Tentative 2006 Football Slate To Change

The New Year is finally here. So even as basketball moves into conference competition, and with Opening Day for the Diamond Dogs still seven weeks away, Mississippi State fans already are discussing fall and football season. Such as, the schedule for Coach Sylvester Croom's third Bulldog squad.

That 2006 slate has not been finalized, much less officially released. Still it is being reported Mississippi State has essentially lined up the dozen games for '06, and lacks only some deal-sealing details after switching around a pair of dates on the tentative schedule.

That slate, currently shown on the University's official website, is expected to change to accommodate ESPN's request for a season-opening conference game between the Bulldogs and South Carolina. So far this inter-Divisional matchup has been listed on September 23. Now it appears that Croom and Gamecock coach Steve Spurrier will both open their seasons at Scott Field on August 31, in a Thursday night game for national telecast on ESPN.

State's previous tentative schedule had the Bulldogs opening on the road, at Alabama-Birmingham, which the UAB site also shows. According to a MSU source, the Blazers have agreed to exchange slots on the slate with State and host the Bulldogs on September 23 at Legion Field.

If this swap does indeed come to pass, the revised 2006 schedule will be: South Carolina Aug.31, Auburn Sept.9, Tulane Sept.16, @Alabama-Birmingham Sept.23, @Louisiana State Sept.30, West Virginia Oct. 7, Jacksonville State Oct.14, @Georgia Oct. 21, Kentucky Oct.28, @Alabama Nov.4, Arkansas Nov.18, and @Mississippi Nov.25. No game times are available.

South Carolina replaces Florida on State's 2006 schedule under the SEC's annual rotation.

Starting in 2006, all Division-IA teams can play a 12-game schedule every season. The dozen-game slate, which began in both 2002 and '03, was not due to resume for another year. But the NCAA yielded to the chorus of schools, leagues, and networks demanding to move to the 12-game scheduling immediately. Mississippi State already had existing deals with UAB and Tulane, and a year ago contracted for a home-and-home with West Virginia in 2006 and '07. Jacksonville State, which visited Scott Field in 2002, will be back this fall and serve as the Homecoming guest.

State's scheduling was made easier when Tulane recently opted to continue playing football. Had the Green Wave folded their program, as many believed, it would have left a gaping hole in both this fall's and future schedules. Finding a new mid-September foe on such short notice without the help of TV would have been a difficult deal indeed.

Television was the driving force behind this reported change, which is a simple move for all involved—including the SEC—as it is the season-opener for both teams and comes prior to the Labor Day weekend. It doesn't hurt that the Bulldogs can use the extra time after a Thursday game to prepare for Western Division foe Auburn.

There would be some historical ironies in this new '06 opener. The last time State played in a Thursday ESPN game, other than the 1998-2003 run of Egg Bowls, was also at home, and against South Carolina, in 2001, with the Gamecocks winning. That game also happened to be the first college football played after the events of 9/11/01. Another twist is that State's first-ever Thursday ESPN game, in 1992, had Spurrier on the opposite sideline as Florida's head coach. The Bulldogs won that one.

There are no indications of how soon Mississippi State will be able to officially release this schedule, and then season ticket information, as other details are settled.

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