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LSU coach Ed Orgeron discusses the Tigers' signing class during a news conference in the Lawton Room in Tiger Stadium on Wednesday Feb. 5, 2020.

The virtual Ed Orgeron is no substitute for the real thing.

But in 2020, you take what you can get.

Normally this time of year, Orgeron has just come off filling the room with his barrel-chested brogue at Southeastern Conference media days and followed up with his last preseason public speaking engagement, an appearance before a packed-to-the gills Baton Rouge Rotary Club luncheon at Tiger Stadium.

No sign of luncheon being consumed Wednesday during Coach O’s virtual Rotary Club visit, though between swigs of a water bottle that could be seen he did dish out a remarkable amount of information on his team for the coming season.

If there comes a season, of course.

Hours after Orgeron finished speaking, a report surfaced the SEC is considering a 10-game conference-only football schedule. No official word on that yet, and from what we gather here at the remotely and socially distanced Club Advocate, nothing has been decided. But it would follow that the SEC goes down that path after the Big Ten and Pac-12 announced they were playing conference-only schedules. And it's rather similar to the ACC’s plan revealed Wednesday to play a 10-plus-1 schedule, with the one being a lone non-conference opponent.

And, we learned, Notre Dame will compete for the ACC championship and share its TV revenue with the rest of that conference. This pandemic certainly has thrown our world on its ear in ways we could not have imagined the last time college football convened for the LSU-Clemson CFP National Championship Game in New Orleans.

But back to the SEC, where a conference-only slate would give the league, like the Big Ten and Pac-12, some measure of control. Getting everyone on the same page in terms of a host of coronavirus-related policies and protocols. And paring back the schedule a bit gives teams extra weeks to maneuver if things need to get shut down for a while.

Control is the operative word in football. Ball control. Time of possession. There are a lot of things in our current pandemic-riddled world that are out of control, and such a move should the SEC adopt it could change that for its 14 teams.

Orgeron just wants to play. I’m certain he speaks for the vast majority of college coaches, players and certainly fans out there who want the same thing. One team, one heartbeat is still the mantra at LSU, but add “anytime, anywhere” to the mix as well.

“We get asked all the time, 'What about the season?' ” Orgeron said. “Obviously, that's out of my control. I know what's in our control is we're going to prepare. We're preparing that we're going to kick off Sept. 5 (against UT-San Antonio). I'll have our team ready. We're not going to blink, and we're not going to change our mindset. If they move it back, if they change it, who cares? It doesn't matter.

“You call us at midnight, we'll go play in the pasture.”

There are cow pastures just a couple of Ja’Marr Chase “go” routes away from the Tigers’ football complex on the LSU campus. Perhaps Orgeron should have some staffer book a tee time just in case.

The SEC and other Power Five conferences should be commended for their attempts to try to play as normal a season as possible. Just a few weeks ago it seemed like the game was heading down that path, albeit with much-reduced capacity in the stands.

But now, with coronavirus numbers having shot up across the country, just playing something more meaningful that an inter-squad scrimmage seems to be the lowered bar that programs are aiming to clear. And the last few seconds are spinning off the clock before decisions have to be made.

It’s certainly not what anyone wants. Texas’ game in Tiger Stadium, a return visit for last year’s 45-38 LSU win in Austin, now appears to be in jeopardy. The Longhorns haven’t played here since 1953. If not now, when? Big paydays for Nicholls State and UTSA are on the endangered list. And LSU fans in Houston, the school’s largest alumni base outside Louisiana, may have to wait a while longer for the Tigers to return if their game with Rice at NRG Stadium goes off the books.

Of course, most folks will be forced to watch the games on television, anyway. Such is the state of our virus-infected world.

The issues don’t stop with college football, though. Orgeron was asked how the prospect of no high school football season could impact recruiting.

“It’s tough,” he said. “Obviously, I support high school teams playing. We have already evaluated the players off of junior film.

“We have 16 commitments. If they don’t play, a guy who’s a marginal player or (someone) we have to see more of, if he misses his senior season, he’s probably not going to get a scholarship to LSU.”

Just another of the tough pills, virtual or otherwise, being swallowed these days, as the clock on the college football season ticks closer to midnight.


Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com