Who would win a completely hypothetical SEC vs. B1G Challenge?
At this point, we still have no idea what’s in store for 2020 college football. The amount of games played this season seems to be shrinking by the day, but it’s time to get back to our roots as college football fanatics. One of the major talking points among all the fan bases is the ongoing, never-settled debate on conference supremacy. I just checked the college football fan trash talk record book and at no point has a conference vs. conference discussion changed anybody’s opinion.
The B1G had zero games scheduled against the SEC even before the conference shut down its non-league games, but in this hypothetical scenario, I have created 14. In our fantasy world, the coronavirus ends tomorrow and the college football decision-makers give fans a treat to kick off the season with a B1G-SEC Challenge throughout Labor Day weekend.
Twenty-eight teams. Fourteen games. Two conferences for the ultimate test to see who’s the best.
To pair teams together, I took overall winning percentage from the 2019 season. Tiebreakers were conference record and head-to-head record. If conference records were the same and the tied teams didn’t play each other, I made my own executive decision.
Let the debates begin.
Ohio State vs. LSU
Who wins? Ohio State. The Buckeyes might have the best team and best player in the country in 2020 with Justin Fields gearing up for a Heisman campaign in his second season in Columbus. On the other hand, LSU has lot of moving pieces in a shortened offseason, losing Joe Burrow along with passing game coordinator Joe Brady to the NFL.
Minnesota vs. Georgia
Who wins? Georgia. The Bulldogs should be College Football Playoff contenders with the amount of 4-and 5-star talent on the field. Georgia just added USC transfer quarterback JT Daniels to compete with Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman, so we’ll see how that plays out prior to the season. On the other side, how good do we expect Minnesota to be? Let’s not forget the Golden Gophers were 12-13 under PJ Fleck until last season’s 11-2 breakout season. It’s hard to nitpick an 11-2 season, but Minnesota needed to come from behind late to beat South Dakota State, Fresno State and Georgia Southern, and benefited from a favorable conference schedule.
Penn State vs. Alabama
Who wins? Alabama. Penn State should be a major contender to win the B1G East and be part of the College Football Playoff discussion, but do you want to bet against Nick Saban in a Week 1 matchup? He’s never lost an opener at Alabama. In the past 4 seasons, Alabama won its opening matchup by an average of nearly 35 points, all against Power 5 opponents.
Iowa vs. Florida
Who wins? Florida. The Gators probably have the best returning quarterback in the SEC with Kyle Trask, and Iowa is looking for a new signal-caller after 3-year starter Nate Stanley exhausted his eligibility. The Hawkeyes are one of the constants of college football, but a reload won’t be enough against a talented Florida team ready to contend for the SEC East.
Wisconsin vs. Auburn
Who wins? Auburn. Wisconsin is losing star running back Jonathan Taylor and go-to wide receiver Quintez Cephus, so it’s unclear where the offense will come from. The defense will very likely be the strength of 2020. Auburn is coming off a what-could-have-been season after beating Alabama but losing by 3 points at LSU. For Auburn, the progression of quarterback Bo Nix in big games could decide this one. Remember, in his college debut, Nix led the game-winning drive to beat Oregon in last year’s opener.
Michigan vs. Tennessee
Who wins? Michigan. Yes, Tennessee is a trendy team right now with lots of talented recruits committing, but this isn’t a 2022 prediction article. What have we learned about the Wolverines under Jim Harbaugh? For the most part, Michigan wins the games it should and loses the games it should against elite teams. Is Tennessee an elite team? Not in 2020.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
Who wins? Indiana. These are very similar programs. Basketball schools with football teams on the rise, this would be a very competitive matchup. Both teams turned to backup QBs last season and had success. Both starters are healthy and back this year. I’ll go with the Hoosiers with a ton of returning starters, while Kentucky will begin life without Lynn Bowden Jr., the one-man show for the Wildcats’ offense last season after QB Terry Wilson went down.
Michigan State vs. Texas A&M
Who wins? Texas A&M. This is the most no-brainer choice among all 14 games and would be a blowout. This could be the season the Aggies finally take that next step, while Michigan State is in full-on rebuild mode. The Spartans were not helped by a shortened offseason especially after Mark Dantonio’s late, unexpected retirement. Mel Tucker has his work cut out for him in Year 1.
Illinois vs. Missouri
Who wins? Illinois. Entrenched starting quarterback and an incumbent head coach should be important factors in 2020, especially early in the season. The Fighting Illini probably overachieved last season, but Brandon Peters is back after a solid starting QB with a surprising Lovie Smith squad. As for Missouri, we don’t know who will line up under center for Eliah Drinkwitz, whose only head coaching experience is 1 season at Appalachian State.
Nebraska vs. Mississippi State
Who wins? Mississippi State. Betting against Nebraska has to be one of the most profitable wagers to make in the Scott Frost era. Until the Cornhuskers show any type of success, it’s hard to say they’re beating a mid-level SEC team, even one bringing in a first-year head coach with Mike Leach.
Purdue vs. South Carolina
Who wins? Purdue. The Boilermakers were an incredibly injured team in 2019 and should improve a lot this season, especially with do-it-all playmaker Rondale Moore back after an injury sidelined him for most of the season. As for South Carolina, how many more years are we going to do this with Will Muschamp?
Northwestern vs. Ole Miss
Who wins? Ole Miss. Northwestern should improve a ton from a disaster that was 2019, especially at the quarterback position with incoming Indiana transfer Peyton Ramsey. However, I’ll take Ole Miss and its talented playmakers in John Rhys Plumlee and Jerrion Ealy. Lane Kiffin can’t lose his first game back in the SEC, can he?
Maryland vs. Vanderbilt
Who wins? Maryland. Quite frankly, these teams probably aren’t going to be very good and neither team showed much promise in 2019. A lot can be learned about the future of programs in Year 2 with new head coaches, so maybe Mike Locksley proves he’s the long-term solution at Maryland. Vanderbilt is riding another season with Derek Mason in charge, though plenty of changes were made on the coaching staff, including the offensive and defensive coordinators. The Dores have QB concerns, too. I’ll take the Terps.
Rutgers vs. Arkansas
Who wins? Rutgers. Both teams are in the exact same spot — entrenched as the last-place teams in their conference bringing in new head coaches without much of an offseason. Rutgers should have the coaching advantage here since Greg Schiano proved against all odds it actually is possible to succeed with the Scarlet Knights, while long-time offensive line coach Sam Pittman takes his first head coaching job at Arkansas. Arkansas has the better QB in Feleipe Franks, but that’s assuming Franks is fully healed.
After tallying it all up, the inaugural B1G-SEC Challenge resulted in a 7-7 tie. After more than 1,000 words on an event that won’t happen, we learned nothing as far as conference supremacy.
The debates roll on.