The SEC Office released slates for the 14 members Tuesday, on the league’s own Network.
Bulldog fans already knew where next year’s schedule began; September 5 at Southern Mississippi to complete the home-and-home deal inked in 2009. Now they can fill out the rest of fall 2015, as follows:
9/5 @Southern Mississippi; 9/12 Louisiana State; 9/19 Northwestern (La) State; 9/26 @Auburn; 10/3 @Texas A&M; 10/10 Troy; 10/17 Louisiana Tech; 10/24 Kentucky; 11/5 @Missouri; 11/14 Alabama; 11/21 @Arkansas; 11/28 Ole Miss.
The obvious new face for Mississippi State is a first-ever meeting with Missouri as conference cousins, as the Tigers replace Vanderbilt as the rotating East Division opponent. And, this will be a Thursday night game in Columbia to boot. Coach Dan Mullen’s teams are 3-2 in these Thursday games, including wins last season at home over both Kentucky and Ole Miss. The last SEC regular-season road game played on Thursday was the 2003 Egg Bowl.
State did play Missouri twice during the Emory Bellard era, losing in Jackson in 1981 and in Columbia in ’84. The other ‘newcomer’ of sorts is Northwestern State of the Southland Conference. The schools have played before; just not since 1945-46 when host State won by a combined 81-0 score. They replace ’14 visitor Tennessee-Martin.
The future inter-Division rotation for State will be: South Carolina 2016, at Georgia 2017, Florida 2018, at Tennessee 2019, Missouri 2020, at Vanderbilt 2021, Georgia 2022, at South Carolina 2023, Tennessee 2024, and at Florida 2025.
Of a much more permanent nature, the home-and-home rotation of Western Division rivals brings all three of Mississippi State’s ‘big’ games back to Scott Field next fall with Alabama, LSU, and Ole Miss, as well as annual East opponent Kentucky. In odd years State will travel to Arkansas, Auburn, and Texas A&M.
One change brought about by revising of SEC schedules for everyone was Arkansas moving up from the next-to-last slot as had been the case for two Dog decades, to an early-November date. This means when State plays the Razorbacks next fall it will be in Fayetteville for the first time since 2003, rather than in Little Rock.
Now that 2015’s slate is set, and the league lineup—if not the dates—are known for a decade in advance, speculation resumes about 2016 and beyond. Back in 2009 when the two-year Southern Mississippi series was announced, Mississippi State also listed matchups for 2016: a home game with South Alabama, and trip to Louisiana Tech, as well as an un-named FCS guest.
Those long-done deals might have to adjust though after May’s announcement by the SEC that all league teams must play at least one opponent every season from one of the other ‘Power 5’ conferences, beginning in 2016. Obviously there is a space for a fourth non-conference game if the 2016 deals stand. The trick is whether a suitable foe can be found for that exact available date. For that matter, as the SEC keeps some flexibility in their own schedule even long-set dates might have to move.
MSU officials have reached out to their P5 peers for months about potential games. As to finding one for 2016, there is always the possibility of playing a current independent that does not belong to the P5 club, if State got approval to ‘count’ it against the mandate.
Much farther in the future, Mississippi State has secured home-and-home series with P5 members. In July, the respective athletic directors of MSU and Kansas State ‘announced’ the teams will play at Manhatten in 2018, with KSU returning the trip in 2019. In 2020 the Bulldogs go to North Carolina State, which will come to Scott Field in 2021. Then in 2022 State visits Arizona with a 2023 return.