There is a word for the two additional Southeastern Conference games LSU drew Friday to complete the 10-game league-only schedule:
There is a reason LSU got what looks like two sure wins, with a home date against Missouri and a second straight road game to Vanderbilt, widely picked to be the bottom two teams in the SEC East:
Respect for the fact that the Tigers are coming off a 15-0, record-smashing, national championship season. Respect that LSU is still viewed as one of the SEC's top four teams coming into this season despite losing 14 draft picks to the NFL and a couple of key assistant coaches.
But respect, too, for LSU’s administration, led by athletic director Scott Woodward.
The Southeastern Conference has added a home game with Missouri and a road game with Vanderbilt to LSU’s 10-game SEC-only schedule, the league…
Years ago, before he became an athletic director and even before he worked in LSU’s academic administration under then-chancellor Mark Emmert, Woodward was a lobbyist. So he knows how to work a room. When to press and when to take one for the team. You have to believe that was a factor here, absent any other information.
There was plenty of speculation going in as to how the SEC might pick the two added games for each school once the 10-game, conference-only format was announced. Would it be the next two opposite-division rotating opponents on each team’s list? Would it be some sort of strength of schedule? Names in a hat? Lottery balls? Phone a friend?
What transpired looked like something more arbitrary, especially when you consider that LSU played Vanderbilt in Nashville last September, a 66-38 win. And especially if you think the teams that look like the top four contenders — LSU, Alabama, Georgia and Florida — seemed to get the easier games, though Florida’s trip to Texas A&M (like LSU’s) is no gimme putt.
Arguably, though, LSU made out better than anyone. In a normal season, LSU fans would be yawning at the prospect of playing Mizzou and Vandy. But this year, when teams are looking for any edge they can in the SEC race and there might be no fans in the stands, Missouri and Vanderbilt were welcomed, like rich relatives thinking about adding a lucky someone to their will.
The rich appear to be getting richer, at least as the SEC’s top contenders are concerned. For a school like LSU that has often felt disrespected in conference matters, this has to feel like fresh territory.
Again, you have to believe Woodward was a factor. He's a guy who reminds you of late SEC commissioner Mike Slive in his manner. Woodward doesn’t come off as overbearing or demanding, but he knows how to get what he wants.
Now the question is whether it will all be worth the effort. The fun over chopping up newfangled SEC schedules was hit by a sober slap Saturday, when the Mid-American Conference announced it was punting its football schedule until 2021.
The Big Ten announced Saturday it is slowing down rather than speeding up; it will not allow full pads or full contact in practice "until further notice." What's more, the Detroit Free Press, citing unnamed sources, reported that Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren prefers a spring football season.
Were that immense domino to fall, it would be hard for the SEC and other Power Five conferences not to follow suit. That leads to another question, among many others: Would the SEC stick to its current schedule format in the spring or reconfigure again?
No one can answer that just yet. But for this weekend, in SEC country, the big question was about adding two conference games. For LSU, “easy” and “respect” were the best answers to find.
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Ranking the reset
So let’s look at the entire SEC and rank the added schedules for each team from hardest to easiest:
1. Missouri: Alabama, at LSU — Maybe Mizzou can get an extra share of SEC revenue for its troubles.
2. Arkansas: Georgia, at Florida — The Razorbacks haven’t won an SEC game since 2017. They won’t win these two, either.
3. Texas A&M: Florida, at Tennessee — The Aggies have been a hot choice for a breakout season, but this is a bucket of cold water.
4. Tennessee: Texas A&M, at Auburn — Like the Aggies, these two games could sink the Volunteer Navy’s renaissance hopes.
5. Kentucky: Ole Miss, at Alabama — The Wildcats should take a split and walk quietly to the next game.
6. Vanderbilt: LSU, at Mississippi State — This looks like 0-2, but other than drawing Arkansas at home what would not have?
7. Auburn: Tennessee, at South Carolina — Like Auburn itself, this draw is hard to handicap. Playing at South Carolina can be a trap game.
8. South Carolina: Auburn, at Ole Miss — Gamecocks could win one of these, but either would be an upset.
9. Ole Miss: South Carolina, at Kentucky — These are games where the Lane Kiffin experiment is supposed to pay dividends. We’ll see.
10. Mississippi State: Vanderbilt, at Georgia — State drew a sure win and a sure road loss. For where it’s picked in the West, that’s batting above average.
11. Florida: Arkansas, at Texas A&M — Gators handed a home win, but the game at A&M looms as elimination game for both teams.
12. Alabama: Kentucky, at Missouri — Jokes abounded that Bama would get two games with Vandy. This isn’t that much harder.
13. Georgia: Mississippi State, at Arkansas — State’s new passing attack will make Georgia nervous, but the Dawgs made out better than Florida.
14. LSU: Missouri, at Vanderbilt — LSU fans, you have no complaints. Now we resume your regularly scheduled (and justified) gripes about playing Florida every year.