The SEC Network is slowly rolling out the first weekend’s football schedule. The goal? Exact a maximum amount of pain for DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner, and the other smaller cable providers who have not yet signed up to carry the channel.
So far six SEC teams will be commencing their seasons on the SEC Network. It starts on Thursday night when Vanderbilt hosts Temple and then Texas A&M travels to South Carolina. The two games are not so subtle shots at Time Warner — which is big in South Carolina and Texas — as well as Comcast, which is based in Philadelphia and dominates the Nashville market. In fact, look into the SEC Network schedule and it’s a fascinating battle plan, designed to cause the most pain possible for recalcitrant cable and satellite companies.
On Saturday Auburn and Arkansas are playing and on Sunday Utah State travels to Tennessee.
That means six SEC teams have been announced for the opening weekend on the SEC Network, but there are still two games left to announce.
So which games are left.
We already know that Ole Miss and Boise State will play on Thursday, August 28th at 8 eastern on ESPN, Alabama and West Virginia will play at 3:30 eastern on ABC, and LSU and Wisconsin will play at 9 eastern on ESPN.
That leaves these five SEC games, two of which will air Saturday on the SEC Network:
Clemson at Georgia
Idaho at Florida
South Dakota State at Missouri
UT-Martin at Kentucky
Southern Miss at Mississippi State
One of these games is not like the other.
And don’t you think it’s a little bit curious that all of these other major out-of-conference games have already had their television times announced?
Clemson at Georgia is by far the best of the unscheduled SEC openers. And it leaves me with a big question, would the SEC Network be bold enough to grab that Clemson at Georgia game and put it on the SEC Network? ESPN and the SEC have the rights to this game this since the hosting team’s television deal, Georgia in this case, gets the rights to the game the network could definitely do it.
Putting Clemson at Georgia on the SEC Network would go a long way towards shooting down the argument that the SEC Network is only going to carry the lower tier football games. Hell, it also establishes to the rest of the country that if your team is playing at an SEC venue you may be on the SEC Network too. That helps with the argument that the SEC Network isn’t just a regional network, it’s a national one. Combine Clemson at Georgia with Texas A&M at South Carolina and Arkansas at Auburn and you’re talking about three very solid games for opening weekend, including the only two SEC conference games. Toss in one of these games above, let’s say Idaho at Florida since the Gators are the biggest TV draw in the conference and you’ve got eight of the 14 SEC teams beginning their seasons on the SEC Network. What’s more, you’d have the four biggest markets in the conference on television for opening weekend — Florida, Texas A&M, Georgia, and Tennessee. (Alabama’s a big national program, but the market’s smaller. Plus, Auburn’s on, so you’ve got the state of Alabama already).
Talk about pressure.
As if that wasn’t enough, can you imagine what it will be like in the state of South Carolina for the cable and satellite companies not carrying the SEC Network? You’d have South Carolina and Clemson both playing major opponents on the opening week of the college football season and only a tiny fraction of the televisions in the state would be carrying the game?
It’s a bold stroke, but it’s also genius.
Will ESPN be willing to take the heat from the ACC over putting this game on the SEC Network? We’ll find out very soon.