game, conference-only SEC schedule that was announced on Monday.

There are a few things worth noting about Auburn University’s football schedule in 2020:

9/26- Kentucky @ Auburn 
10/3- Auburn @ Georgia 
10/10- Arkansas @ Auburn
10/17- Auburn @ South Carolina 
10/24- Auburn @ Ole Miss 
10/31- LSU @ Auburn 
11/7- BYE
11/14- Auburn @ Mississippi St
11/21-Tennessee @ Auburn 
11/28- Auburn @ Alabama 
12/5- Texas A&M @ Auburn 

The Iron Bowl is moving… kind of

Auburn will once again play Alabama on the Saturday following Thanksgiving like we have come to expect. However, for the first time since 2001, the Iron Bowl will not be the last game on Auburn’s regular season schedule. Due to the schedule shake up, the regular season will extend to the first week in December.

In light of that change, it appears that the SEC decision makers determined it was more important for the biggest game on the Auburn football schedule to be played on its traditional date than to be the final game of the season. No matter when or where the Tigers and Tide play, it is always a must-see event. Like everything else in 2020, this year it is just going to be a little bit different.

An early season trip to Athens

For the first time since Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry will kickoff before the month of November. In this case, the match-up takes place in only the second week of the season. The Tigers will have to be ready to play at a high level early in the season in order to beat the Bulldogs, who will almost surely be favored in the game.

But maybe this is the change that was needed in the Auburn football schedule. I have a hard time believing playing in Athens early in the season will produce any worse results than the recent contests in November. Auburn has lost the last six games played at Georgia, with the most recent victory coming in 2005.

In Gus Malzahn’s tenure as Auburn head coach, Athens has been especially rough, as the Tigers have only scored a total of 27 points in three trips to Sanford Stadium. Auburn definitely has to find some answers to solve the recent Georgia problem, and maybe seeing the Bulldogs early in the schedule is one way to do that.

No rest for the weary

This season is going to be a gauntlet for everyone in the SEC. The schedule no longer includes a couple of directional schools receiving a million dollar pay day in exchange for enduring a beatdown. Normally those games against lesser teams are used to break in new coaches, adjust personnel and shore up any glaring weaknesses.

In 2020, the Auburn football schedule opens by hosting the Kentucky Wildcats, who won eight games last year with a wide receiver playing quarterback. Hopefully Auburn has a lot of the kinks worked out because a road trip to Georgia awaits next. Since the schedule is SEC-only, one can look at every week and see the problems caused by each opponent. I guess that is the occupational hazard of playing in the conference where “it just means more.”

But Auburn should be well prepared for a constant barrage of difficult matchups since they play one of the toughest slate of games in the country year-in and year-out. There is one more thing consider about the schedule: I don’t think there are many teams in the SEC that enjoyed seeing the boys in Orange and Blue on their own schedules once they were unveiled. Every opponent knows that a game against Auburn means they are in for a fight.

Let’s keep the increased number of SEC games

There is no way to know what the future holds, but I really hope that the SEC keeps at least a nine-game conference schedule once things “go back to normal” after this season. It was genuinely exciting to see at least one quality matchup every week in the conference.

Zack Shaw is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News and former walk-on for the Auburn Tigers. You can contact him by email: zack@new-yhn.local