The practice schedule is determined by an NCAA formula. So the simple answer is the NCAA is out to get Alabama. No, that's not true, or at least not in this case.
Most SEC teams will begin 2005 on Saturday, September 3. Bama will open at 6 p.m. CDT that evening in Bryant-Denny Stadium against MTSU. Alabama will begin practice Tuesday, August 9.
But South Carolina hosts Central Florida and Vanderbilt plays at Wake Forest on Thursday, September 1. That affects when the Gamecocks and Commodores begin practice. Kentucky hosts Louisville Sunday, September 4, and Ole Miss will be at Memphis to open the season the following Monday, September 5.
Schools have 29 practice opportunities before the first game, said SEC Associate Commissioner Greg Stankey. "You count back from the first game, determining those practice opportunities, to arrive at the starting day for practice," Stankey said.
One primary factor: the start of classes.
Once upon a time, pre-season camp was known as "Two-A-Days," but that has been modified. Now a school may have two practices only every other day prior to the start of classes. Once classes begin–August 24 in the case of Alabama–a team may have only one practice per day. Some schools begin classes earlier and some later, and that affects the start of practice date.
There is also the mandated "off day" once school begins. The first week in which there is a full week of classes (and thereafter through the season during school), a team must be given one day off. Thus, Alabama will have its normal Monday off prior to the MTSU game.
By comparison, Auburn begins classes August 17 and started practice this week.
And regardless of when classes begin, the week of the first game is considered to be only one-a-day opportunities for the purpose of determining the practice chances. That is reasonable since no team would have two practices in a day in the week of game preparation, even if the school's classes did not begin until after the start of the season.
All teams must begin with the first four days as one-a-day practices with no fullspeed contact. This is a safety measure to get players acclimated. The fifth practice (for Alabama, on Saturday, August 13) is alsoby rule is a one practice day, but is the first day of full gear contact work.
Alabama's two-a-day practice dates are August 14, 16, 18, 20, 22.