After lost weekend, should LSU and Florida play or is it time to move on?
BATON ROUGE, La. — Until Monday, we heard all the arguments for when the LSU-Florida game should be played.
Play it Nov. 19 and boot South Alabama and Presbyterian off the schedules. Play it Oct. 29 and move the Georgia-Florida game. Play it Dec. 3 and move the SEC Championship Game.
Play it Monday night.
But the premise all along has been, play it because it has to be played.
Or does it?
On Monday, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva gave the first real plan that would allow the season to unfurl without the game in a manner that would not give an unfair advantage to any one team.
My emphasis on unfair. And the plan is as simple as this:
Don’t count cross-division games in the SEC standings this season. And then, just cancel the LSU-Florida game altogether. Two teams lose a game, but the conference standings would keep their integrity.
It’s an intriguing solution to the dilemma of finding a way to play a game that really should have been played over this weekend.
First, let’s identify the problem of not playing the LSU-Florida game but keeping an eight-game schedule as the basis for your conference standings.
If you don’t play it, it creates an unfair advantage for some teams, particularly Alabama and Florida.
Alabama could lose to LSU (which already has one conference loss) and still finish 7-1, half-game better than LSU can potentially finish as the Tigers could only finish as high as 6-1 because of the lost Florida game. That would give Alabama the division title based purely on playing more conference games.
The other scenario involves Tennessee, which if it loses to heavily-favored Alabama, could only finish no better than 6-2. In that scenario, it’s possible for Florida to finish 6-1, with the only loss to Tennessee. The Gators would win the division without having to face a plausible second loss against LSU.
So there’s the issue. The non-game could potentially decide both divisions. So it must be played.
Not if they don’t count cross-division games. And frankly, those games have always been problematic.
Every team plays two games across divisions every year. One is against a permanent opponent — like Alabama-Tennessee and Auburn-Georgia — and the other is a rotating opponent.
If there is anything more unfair than a race decided by teams not playing the same number of games, it’s certain teams having to play a much tougher schedule simply through the luck of the draw. This year, Tennessee has to play maybe the two best teams in the West (Texas A&M, which beat the Vols, 45-38, in two overtimes on Saturday, and Alabama) while Florida has a much more forgiving West schedule with LSU and Arkansas.
So it’s possible Tennessee could go undefeated against the weaker East Division and still lose the division title to a team playing a much softer cross-division schedule.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that permanently change — the Auburn-Georgia and Tennessee-Alabama games should always count as SEC games, right? — but how about just for this season? It’s the one solution where the playing field stays level for everyone.
Sure, Florida will scream about losing its edge over Tennessee based on scheduling. The Gators were perhaps counting on that advantage of not having to play Alabama and Texas A&M while Tennessee does. But that’s a rather arbitrary and, it can be argued, unfair advantage.
Every other option on the table creates an unwarranted hardship for somebody or somebodies.
Playing Nov. 19 forces both LSU and Florida to lose a home game from their schedules. LSU would lose a home game weekend and all the economic impact that creates. Plus, the Tigers would have to finish the season with three SEC road games in 13 days.
Playing on Oct. 29 forces the Georgia-Florida game to be pushed up a week, which is a hardship on the city of Jacksonville, plus it puts Florida into a situation where it has to play Georgia and LSU back-to-back while LSU has to play Florida and Alabama back-to-back with Alabama given the advantage of having an off week before the LSU game.
Then there’s Dec. 3, where the game would create a hardship for the entire SEC and maybe all of college football. That’s the day of the SEC Championship Game, which would have to be pushed back a week, along with bowl announcements (or at least most of them).
So there really is not a good time to play this game for either team.
Maybe it’s time to not play it.
Sure, Florida will lose an edge in the East race, but really it loses an advantage as opposed to being forced into a disadvantage, which every other make-up date creates.
Florida and LSU are two outstanding defensive teams that are offensively challenged. If they are to play, there would probably be quite a few punts.
Maybe it’s time to punt the whole game.