In the SEC, rivalries reach new and unscrupulous levels of improbity, real or imagined, without even playing the games.
Some would call it unhealthy. The real fans, like our good friend James Carville down in Louisiana, would just call it an opportunity to add a fresh chapter to the always-growing tome of SEC Conspiracy Theories. Did LSU avoid Alabama last week using the pandemic as an excuse? No, that’s crazy talk, but sillier things have found their way onto billboards in this league.
Such is the way of the SEC, and its expansive, cultural influence upon the people who love it. We were without games all over the country this weekend, and it left a void, but in the SEC, turns out, they don’t even need games to grow their rivalries.
Is LSU ducking Alabama because the Tigers are so terrible this season? I’m not saying it’s true. It’s not. I’m just acknowledging the perception. It’s out there — up in the ether and down on the street — and it’s spreading like that kudzu in your backyard that grows a foot a day.
All is fair in love and recruiting.
GOODMAN: This is college football chaos no one wants
LSU and Alabama were supposed to meet on the ol' grid this Saturday to settle things fair and square, but now might not even play this season. LSU, the defending national champions, couldn’t play, according to coach Ed Orgeron, because of some coronavirus cases inside its locker room. Contact tracing took out too many players, and rules are rules.
Get well soon, Tigers. The rest of your season awaits.
Is there a chance LSU could still face Alabama? It seems possible after the SEC sent out of notification on Friday alerting member schools that schedules might be changing after next week.
“As of Friday, all games planned for November 21 will be played as scheduled,” the league put out in a statement. “All games currently scheduled to be played after November 21 are subject to weekly evaluation in order to reschedule games that have been postponed during the 2020 season.”
LSU, stay frosty.
Maybe SEC commissioner Greg Sankey will move the Tigers' home game against Ole Miss so the Purple and Gold can make up a “more important” meeting with the Crimson Tide. Quite sure Lane Kiffin is going to want his shot at LSU, though. After watching Auburn set a school record for points against LSU in that 48-11 beat down, everyone wants a piece of the defending national champions.
We know Alabama and its Mac Jones-led offense certainly did. It was to be a rare revenge game for the Crimson Tide after losing to LSU 46-41 last season. What a fiasco of a day that was for Nick Saban. Alabama had won 31 straight at home and 48 of 49 dating back to 2012.
Then LSU walked into Bryant-Denny Stadium with quarterback Joe Burrow and an offense built to beat the Crimson Tide. LSU 9, Alabama 6 circa 2011 it was not.
LSU 2019 turned out to be one of the best teams in the history of college football. We can debate whether or not Alabama has fielded a team better during the Saban Era, and that’s fine, but not up for debate is the lethality of that LSU offense. Alabama seemed keen on returning the favor, and this past week, as a lead-in for the rematch, I was planning to write a column about the difference between an all-time team and an all-time dynasty.
But now we wait.
And sharpen the blades of one-upmanship.
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With eight of the SEC’s 14 teams in quarantine, Saturday was a showcase for the Florida Gators' high-powered offense against Arkansas' enjoyable “Walk-On Defense.” The Gators smoked the Hogs 63-35, and UF quarterback Kyle Trask had the spotlight all to himself. He didn’t let it go to waste, throwing six touchdown passes. That’s how you build a Heisman resume.
Watching that game — and no others — I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what football on TV was like 30 years ago when there was a game of the week and nothing else. Something tells me Keith Jackson would have had some colorful language for Florida Man Dan Mullen.
And also for this business of canceling or postponing games because of contact tracing.
Iron Man football it ain’t.
When all the quarterbacks need to be quarantined, for example, what’s a team in the SEC to do? In high school, a coach would just improvise and put a defensive back under center and roll out the ball, but in college, apparently, they don’t have the type of athletes who can play multiple positions anymore.
I kid, of course. We all know they don’t test for COVID-19 in high schools.
It’s hard imagining a season in the SEC West without Alabama vs. LSU, but the Tigers still have games to play against Texas A&M and Florida, too. Orgeron indicated early in the week that he wasn’t sure if his team would have enough players for Alabama, but in reality he apparently already knew the answer and was preparing for Arkansas.
How do SEC conspiracy theories gain traction? Orgeron said earlier in the season that “most” of his team had already tested positive for COVID-19.
So which is it?
That’s the great thing about rivalries in the SEC, and the thing that makes the league the most popular in the country. Truth doesn’t matter to the fans when a controversy gives them a victory. LSU, for one week at least, was bailed out by Birmingham.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.