The Southeastern Conference has a problem, one its not used to dealing with.
But in this “new normal,” the SEC has been upstaged by the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The ACC’s decision to go to a conference-only schedule included the carrot-on-the stick of one non-conference game to keep alive some SEC-ACC rivalries.
The ball was in the SEC’s court and it decided against taking the bait, keeping its schedule strictly in conference for 10 games.
That was bad enough.
But a sure way to hog the national headlines is to get Notre Dame to join your conference, if only for an abnormal one year of football in the ACC.
The SEC could pout about it while denying that Georgia is dodging Georgia Tech.
Not a good optic.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
In fact, this is the perfect off-season opportunity, a never-before-seen aligning of the moon’s orbit with a pandemic on earth to give us double doses of what the SEC has always done best.
Namely, conference-wide taunting, gloating and mostly full-contact Greco-Roman bickering.
What Steve Spurrier used to call the “Talking Season” doesn’t get any better than this.
The SEC has a golden chance to make everybody in the conference mad and suspicious and nobody will care who or where Notre Dame is playing.
Go for it.
In announcing that the SEC would play 10 conference games instead of eight, it left out two important details.
Which two for who?
The league says it’s working on it. It will get back to us. Probably this week.
It wasn’t that easy, they say, it still has analytics and possibly paragrams to study.
I have no idea what that means.
But I have a suggestion.
Turn this into a positive.
Turn it into a major, must-see event.
Step away from that fax machine, put down that email.
Put the announcements on television. The SEC already has its own network, so air time wouldn’t be a problem.
Don’t just make the announcements on TV, let them play out on TV.
Quarantined masses, begging for college football, turn their lonely eyes to you.
Do it like the lottery, with these extra matchups decided by which of those swirling ping pong balls come out, one school at a time.
The ratings would be through the roof. With just a little creativity, you could drag it out longer than the NFL draft.
Oh, you could let the teams “on the clock” just pick (draft) their preferred opponent, I assume, but for the SEC West there’s only one Vanderbilt to go around and just a lone Arkansas for the East to lust over.
Or you could possibly do a “Wheel of Fortune” spin, but, come on, doesn’t that somehow take away from the dignity of such solemn proceedings?
So let’s stick with the lottery balls system.
They’d be sterilized, of course, and each ball would have a logo on it, maybe wearing a cute little mini-mask.
Alabama would go first because the SEC office is in Birmingham and then the Tide gets Vanderbilt and the rest of the SEC West, especially LSU, walks out in protest and ....
No, no, no. Wait.
See, that’s just the kind of thing we’re trying to avoid here.
Keep it fair, keep it fair.
And it’s all pure chance.
Since each team would have limited number of possibilities for its turn, you’d have SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, wearing a surgical glove to handle the sanitized ping pong balls and make a big production of holding up each entry before theatrically placing it in the hopper.
So in this random example I suppose LSU, as the defending champion, would be first up on the big board.
East champion Georgia would go second and then you’d alternate West-East down through last year’s division standings.
Check my math and especially the logic here, but it should take only one round to get this done. That’s why we’ll need, oh, a half hour or so of delicious studio over-analyzing between each shuffling of the balls.
So LSU would play the lottery first, looking for its extra home opponent.
This year the Tigers already are playing South Carolina at home and Florida on the road from the East.
So the available options — the logo balls put in the hopper — would be Tennessee, Georgia, Missouri, Kentucky and the coveted Vanderbilt jackpot (painted gold purely by coincidence).
But, just for fun, let’s say the Tigers hit the lottery and Vandy pops out.
Alabama storms out in disgust and ...
No, no. Just kidding.
The Commodores, or whoever the Tigers got, would then be off the board — or out of the hopper, so to speak — for other SEC West teams trying to get their extra home opponent.
Georgia would go next. It already has Alabama and Auburn from the West this year.
So the available cross-division teams for the Dawgs would be LSU, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Arkansas, and into the hopper and bouncing around they go.
You catching on yet?
As the process marches on, there will be fewer choices, fewer balls bobbing around in there.
Your road game is decided when another team gets you with its turn.
That’s the way I got it figured anyway.
In fact, by the time Vanderbilt gets its turn for its extra home opponent, there will be only one left, with no real mystery, which is OK because Vandy doesn’t even have a athletic department these days.
It will still probably be Alabama.
But don’t get mad.