COLUMBIA, Mo. — It's been a season of change for the Missouri football program in more ways than one. The Tigers' schedule under new coach Eli Drinkwitz took two more twists and turns Friday as COVID-19 outbreaks have forced the Southeastern Conference to scramble multiple games for multiple teams. As a result, Mizzou will now host Kentucky on Oct. 24 and travel to Florida on Oct. 31, the Post-Dispatch first reported Friday, followed later by confirmation from the league office.
The Tigers (1-2) were initially scheduled to host Vanderbilt on Saturday, play at Florida on Oct. 24 and host Kentucky Oct. 31. Instead, the SEC flipped the latter two games. The Vanderbilt game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12 in Columbia.
Mizzou and Kentucky will kick off at 3 p.m. kickoff next Saturday on SEC Network. The following week, Mizzou and Florida will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Central on SEC Network Alternate.
The changes leave Missouri with its same bye week on Nov. 7 and no consecutive road games. The bye comes after the newly scheduled game at Florida, followed by a home game against Georgia (Nov. 14), a road game at South Carolina (Nov. 21), home game against Arkansas (Nov. 28), road game at Mississippi State (Dec. 5) and the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt (Dec. 12).
Florida’s roster had an outbreak of more than 20 positive cases of COVID-19 this week, forcing the SEC to move Saturday’s home game against Louisiana State to Dec. 12, the universal bye date the SEC created for games postponed for coronavirus reasons. With that many Florida players in quarantine — the league requires all positive cases to isolate for 10 days and any close contacts to quarantine for 14 days — it was unlikely that the Gators would have enough players available for next week’s Missouri game. The No. 10 Gators will now have two straight byes before hosting the Tigers on Halloween.
On Wednesday, Florida athletics director Scott Stricklin said 21 Gators players were positive for the virus, including 18 scholarship players. Two assistant coaches also tested positive Tuesday, Gators coach Dan Mullen said.
SEC teams have the choice of rescheduling games or declaring a no contest if they have fewer than 53 scholarship players available for a game.
With the Florida game already in doubt, Mizzou coach Eli Drinkwitz figured change could be coming.
“I think that’s kind of what COVID 2020 has taught us, is every day there’s a new challenge,” Drinkwitz said Wednesday. ““The only thing you can control is your mental toughness and how you’re going to respond to that challenge. We have no control over what’s happening down in Florida and wish them the best.”
The SEC jigsaw puzzle of a schedule included two other moves. Kentucky was scheduled to play at Georgia on Oct. 24, but that game moved to Oct. 31. South Carolina’s Oct. 24 game at LSU moved times, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. For now, LSU and Florida are scheduled to meet in Gainesville, Florida on Dec. 12.