MORGANTOWN, W.Va.–On Saturday, the teams of the Big 12 and SEC will take a break from their grueling conference schedules to take part in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge presented by Sonic.
The games on tap provide for some entertaining non-conference matchups for fans: Texas A&M travels to No.18 WVU, No. 25 Florida battles Oklahoma in Norman, No. 5 Baylor travels to Ole Miss and the heavyweight showdown in Kentucky between the fourth-ranked Wildcats and No. 2 Kansas.
It makes for an exhilarating day of action but the timing comes at an inconvenient time, dead in the middle of conference play.
And coaches and players in the Big 12 aren’t thrilled about that fact.
“I’d rather it be in the non-conference, ” Mountaineers’ forward Nathan Adrian said. “It just kind of breaks up your Big 12 schedule but it is what it is.”
Each of the Big 12’s 10 teams participates in the event annually. Alabama, Mississippi State, Missouri and South Carolina will not partake in the challenge for a second consecutive season.
But the timing comes right in the middle of a heated race for the Big 12 title and disrupts the rhythm of the season.
“If you remember when we started out, we were before and then they came in and kind of coerced us into moving it,” WVU head coach Bob Huggins said.
Huggins is referring to the first and second season of the challenge when the games were played before the conference schedule started.
And that is precisely where the Mountaineers’ coach would like to see it.
“Before we get into conference season,” he said. “Maybe the last game, the last non-conference game before the conference season starts. Or maybe before that. I think because they have those other challenges that they were trying to find a place where their ratings because the other ones are pretty much done during football season.”
The ACC and the Big Ten faced off in its challenge between Nov. 28- No. 30.
All five games this season are being televised on ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN, locking in a lot of fans for some big time matchups.
“I think it’s good for TV,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said on Tuesday night. “Because there is not one coach that is playing on Saturday out of the SEC or the Big 12 saying it’s a well scheduled game. At least I don’t think so and I bet Huggs probably feels the same way. The conference season trumps your non-conference season big time. I mean we’re happy to go. We’re excited. We’ll go there and let it ride but the bottom line is I think the only reason we’re doing it is for exposure of our respecting leagues.”
The Big 12 has won the Challenge every season, taking seven of the 10 games the first year, six the second and seven last year.
Saturday’s schedule includes:
|Texas A&M at West Virginia||ESPN||Noon ET|
|Florida at Oklahoma||ESPN||2:00 pm ET|
|Kansas State at Tennessee||ESPN2||2:00 pm ET|
|LSU at Texas Tech||ESPNU||2:00 pm ET|
|Texas at Georgia||ESPN||4:00 pm ET|
|Iowa State at Vanderbilt||ESPN2||4:00 pm ET|
|Arkansas at Oklahoma State||ESPNU||4:00 pm ET|
|Kansas at Kentucky||ESPN||6:00 pm ET|
|Baylor at Mississippi||ESPN2||6:00 pm ET|
|Auburn at TCU||ESPNU||6:00 pm ET|
Cover Photo Credit: Kelsie LeRose, BGS