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Big Problems In The SEC Due To COVID-19

Ross Everett
by in NCAAF on
  • Multiple SEC schools are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks threatening the league’s schedule for the upcoming week.
  • The game between Mississippi State and Auburn has already been postponed due to a rash of positive COVID-19 tests in the Bulldogs’ program.
  • There are also multiple positive COVID-19 cases at Texas A&M and LSU but for now their upcoming games are still on the schedule.

Last week, Clemson was the big COVID-19 sufferer as they were without quarterback Trevor Lawrence in the Tigers’ loss at Notre Dame. This week, the epicenter looks to be in the SEC. The SEC has already had some big issues with COVID-19 this season. The Florida program suffered a rash of positive tests earlier in the year and Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban tested positive for the virus before it was dismissed as a ‘false positive’.

With daily COVID-19 case counts skyrocketing all across the United States there’s no real surprise that is being reflected at the college football level. The biggest immediate issue looks to be at Mississippi State where multiple COVID-19 positives have forced the postponement of Saturday’s home game against Auburn. Here’s the statement from Mississippi State athletic director John Cohen announcing the postponement:

“Based on positive tests and those considered as close contacts, along with non-COVID injuries, we do not have the minimum number of scholarship student-athletes available for Saturday’s game against Auburn. While we are disappointed that Saturday’s game has been postponed, our priority is the health, safety and well-being of our student-athletes and staff. We will continue to follow all established protocols and evaluate the most responsible path to return to the field.”

The SEC then released a statement indicating that the Auburn/Mississippi State matchup would tentatively be rescheduled for December 12:

“The Auburn at Mississippi State football game of November 14 has been postponed due to positive tests and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the Mississippi State football program, consistent with Southeastern Conference COVID-19 management requirements.”

More trouble could be on the horizon. Texas A&M has ‘paused’ football activities after multiple COVID-19 tests. Reports indicate that one player and one student worker that traveled with the team for their road game at South Carolina have tested positive. The Aggies did not practice on Monday though they did meet virtually to review film. Meanwhile, the individuals with the positive tests have been quarantined pending contact tracing. Texas A&M athletic director Ross Bjork indicated that there are ‘over a dozen players’ who will miss the next two weeks due to contact tracing protocol. The SEC requires a roster of 53 scholarship players for a team to play:

“It’s not like an outbreak, it’s just contact tracing. The level of concern is not that we have a bunch of positive cases, you just don’t have the players because of your contact tracing.”

At the moment, Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher indicated that the team’s Saturday game at Tennessee is not in jeopardy:

“Right now, everything’s full go. We’ll see how the [contact] tracing and all the other tests are. You always plan for that and make adjustments as you go.”

There are also problems at LSU which threaten the SEC’s biggest game of the week. LSU is scheduled to play arch rival Alabama on Saturday but multiple players at the school have tested positive for COVID-19. The exact number has not been released though the positive tests include several starters. Head coach Ed Orgeron declined to provide an exact number though admitted:

“It’s going to be challenging with the guys that are out.”

Making matters worse for the Tigers, starting quarterback Myles Brennan won’t be available due to an ongoing lower body injury. Despite the challenges, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey tried to remain upbeat:

“We’re going to keep moving forward. We don’t get to just throw up our hands and not stop trying, but we’ll have to come together depending on how much disruption occurs and we’ll have to react to it. It’s hard to predict. It’s one of the lessons from the last few months.”

The LSU/Alabama game is still on the schedule pending further developments. It has been taken off the board at several influential sportsbooks including Pinnacle, Wynn and South Point. Only a few books including BetOnline, Circa and 5 Dimes have a total posted on the game (71). There are also a number of books that have the Texas A&M/Tennessee game off the board including William Hill, Wynn, South Point, Pinnacle, Monarch Black Hawk, Golden Nugget, Stations and Treasure Island. Only a couple of books have a total posted on the game (51 or 51.5).

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