One of the trickiest things in college football might be the negotiations over the television scheduling of games in the SEC. However, in what was a head scratcher when it was announced and continues to be a head scratcher today, CBS will air Georgia at Vanderbilt, and SEC Nation will make the trip to Nashville as well.
For starters, let's look at all of the options available for this weekend in the SEC:
Jacksonville State at No. 6 Auburn
Fresno at No. 17 Ole Miss
No. 9 Georgia at Vanderbilt
Middle Tennessee at No. 3 Alabama
Toledo at No. 18 Arkansas
No. 19 Oklahoma at No. 25 Tennessee
Ball State at Texas A&M
No.24 Missouri at Arkansas State
East Carolina at Florida
Kentucky at South Carolina
No. 14 LSU at Mississippi State
The first question is why in the world did CBS select Georgia at Vanderbilt. This decision was made over 100 days ago, and even then, we all knew Vanderbilt would be terrible. So, what factors may have led CBS to go with this game? For starters, they can only have an SEC team on their network five times during the season. LSU's matchups with Alabama and Ole Miss will probably be locks, and CBS already picked the LSU-Auburn matchup schedule for Week 3. Later season games against Florida, Texas A&M and Arkansas could be attractive if all the teams involved hold up their end of the bargain, but an LSU-Mississippi State matchup early seemed like an easy game to hype. There is no bigger game on the schedule for either one of these teams. It seems like CBS is gambling for two bigger games down the road than this one.
It makes sense for CBS to leave Alabama and Auburn alone with cupcake games on the schedule. The same could be said for Florida, Missouri, Texas A&M and Ole Miss, and who would really want to watch Kentucky vs. South Carolina? Well, that game will probably be better than Georgia-Vanderbilt.
Maybe it has to do with the gentlemen's agreement about sharing wires once laid down in stadiums (if it is still around...). Usually the first network to broadcast at a stadium will layout all of the cables and other networks can use it throughout the year. We are talking miles and miles of cables. It would be a nightmare to have to do it week in and week out. This would make sense, but Vanderbilt is playing at home, and the odds of CBS needing that cable again are slim and none. On the other hand, there is a good chance they would return to Starkville, so that idea goes out the window. By going to Vanderbilt, they are doing the grunt work for someone else.
The other game that CBS did not take was Oklahoma at Tennessee. There must be some sort of contract issue involved in this decision because CBS would have had the opportunity to show a big non-conference game featuring Tennessee. There is no other reason to select Georgia vs. Vanderbilt over this game. But, it appears that CBS would have the rights to this game because it is being played at Tennessee. Who knows though because ABC/ESPN and Fox have contracts with the Big 12, and the combination might have just made this a jumbled mess. Either way, we are stuck with a bad game on CBS this week.
While it is a stretch to understand the decision at best, there is no way to understand why SEC Nation is going to Nashville instead of Starkville. There is no bigger game in the SEC this week than Mississippi State and LSU. The Bulldogs are looking to knock off LSU in back to back seasons for the first time since 1990-1991. That atmosphere at Davis Wade Stadium will be off the charts for this game, and the game has the makings to be amazing. Did SEC Nation go to Vanderbilt to get it out of the way? Maybe, but why does Vanderbilt deserve to have it at all?
Two swings and two misses by the networks this week on this one.