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LSU defensive end Davon Godchaux (57) goes toe to toe with Missouri offensive lineman Tre'Vour Simms (75) on Saturday, October 1, 2016 in Tiger Stadium.

Apparently it is a monumental, earth-moving, split-the-atom kind of effort to finally get the LSU football Tigers to play on the road against the Missouri football Tigers.

How monumental? It took a pandemic and a major hurricane to close the gap between this, the last frontier of Southeastern Conference road venues for LSU and the SEC’s convoluted football scheduling format.

Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. LSU was not scheduled to go play there until 2023 (we assume that is still a game the Tigers will be playing). They have only met once in football since Mizzou joined the league and that was back in 2016, Ed Orgeron’s first game as LSU’s then-interim coach.

But let us set aside for the moment the ridiculousness of separation between LSU and Missouri, and the fact these two schools should be playing every year as SEC West rivals because only two schools, Arkansas and Texas A&M, lie geographically farther west that Mizzou’s campus. Let us bring the focus onto this game and why it was the best decision, or the least bad one under the circumstances, to make this move.

First of all is Hurricane Delta, bearing down on Louisiana like a runaway locomotive, with the potential to make a game in Tiger Stadium as scheduled either unwise or completely unplayable. Let us all hope for the best wherever we call home in our storm-tossed state, but there is a strong likelihood that this game could not have been played as scheduled.

And it is more important than ever in this pandemic scarred season to stay on schedule. Yes, the SEC does deserve plaudits for building some contingency weekends into the schedule when it switched everyone to a 10-game, conference-only format. Every school has an open date, and there is a gap between the last regular season weekend on Dec. 5 and the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19. But those open weekends are best served for rescheduling games that have to be moved because of COVID-19 outbreaks, a possibility that looks even more menacing given the rash of game-altering outbreaks in the NFL.

Other than that, this game means a great deal to the arc of this LSU team’s development. No, Vanderbilt isn’t what anyone would mistake for an impregnable fortress – more like a castle-shaped bounce house. But the Tigers bounced back from that ugly 44-34 opening loss to Mississippi State to sink the Commodores with relative ease, 41-7. Now LSU wants and really needs another contest to refine its game even further before a showdown next Saturday at Florida that may well decide whether the Tigers can continue to call themselves championship contenders this season or not.

So, to get that, LSU had to give up a home game. It is no small concession, even for what looks like greater overall gain. Assuming all three games get played — assumptions are one of the things made at great peril in 2020 — LSU’s string of games at Vandy, Mizzou and Florida will mark the first time since 1988 (at Tennessee, Ohio State and Florida) that the Tigers will have played three straight regular-season road games. And the first two of those weren’t even on the schedule when it was originally drawn up back in the pre-pandemic world. But while there is always the risk of something going kerflooey (see defense, LSU, versus Mississippi State) this is the best course of action for LSU under much less than ideal circumstances.

And, not to go unnoticed, the game is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday and not 8 p.m. as was originally planned. Orgeron was clearly delighted about this change on Wednesday’s SEC coaches teleconference, saying it would have taken his team two days to recover had it returned from Columbia, Missouri, in the wee hours Sunday morning. Now the Tigers can fly home in time for dinner — maybe they will bring home some famous Shakespeare pizzas from “CoMo” — and be on a better track to prepare for Florida.

It is not good that LSU is looking at a 4-6 home-to-road deficit while most everyone else in the SEC (for now) is playing at even par, 5-5. But just playing is the thing in 2020. As Billy Joel sang, just surviving is the noble fight. Even if it means you have to take flight to do it.

Now, if this strange season can just nudge us a little farther away from the SEC's current scheduling format and division alignment, even better still.


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Email Scott Rabalais at srabalais@theadvocate.com