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SEC considering shuffling LSU and Alabama opponents around to find a new spot for LSU-Bama

Glenn Guilbeau
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — At the moment, LSU and Alabama do not have a football play date for the first time in a regular season since 1963.

But the Southeastern Conference office is looking into juggling future LSU and Alabama opponents around to find an opening for LSU and Alabama, sources have said.

The Tigers' home game against the No. 1 Crimson Tide scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday in Tiger Stadium on CBS was postponed on Tuesday due to a COVID-19 outbreak on the LSU football team, the Southeastern Conference office announced.

LSU does not have an open Saturday for a makeup game with Alabama for the rest of the season. The Tigers will play at Florida on Dec. 12 in a makeup of a game postponed from Oct. 17 because of a COVID-19 outbreak on Florida's team.

"The opportunity to reschedule the Alabama at LSU game will need to be evaluated," the SEC's release said. "The rescheduling of games on the remaining SEC football schedule may include Dec. 19 as a playing date."

Alabama, though, is likely to be playing in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 19 as it leads the SEC West at the moment with a 6-0 record with four games to play. Texas A&M is second at 5-1, but Alabama has the tiebreaker against the Aggies as it has already defeated them.

LSU wide receiver Stephen Sullivan catches a pass against Alabama in the 2018 game in Tiger Stadium that the Tide won 29-0. The LSU-Bama game scheduled for Saturday in Tiger Stadium has been postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak amid the Tigers' team. A makeup date is up in the air and may be difficult to find as all of LSU's Saturdays after Saturday are filled through Dec. 12 with the SEC title game on Dec. 19.

What the SEC is saying is that it will use Dec. 19 as a possible playing date for teams not involved in the SEC title game. The league is now looking at moving the other games on LSU's and Alabama's schedule around to create a spot for an LSU-Alabama makeup game.

One possible makeup date for LSU and Alabama is Nov. 21, if the Tigers can get enough players out of COVID-19 quarantine in time as their roster fell below the 53-scholarship minimum this week. LSU and Alabama playing on Nov. 21 would also entail LSU's game at Arkansas (3-3), scheduled for Nov. 21, being moved to Dec. 19 and Alabama's scheduled home game against Kentucky (2-4) on Nov. 21 being moved to Dec. 12. Both Alabama and Kentucky are currently open on Dec. 12.

Such a move would also level the playing field of a likely Alabama-Florida SEC title game on Dec. 19. As of now, Florida has a game the week prior against LSU, while Alabama is open. The Gators lead the SEC East at 4-1 and have the tiebreaker over Georgia, which dropped to 4-2 with a loss to Florida on Saturday.

Another possible makeup date for LSU-Alabama is Dec. 5, which currently has LSU hosting Ole Miss (2-4) and Alabama at Arkansas. If LSU hosts Alabama on Dec. 5, its game against Ole Miss could be moved to Dec. 19 as an undercard to the SEC title game. And Alabama's game at Arkansas scheduled for Dec. 5 could move to Dec. 12.

It is unlikely that the SEC would juggle Alabama's other scheduled game - Auburn in Tuscaloosa on Nov. 28.    

Should LSU's COVID-19 cases and quarantines replenish the Tigers' roster quickly, this Monday could be a possibility. LSU and Tennessee moved a game scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24, to Monday night, Sept. 26, in 2005 because of Hurricane Rita, which hit the Louisiana-Texas line on Sept. 24. Both teams played the following Saturday and won.

But an LSU-Alabama game this Monday is unlikely because if LSU is not playing Saturday because of a large number of players not available due to COVID-19, then they would likely not be available by Monday either.

"Monday has not been discussed as an option for making up games," SEC associate commissioner for communications Herb Vincent said. "We have not had reason yet to discuss days other than the Saturdays or open dates and Dec. 12."

And now, Dec. 19 as well. In the history of the SEC Championship Game that began in 1992, another SEC game never has been played on the same day or night.

LSU has fallen below the minimum of 53 scholarship players needed to play a game because of the number of players quarantined, LSU coach Ed Orgeron and athletic director Scott Woodward said.

"Based on the number of student-athletes unavailable due to positive tests, contact tracing, and non-COVID injuries, we will not have the minimum number of scholarship players necessary to play on Saturday,” Woodward said Tuesday.

LSU starting quarterback Myles Brennan is the most serious of the non-COVID injuries Woodward was referring to as Brennan was ruled out of the game by Orgeron on Monday because of an abdomen tear he suffered on Oct. 10 at Missouri.

"We are disappointed there will be no football in Tiger Stadium this weekend, but we will always prioritize the health and wellness of our student-athletes," Woodward said. "We will continue to follow the league’s protocols in order to safely and responsibly return to play.”

LSU and Alabama have played in every regular season from 1964 through 2019. The two programs did not meet from 1959 through 1963, and there were other gaps in the series prior to that. The two played for the first time in 1895. Alabama leads the series, 53-26-5.

The SEC office designated Dec. 12 as a makeup date when it formulated its pandemic schedule in August.

The SEC office on Tuesday also postponed the Texas A&M game at Tennessee scheduled for Saturday because of a COVID-19 outbreak on the Aggies' team. That game was rescheduled for Dec. 12 as it remained open for each team.

"While it is unfortunate to have multiple postponements in the same week, we began the season with the understanding interruptions to the schedule were possible," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. "And we have remained focused throughout the season on the health of everyone around our programs."

On Monday, Auburn's game at Mississippi State scheduled for Saturday was postponed. That one was also rescheduled for Dec. 12.

"We must remain vigilant, within our programs and in our communities, to prevent the spread of the virus and to manage activities that contribute to these interruptions," Sankey said.