Joe Alleva says LSU will play S. Alabama, offers option for 2016 division winners
BATON ROUGE, La. — Joe Alleva put down the gauntlet on Monday.
“We will play a home game on Nov. 19,” he declared before football coach Ed Orgeron’s weekly press luncheon. He then offered an alternative: Pick division winners this season based solely on the outcome of division games.
That made it clear that LSU would not accept losing its non-conference home game against South Alabama as a way to find a make-up date for last weekend’s game against Florida that was postponed by Hurricane Matthew. And LSU seems willing to have the game canceled.
It’s an important point because playing that week seemed like the most logistically plausible way to get the UF-LSU game played. Both LSU and Florida have non-conference home games, with Florida hosting Presbyterian.
The impact on LSU would be greater, given that LSU is paying FBS member South Alabama $1.5 million to come to Baton Rouge, a million dollars more than what Florida is paying FCS member Presbyterian (totals that are generally consistent with what teams from the different levels get in guarantees).
Alleva cited LSU fans and local businesses. Fans have invested in tickets to the South Alabama game and many are planning their weekends around the event.
Indeed, Alleva seemed to imply that cancelling the game, then changing how the SEC division winners would be determined, is the best option on the table.
“Maybe there have to be other ways to look at who divisional champions are,” he said. “Maybe only look at divisional play.”
That’s a solution that could drastically change the outcome of the race, particularly in the East Division.
Tennessee is widely accepted as the best team in the East, but its West Division opponents — Texas A&M and Alabama — are generally considered the best opponents in the West. The scenario exists where Florida, which lost to Tennessee, could finish 6-1 in SEC play and Tennessee, which has already lost to Texas A&M, would finish 6-2, assuming an upcoming loss to Alabama.
By eliminating the West games, Tennessee becomes an overwhelming favorite to stave off Florida for the division title, especially considering the Vols have already defeated the two most likely challengers, Georgia and Florida.
But Alleva did add that this proposal has not been discussed with the SEC yet.
“This is just me talking,” he said.
It’s not even clear if Alleva has the authority to nix the game. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a TV interview on Saturday that he is committed to getting the LSU-Florida game played, though it’s unclear if he has the authority to force the teams to play.
Any possible make-up date would come with logistical difficulties.
Other dates where LSU and Florida could play come with major logistical hurdles. There’s Oct. 29, LSU’s open date, a date that could become available by moving the Georgia-Florida game back a week to Oct. 22, which is a bye week for the Bulldogs and Gators.
But doing so would force the City of Jacksonville to have to move a week’s worth of festivities surrounding the Florida-Georgia game. That’s not likely to happen and, besides, Alleva didn’t seem very receptive of the idea, not the week before the Alabama game.
“I don’t want to play the week before Alabama unless Alabama plays that week, too,” he said. Alabama is off after playing Texas A&M on Oct. 22.
The final date mentioned was Dec. 3, the day of the SEC Championship Game.
That’s not likely viable either because, unless UF and LSU get knocked out of the SEC race soon, the league would have to move the SEC title game back a week to make room. That sets up another set of logistical obstacles, starting with CBS’ TV contract.