Yesterday, the SEC released its schedule of games for the week of September 21. Thanks in large part to CBS picking up two games (Auburn-Texas A&M in the afternoon, Notre Dame-Georgia in the evening), six SEC teams will play a game in the noon ET/11 AM CT time slot.
And the athletic director for one of those schools is not happy about this. You probably know the one.
Alabama AD Greg Byrne: “We are disappointed that our game against Southern Miss has been selected as a daytime kickoff at home. We realize we’ve played more non-conference day games at home in September than any other SEC team since 2014."— Barrett Sallee (@BarrettSallee) September 9, 2019
It might be true that Alabama plays more 11 AM games in September than any other SEC team. But we’ll see why in a minute. Because here’s a breakdown of how many games each SEC team has played in that time slot since 2014 (the year that the SEC Network launched.) Note that this count does not include nonconference road games, neutral site games (with the exception of conference games and/or home games you moved to a different site, like Missouri’s games in Kansas City), or bowl games. We’re just looking at games that fall under the SEC’s TV contract:
- Georgia: 20 (13 home games, 9 SEC games)
- South Carolina: 19 (12 home games, 10 SEC games)
- Florida: 16 (10 home games, 12 SEC games)
- Ole Miss: 15 (12 home games, 7 SEC games)
- Arkansas: 14 (9 home games, 10 SEC games)
- Kentucky: 13 (10 home games, 5 SEC games)
- Missouri: 13 (11 home games, 8 SEC games)
- Texas A&M: 13 (8 home games, 8 SEC games)
- Vanderbilt: 13 (7 home games, 10 SEC games)
- Auburn: 12 (8 home games, 10 SEC games)
- Tennessee: 12 (9 home games, 6 SEC games)
- Mississippi State: 10 (8 home games, 6 SEC games)
- Alabama: 8 (7 home games, 2 SEC games)
- LSU: 2 (1 home game, 2 SEC games)
Alabama has actually played the second-fewest 11 AM games of anyone in the SEC. The reason a lot of those are in September should be obvious from the second part of it: just two of those (a home game against Mississippi State in 2016 and a road game at Arkansas last year) were conference games. The SEC has stuck a few of the least attractive games on Alabama’s schedule in the early time slot, and Greg Byrne is mad about it.
There’s a pattern here that’s apparent if you look at how many night games each SEC school has played. (Same rules apply, and for this, I’m not counting Thursday games, which are obviously going to be night games.)
- LSU: 45
- Texas A&M: 33
- Mississippi State: 28
- Kentucky: 27
- Auburn: 25
- Ole Miss: 24
- Arkansas: 22
- Alabama: 21
- Missouri: 21
- Florida: 19
- South Carolina: 19
- Tennessee: 18
- Vanderbilt: 14
- Georgia: 13
First off: we all knew LSU played a lot of night games but holy shit. The obvious pattern here is that the five teams in the Eastern time zone play both fewer night games and more early games than you’d expect based on the attractiveness of the team, for the obvious reason that they’re an hour ahead of the rest of the conference. (The exception is Kentucky, which weirdly plays an inordinate number of night games.)
Meanwhile, Vanderbilt has played the second-fewest night games, ahead of only Georgia. That’s in spite of playing a relatively average number of early games, and many of those are explained by the fact that Vanderbilt’s last four games against Florida have all been at 11 AM, and three straight against Georgia were as well. The dirty secret is that the SEC tends to put the least attractive games (at least, that aren’t completely relegated to the SEC Network Plus) not in the noon ET/11 AM CT slot... but in the mid-afternoon SEC Network slot, opposite the CBS game. That’s where games go to die, and Vanderbilt has quite likely played more games in that slot than anyone else in the conference.
(You probably noticed that Alabama played the second-fewest early games while also playing relatively few night games, but that’s because they get the CBS game extremely often.)
The point is that everybody is playing early games to some degree. But Alabama probably has the least to complain about with them.