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Alabama linebackers William Cooper (55) and Anferee Jennings stop Duke's Brittain Brown in the 2019 Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta. [DEANGELO MCDANIEL/DECATUR DAILY]

The countdown to kickoff has a new target date.

The Southeastern Conference confirmed Thursday that it will play a 10-game conference-only football schedule in 2020, beginning Sept. 26.

All teams will have one off week during the season and won't play Dec. 12, the weekend before the SEC championship game on Dec. 19. The SEC said it would release a new schedule after it has been approved by the league’s 14 athletic directors.

The format was approved by the 14 presidents of SEC institutions Thursday.

“We are pleased to have a plan in place for the Southeastern Conference this season,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement. “We believe it is the best option to keep players and staff safe and still maintain the integrity of the season. The safety of our team will be our highest priority throughout the season, but we are also excited that our players will have the opportunity to compete and play this season.

"I want to thank the leadership from our administration, our medical staff, the SEC and all of the medical experts that are guiding us through this process.”

With a projected opening game on Sept. 26, Alabama and Auburn are expected to open preseason practice on Aug. 26.

The news comes a day after the ACC announced its plan for the 2020 season, which included one non-conference game for each school. No non-conference games for SEC schools means four traditional SEC-ACC rivalries — Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech, Louisville-Kentucky and Clemson-South Carolina — will not happen this season.

“We've continued to stay optimistic about having a fall season, and today's decision to move to a 10-game, conference-only schedule provides us with an opportunity to still compete and move our program forward in the safest way possible,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement. “The health and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches, staff and fans has always been at the forefront of our decision making, and we are thankful to now have plans in place that allow us to move forward.

"We appreciate the hard work of Commissioner (Greg) Sankey and the SEC staff as well as everyone involved across our 14 campuses to make these collective decisions together.”

Alabama was scheduled to have Georgia as its cross-divisional opponent in 2020, along with its typical SEC West schedule and annual game against Tennessee. The SEC is expected to keep that schedule intact and add two more opponents from the East division to complete a 10-game schedule.

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