Bulldogs, Wildcats Announce 2022-23 Series

Never mind that the Bulldogs and Wildcats who will play then are still in middle school, even elementary school. The demands of college football scheduling, and a pretty good personal relationship, have produced games between Mississippi State and Arizona for the 2022 and '23 seasons.

The programs announced this long-range series today. Southeastern Conference member Mississippi State will take the road trip first, playing in Tucson on September 20 of 2022. Then the Pac-12 Wildcats will return the game and favor by visiting Scott Field on September 9, 2023.

"We're very excited to announce this series with a Pac-12 program the caliber of Arizona," Scott Stricklin said in a released statement. "It will bolster our non-conference schedule."

That was not simply administrator-speak by State's athletic director, and former assistant to current Arizona A.D. Greg Byrne who served in the same post at Mississippi State in 2008-10. The Southeastern Conference recently announced a mandate, to begin with the 2016 season, requiring league members to schedule at least one game per season against an opponent from one of the other four major college conferences. Arizona fills that bill for at least two seasons, albeit pretty far into the future.

Besides, Stricklin said, "We haven't played in that part of the country since 2002 (at Oregon), so it gives our fans a chance to see another part of the country while supporting the Bulldogs." Mississippi State last played a Pac-12 member in 2003 when Oregon returned a game, at Scott Field.

State and Arizona have never met in football.

Meanwhile Mississippi State still has much more immediate scheduling work to do. The 2015 slate has been determined, sources say, but details remain before a formal announcement. Ironically when Byrne was athletic director he did announce most of the non-conference opponents from 2011-16. That was before the SEC expanded in 2012 with the addition of Texas A&M and Missouri and forced significant changes to league game-scheduling procedures.

According to the 2009 announcement, at least, State was to play Southern Mississippi (away), Louisiana Tech and Troy (both home) in fall 2015. All three of these games appear to be still set. The fourth game was to be an un-specified FCS level opponent, obviously not from one of the big five leagues, and the mandate is not an issue for 2015.

2016 is another matter. The original release showed home games with South Alabama and Tulane, and a road game at Louisiana Tech; then another FCS opponent at home. This suddenly is an issue since none of the other three games are big five members. MSU sources say that a two game series, home-and-home, with a non-big five opponent has been arranged. But it can only be played if the SEC waives the mandate—something many conference programs are also sure to be negotiating—or if one of the other three games is replaced by a big five foe. Since such a game would be just two years away that is very late in the proverbial day by modern scheduling difficulties.

In May, the SEC re-confirmed its eight-game conference schedule through 2025, as well as maintained the format of playing all six Division opponents as well as one ‘permanent' opponent from the other Division and a rotation inter-Division matchup. There are two differences in this scheme as opposed to those used from 1992 through 2011. First, the rotating opponents will not be played home-and-home in consecutive seasons as before. This is intended to allow everyone in the league to play everyone else more frequently than a home-and-home plan within a 14-team league would allow.

Secondly, the rotation will adjust after six seasons for the next six seasons to keep an even four home/four road conference schedule. This is why in 2014 Vanderbilt will be played at Scott Field as the rotating opponent; and in '15 Mississippi State will go to Missouri. The rest of this rotation runs: 2016 South Carolina, 2017 at Georgia; 2018 Florida, 2019 at Tennessee; 2020 Missouri, 2021 at Vanderbilt; 2022 Georgia, 2023 at South Carolina; 2024 Tennessee, 2025 at Florida.

The annual Division opponents will alternate home-and-away with Arkansas-Auburn-Texas A&M one year, and Alabama-LSU-Ole Miss-Kentucky the next.

However…what looks so nice and neat on paper this summer is not exactly something fans should want to begin booking travel and accommodations for too many seasons in advance. The tumult and transitions of recent years remind that so much about college football is and only increasingly will be subject to abrupt and major changes. So as they say, stay tuned…

And along that line, the long-anticipated and much-heralded SEC Network debuts August 14. All 14 conference programs will appear on the Network within the first four weeks of the schedule. Mississippi State has drawn a slot on the opening weekend in fact, with the August 30 lidlifter against Southern Mississippi set for a 6:30ct kickoff.

As of now only the second week's home game, with UAB, has also been assigned a game time. FSN will telecast the contest at 1:00 from Scott Field.

The full 2014 schedule is: Aug 30 Southern Mississippi; Sept 6 UAB; Sept 13 @ South Alabama; Sept 20 @ Louisiana State; Oct 4 Texas A&M; Oct 11 Auburn; Oct 25 @ Kentucky; Nov 1 Arkansas; Nov 8 Tennessee-Martin (HC); Nov 15 @ Alabama; Nov 22 Vanderbilt; Nov 29 at Ole Miss.

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