Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

So Long CBS, Hello SEC on ESPN

So Long, CBS, hello SEC on ESPN. So long, Gary (Alabama, will miss you). Thank you for the memories, Vern and Brad. You are two of the icons of the sport, and you have had many great and memorable calls. Most importantly, goodbye to the theme song (excuse me, while the tears are wiped from this writer’s keyboard). That song is iconic and officially kicks off Saturdays in the Fall Down South at 3:30 pm EST/ 2:30 pm CT to open the 3rd Saturday in October, the Cocktail Party, or the Iron Bowl. The SEC is losing its home, but it’s better than losing a conference.

The partnership has been in the making since the conference signed the deal in 2020. The 10-year media rights agreement was signed in December 2020 and runs through the 2033-34 season. The contract is worth $3 billion, which means the SEC will receive an annual payment of $300 million, more than five times the $55 million it previously received from CBS. The agreement gives ESPN and ABC exclusive rights to the SEC’s premium football package and basketball events, including the SEC championship and rivalry games. The SEC Network had some fun with a Marvel-esque announcement on Tuesday. While the choice of mascots promoted plenty of discussion, the network also announced the Labor Day weekend slate of games. We will save the mascot discussion for X and message boards and focus on the games.

SEC on ESPN Labor Day Weekend Slate

College football fans can rejoice to officially welcome back college football on Thursday night of Labor Day weekend. Coach Prime and the Colorado Buffalos will have their Gucci in toe as they host North Dakota State. We’re sure there will be little to no reaction if the Bison pull off the “upset.” The action will close with an ACC “showdown” between Florida State and Boston College. Florida State is fresh off an undefeated regular season (we’ll mention the Orange Bowl, even if their championship rings did not). Sandwiched between these games are four SEC games that are sure to draw plenty of eyeballs and storylines.

Clemson vs. Georgia: Saturday at noon EST

Welcome to Jefferson Pilot, err SEC on ESPN at noon. Georgia fans were left fuming that their Bulldogs would open the season against one of their longtime ACC Rivals, Clemson, at noon. Fans should be slow to point fingers at ESPN and instead want to focus their ire on Fox. Fox has forced the rest of college football to up their early window with Big Noon Kickoff. ESPN is not willing to cede this viewership to their media rival, so SEC fan bases will have to adjust with their top teams not exclusively playing its most significant games in the afternoon or evening window.

One is still forced to wonder what opportunity is lost by not having this game later in the day or in primetime on one of the other nights. That may be more of an indictment on Clemson than Georgia. The Bulldogs are currently favored by 12.5 against the Tigers. Clemson is certainly not held in the same regard and has taken a step back recently, but history and the “names” of the program certainly deserve more than the early timeslot.

Miami at Florida: Saturday at 3:30 EST

The Swamp will be rocking as the Gators welcome the Hurricanes in what we can label the “Hot Seat” Bowl. Billy Napier and Mario Cristobal both enter year three in their respective program. Cristobal owns a losing record in two seasons as the head coach at Miami, going 12-13 overall with a bowl appearance in 2023. Napier has amassed an 11–14 record in two seasons at Florida and is yet to take the Gators bowling. An early loss for either program may ignite a passing of the hat with boosters to learn house and forced to start over again.

Notre Dame at Texas A&M Saturday at 7:30 EST

This game could be swapped with Georgia-Clemson. Mike Elko, the new Aggies head coach, enters year one. He has connections to both schools, serving as defensive coordinator at Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Elko was the fan favorite to replace Jimbo Fisher at A&M. The question remains if Elko will be an upgrade. At Duke, he was 16–9 over two seasons,  with a 9–4 record in 2022 and a 7–5 record in 2023. Marcus Freeman and Notre Dame are eyeing a spot in the College Football Playoff and are looking to have a big year. A big win against an SEC team on the road will kick the Golden Dome hype train into high gear.

USC vs. LSU: Sunday at 7:30 EST

LSU has made it a tradition to play neutral site games on Labor Day weekend. After splitting with Florida State the last two years, the Tigers head to Las Vegas to take on one of the Big Ten’s newest members, USC. Lincoln Riley will see what life is like in the Big Ten and what life without Caleb Williams will look like. Brian Kelly and LSU must determine if he can repair a defense that broke in 2023. The Tigers ranked in the 100s in most categories, far below the expectation in Baton Rouge. Bett Baker comes in from Missouri to try to resurrect the Tiger defense.

The Times Are Changing

The times are changing in college football. Texas and Oklahoma will find out what “It Just Means More” means this season. The SEC will find that new home with a new song, but we would only be sure if we took a moment to remember the good times we had with CBS. Nessler and Danielson captured this sentiment in their final words after last season’s SEC Championship game.

“Whether you were at your favorite bar having a beer, you’re in your easy chair at home, or you’re watching us streaming on your devices, we want to thank you, the fans and the viewers, and everybody who’s been with us every Saturday at 3:30 for the ‘SEC on CBS. I’m gonna steal a line from another network, but I think it’s gonna have a pass here, What we really did was follow the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

Thank you, CBS. You will be missed. Even you, Gary.

Photo Credit: Gary Cosby Jr.

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