Predicting the complete SEC on CBS TV schedule for 2019
CBS is expected to announce which initial set of games have been chosen to be featured by the SEC on CBS crew any day now, but before they even publicly announce those decisions, we’ve taken the liberty of forecasting the entire slate of SEC games the network will select for the 2019 college football season.
If you didn’t know, due to the contract between CBS and the SEC, the network has the first selection rights to broadcast the game of its choice. ESPN and the SEC Network then select the games that will be aired on their networks. Unless granted permission, CBS cannot feature a team more than 5 times.
The following early season games have already been announced, thus we can rule them out from being selected by CBS — Week 0: Florida vs. Miami (in Orlando) will be on ESPN, Week 1: Auburn vs. Oregon (in Arlington) will be on ABC and Missouri at Wyoming will be on the CBS Sports Network, Week 2: Texas A&M at Clemson and LSU at Texas will both be on ABC.
Removing those matchups, here’s my thoughts on which games will be selected to be on the SEC on CBS schedule for the 2019 season.
Thoughts on each selection:
Week 1 — South Carolina vs. North Carolina in Charlotte (second option: Georgia at Vanderbilt)
The opening weekend slate isn’t great, and ABC already claimed Auburn’s game against Oregon. CBS is limited to the number of games it can broadcast the same team, otherwise, Alabama vs. Duke in Atlanta would potentially be the selection here, but the Tide have several conference games more worthy than this spot. In recent years, CBS has selected nonconference matchups in this slot and with the return of Mack Brown and the interest in what he will do in his return to UNC, the Gamecocks’ season opener against the Tar Heels makes the most sense.
Week 2 — Arkansas at Ole Miss (second option: BYU at Tennessee)
Believe it or not, this is the only SEC matchup on the schedule for Week 2 and with the big nonconference showdowns already claimed by ESPN, expect CBS to go with the SEC West showdown between the Razorbacks and Rebels. This could be the best opportunity each of these programs has at a conference win. BYU at Tennessee feels like a night ESPN game.
Week 3 — Alabama at South Carolina (second option: Florida at Kentucky)
If both teams enter this game undefeated, as expected, be prepared to hear at least 1,000 times about what happened to the Crimson Tide the last time they made the trip to Columbia (granted, in 2010). Spoiler alert, Alabama suffered a 35-21 defeat, which tied for the worst loss of the Nick Saban era before the Tide lost to Clemson 44-16 last January. South Carolina has one of the more underrated home field advantages in the SEC and Williams-Brice will be rocking. You can’t completely rule out an upset, either, as South Carolina has the offensive scheme in place that has historically given Saban’s defense the most trouble. If Jake Bentley has himself a Stephen Garcia vs. Alabama-like performance, the Gamecocks can compete with the Tide.
Week 4 — Notre Dame at Georgia (second option: Tennessee at Florida)
The history of the Florida vs. Tennessee series is strong, but CBS isn’t going to pass up a rare opportunity to cover Notre Dame in an SEC stadium. Coming off a Playoff appearance is only going to help the appeal and considering Georgia will likely be a heavy favorite, the Bulldogs putting it on Notre Dame will not only serve as good content, but it will also serve as the latest example of why the SEC is the premier conference in the nation.
Week 5 — Mississippi State at Auburn (second option: Arkansas vs. Texas A&M)
This was the toughest call to make so far on the list, but if Auburn finds a way to win at College Station in Week 4, there’s an outstanding chance the showdown between Mississippi State and the Tigers features two 4-0 teams. The only way The Southwest Classic does the same is if Texas A&M wins at Clemson in Week 2 and beats Auburn in Week 4, while Arkansas would have to win on the road at Ole Miss Week 2. Not completely out of the question, but I’m more confident in MSU and Auburn to survive the first few weeks unscathed than the Aggies and Razorbacks, at this point.
Week 6 — Auburn at Florida (second option: Georgia at Tennessee)
Auburn vs. Florida was arguably the best SEC rivalry that went away after the league split into divisions and even though the history between the two programs is sparse these days, the largest margin of victory in the previous 5 matchups has been 11, with Auburn winning 4 of the games. This game presents the Gators an excellent opportunity to regain momentum in the series and just as we saw last season, The Swamp has been known to end perfect seasons in a hurry for Tigers from the SEC West.
Week 7 — Florida at LSU (second option: Alabama at Texas A&M)
Depending on these teams’ records, Alabama playing in College Station might be tough to pass on, but Florida vs. LSU has developed into arguably the best annual cross-divisional rivalry in the league. As long as either team doesn’t take a step back early in the season, this matchup will be too difficult for CBS to pass up. You have to go back to 2011 to LSU’s 41-11 win in Baton Rouge over Florida to find a blowout, and if the Tigers really do open up the offense this season, watching the battles between the receivers and defensive backs might be worth the price of admission alone.
Week 8 — Tennessee at Alabama (second option: LSU at Mississippi State)
Jeremy Pruitt’s return to Tuscaloosa would certainly interest CBS and the network will likely have its fingers crossed that Tennessee beats Mississippi State in Neyland Stadium the previous week to make this matchup more interesting. The Volunteers were embarrassed by the Tide last season, but in Year 2 in Pruitt’s defense and with the secondary likely the strength of the unit, the matchup of Tennessee’s DBs vs. Alabama’s WRs might actually be worth keeping an eye on. Jim Chaney also knows how to successfully plan for Alabama’s defense, which is worth remembering.
Week 9 — Auburn at LSU (second option: Mississippi State at Texas A&M)
This week was one of the easiest to forecast as there is a drop after Auburn and LSU. Will this be the year Auburn finally wins in Death Valley (something that has not happened since 1999)?
Week 10 — Georgia vs. Florida in Jacksonville
This game is locked in by CBS, no second option necessary.
Week 11 — Missouri at Georgia and LSU at Alabama
Similar to last season when Kentucky and Georgia unexpectedly faced off for the SEC East title, Missouri’s trip to Athens could represent the deciding factor for the division crown — provided Missouri’s postseason ban is overturned by the NCAA or still in appeal by Mizzou. If you don’t buy that, go look up Missouri’s schedule and you’ll see a path for the Tigers to be undefeated into November. Despite what the score might have indicated last season, the Tigers represented Georgia’s toughest opponent until the Bulldogs went into Death Valley. This could be one of the best games in the SEC East next season.
Alabama and LSU have been a staple of SEC on CBS coverage and there’s little chance that doesn’t continue in 2019. This game looks to be Alabama’s toughest regular season game and it could decide the SEC West title.
Week 12 — Alabama at Mississippi State and Georgia at Auburn (third option: Florida at Missouri)
With time running out on the season, CBS is going to squeeze in Alabama as much as possible, which is apparently written in Crimson blood in the SEC on CBS contract. Getting Alabama the week after the LSU game has helped teams in previous seasons and it could be Mississippi State’s best chance to upset the Tide for the first time in 11 seasons come Nov. 16. Should MSU pull an upset or two this season, this game could be a top 15 showdown in Starkville.
Auburn could be playing for Gus Malzahn’s job leading up to this one while a win could earn the Tigers’ embattled coach another $50 million for some reason. It could go either way and we wouldn’t be surprised. If the Bulldogs beat the two teams leading up to this contest, Kirby Smart’s team will have likely wrapped up the East division. If nothing else, Auburn could catch Georgia looking ahead to the 2019 SEC Championship Game.
Week 13 — Texas A&M at Georgia (second option: Tennessee at Missouri)
The bad blood brewing between Barry Odom and Jeremy Pruitt could be interesting, but the first matchup between Texas A&M and Georgia as SEC opponents will be must-watch programming for CBS. Aside from all the intriguing matchups on the field, the coaching matchup of Jimbo Fisher and Kirby Smart should be compelling.
Week 14 — Texas A&M at LSU and Alabama at Auburn (third option: Florida State at Florida)
CBS has showcased the annual cross-divisional matchup of Arkansas and Missouri in recent seasons, but given the option to select Texas A&M at LSU, the choice should be easy for the network. This game has quickly developed into one of the best new rivalries in the league and last season’s seven-overtime thriller, which LSU believed it had won twice, only adds fuel to the fire.
The Iron Bowl is another easy choice as the 2014 Egg Bowl is the only matchup CBS has selected over the Iron Bowl in recent seasons — CBS has aired 10 of the previous 11 matchups. Even when Auburn struggles, this game still means everything to this state and the viewership numbers reflect that fact. Should the Tigers upset Georgia leading up to this game, the viewership for the 2019 Iron Bowl could very well prove to be the best of the season for CBS.