This morning the SEC released its long anticipated 2012 football schedule. Many wondered how the league would balance its schedule with two new teams entering the mix this season, and we all found out today that 2012, if nothing else, should prove quite interesting.
For State, saying our 2012 schedule will be "a tale of 2 seasons" rings entirely true. State's first 7 games will feature teams such as Troy, South Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee. The last 5 games? @Alabama, Texas A&M, @LSU, Arkansas, and Ole Miss. With LSU and Bama both expected in the top 3 again next year, State may have to win a good many of its first 7 games to improve our bowl stature in 2012.
The Good: State will be replacing a lot of key faces on both sides of the ball in 2012, and it may take a few games for new units and players to gel. Preliminarily I would expect State to be favored in our first 7 games, with most of them being games where young players have room to make mistakes while learning systems and getting the feel for SEC football. The toughest games before late October that State has are at home (Auburn, Tennessee) and both of those teams will have young squads too. 7-0 is a possibility, but it will be greatly needed headed into murderer's row in late October.
The Bad: That last 5 games. Staring at that last home stretch of the schedule for next season is like like staring st a running ban saw knowing you're about to run into it. Pre-preseason prognostications have LSU and Bama back in the top 3, and Arkansas shouldn't be a slouch as well. Throw on top of that a new conference opponent looking to make a good first impression and a rival who has you at home under a new fired up coach, and we could be in for a long 5 games. Although State will have A&M at home and Ole Miss is facing the same tough scheduling we are, playing those last 5 games in that order in a part of the season when injuries begin to mount seems to be quite daunting.
In summary, State's schedule should like every other year have its highs and it's lows. With some talented players back and some good, young talent coming off of redshirts, I think State could easily navigate this schedule to a 9 win season. However, if things are bad in November or if we slip up in a game or two early on in the year, it could be a long season.
As for "fairness", I don't think State has more of a gripe than anyone else. We all knew the first year or two of scheduling with 14 teams would be interesting. Everyone outside of ageorgia has to play at least 3 tough games and all in all it should be a very interesting year in the "new" SEC. Here's to hoping we can come out of this new 14 team pile next year close to thentopnwhen December rolls around.