The SEC has finally hammered out its 2012 football schedule, announcing it this morning on the league's website. It's been an arduous task trying to figure it out since the SEC added Texas A&M and Missouri to the fold.
So here's the setup: Two seven-team divisions, with A&M in the West and Missouri in the East. As expected. They kept the eight-game SEC schedule, so now each team plays only two inter-divisional games per year. For MSU, those games in 2012 are Kentucky (the Bulldogs' permanent East opponent) and Tennessee. MSU plays at Kentucky for the second consecutive season but will still have seven home games.
"We only have three conference games in first seven. You're not guaranteed anything, but I think the schedule sets up where we have a chance to build some momentum in the early part of the year," MSU athletics director Scott Stricklin said.
Larry Templeton, the former MSU athletics director who is serving on the SEC's transition team, said the MSU-Kentucky game was a byproduct of trying to "protect Mississippi State-Tennessee for television."
A lot of playing dates were shuffled around to make this 2012 slate happen.
"If you use the original 2012 schedule for the 12 teams, we ended up moving something like 56 playing dates for SEC-SEC games, and then our institutions moved something like 40-44 non-conference playing dates," Templeton said.
And as expected, State will host Texas A&M next season. It'll be the sixth meeting between the schools, and MSU leads the series 3-2. The last meeting? The 2000 Indepedence Bowl, a.k.a. the "Snow Bowl," which State won 43-41.
The Alabama game, normally played in November, has been moved up. MSU's open date is Sept. 29, part of a three-week stretch in which it doesn't play an SEC foe. That'll be made up for later in the season with a brutal closing stretch.
Don't expect any Thursday games for State in 2012. It played two this past season, but Stricklin doesn't see it as very doable for next year.
"There was some talk early on, but as the schedule evolved it became more problematic for us based on where it would end up, because you want to make sure you have an open date beforehand," he said. "We didn't have that this year. I don't think we like that."
Here's more info on the SEC scheduling, and further meetings will be required to figure out the 2013 setup. Templeton said permanent opponents will be "revisited," and he's heard no talk of moving to a nine-game conference schedule.
"Don't read anything into this schedule. It's strictly a one-year solution. It's only for 2012," Templeton said. "There could be a lot of no-return games in the 2013 schedule. The ADs are going to meet and determine the parameters in which we want to schedule for the next 12 years. The next schedule will be everybody rotating through in some form or fashion around those parameters."
OK, let's view the entire MSU schedule now (*-denotes SEC game).
Sept. 1, vs. Jackson State
Sept. 8, vs. Auburn*
Sept. 15, at Troy
Sept. 22, vs. South Alabama
Oct. 6, at Kentucky*
Oct. 13, vs. Tennessee*
Oct. 20, vs. Middle Tennessee State
Oct. 27, at Alabama*
Nov. 3, vs. Texas A&M*
Nov. 10, at LSU*
Nov. 17, vs. Arkansas*
Nov. 24, at Ole Miss*