I think we’ll hear it announced soon that the SEC season is going to start in December this year - either the midweek of Dec. 27-29 or on New Year’s Eve. My guess is on the midweek so as not to interfere with the bowl games.
In looking at last year’s schedule, the league allotted 10 Saturdays between the start of conference play and the conference tournament. Nine of those Saturdays had league games and the other was for the SEC/Big 12 Challenge. If the same happens this year, that first Saturday would be Dec. 31. It was Jan. 2 last year.
It looks like the schools are preparing for this, too. Outside of the Big 12 team on Jan. 28, the last nonconference games scheduled for Arkansas, Kentucky, Florida, Auburn, Georgia and Vanderbilt are before Christmas, typically either Dec. 21 or Dec. 22. It would be hard to imagine they are all going to have double-digit days off during that time. The more likely scenario is they have been told by the conference to keep that week open.
It’s worth noting that Alabama has a nonconference game scheduled for Dec. 29. That would not preclude it from playing that Tuesday or Saturday.
I’ve put in a call to the SEC office to get some clarification. Hopefully they will respond.