Heupel era begins: SEC releases 2021 football schedule

Orange & White Nation

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Nonconference games will return for the 2021 Southeastern Conference football season. The full schedule for all 14 conference teams was released Wednesday.

“We are proud to have completed the 2020 football season under unique circumstances and will now focus on playing the 2021 football season as scheduled,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “Circumstances around the COVID-19 virus will continue to guide our decision-making should any adjustments need to be made.”

Tennessee will begin the Josh Heupel era with three straight nonconference games and won’t have a bye week until Week 9. The Vols will host Bowling Green on Labor Day weekend before the Pittsburgh Panthers visit on Sept. 11.

The Vols and Panthers were both coached by College Football Hall of Famer Johnny Majors.

The final tune-up before SEC play will be in-state foe Tennessee Tech.

The Vols will return to Gainesville on Sept. 25 in the traditional conference opener against the Gators. Florida will start its conference slate a week earlier against Alabama, the first regular-season matchup since 2014.

Tennessee then gets a chance to face a pair of conference foes it defeated in 2020. The Vols started the season with wins against South Carolina, 31-27, and Missouri, 35-12, before losing seven of their last eight.

Former Vols coach Lane Kiffin will make his first return to Neyland Stadium since leaving to coach Southern Cal on Oct. 16 with his new team at Ole Miss.

The Third Saturday in October rivalry game against defending national champion Alabama will happen on the fourth Saturday this year. It will finish out a stretch of eight straight games to begin the season for the Vols. Tennessee has not defeated the Crimson Tide since 2007, Alabama coach Nick Saban’s first year.

After the bye week, the Vols close out the season with traditional November opponents Kentucky (Nov. 6) and Vanderbilt (Nov. 27) and new late-season conference rival Georgia (Nov. 13) with a nonconference game against South Alabama on Nov. 20.

DateOpponent
Sept. 4Bowling Green
Sept. 11Pittsburgh
Sept. 18Tennessee Tech
Sept. 25at Florida*
Oct. 2 at Missouri*
Oct. 9 South Carolina*
Oct. 16Ole Miss*
Oct. 23 at Alabama*
Oct. 30 Bye week
Nov. 6at Kentucky*
Nov. 13Georgia*
Nov. 20South Alabama
Nov. 27Vanderbilt*
* – SEC conference game

Game times have not been set and attendance requirements have not been set by the SEC yet.

Other noteable SEC games:

  • Sept. 4: Alabama vs. Miami (Atlanta)
  • Sept. 4: Georgia vs. Clemson (Charlotte)
  • Sept. 11: Texas A&M vs. Colorado (Denver)
  • Sept. 18: Auburn at Penn State
  • Sept. 18: Alabama at Florida
  • Sept. 25: Texas A&M vs. Arkansas (Arlington)
  • Oct. 2: Auburn at LSU
  • Oct. 30: Florida vs. Georgia (Jacksonville)
  • Nov. 6 LSU at Alabama
  • Nov. 27: Alabama at Auburn
  • Dec. 4: SEC Championship Game in Atlanta

The unofficial beginning to the season will begin July 19-22 with SEC Football Media Days. The conference announced Tuesday that it is moving the event back to The Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama.

The event was scheduled to take place in Nashville but Music City will now host the event in 2023.

“Nashville’s success with the NFL Draft in 2019 was a point of attraction when we originally selected it as a site for SEC Football Media Days, but the current environment related to the (COVID-19) virus will not allow us to explore some of the unique fan experiences we had hoped to pursue in Nashville for this event,” Sankey said. “With two years to prepare, we look forward to making SEC Media Days an even bigger event in Nashville in 2023.”

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