College football mailbag: LSU, Florida, SEC all look bad in rescheduling debacle
The mudslinging between athletic directors were tactics never seen in the SEC
Incredibly, we're already reaching the halfway point of the regular season. October is when "upsets" start happening that we didn't see coming as the grind of conference schedules chew some teams up.
Who should be on alert this week? Be careful, Alabama. If Tennessee keeps turning the ball over at ridiculous rates, there's no way the Vols win. But they've got the dual-threat quarterback to give Alabama problems, and it would fittingly symbolize the Vols' Zombie 2016 season to come off a back-from-the-dead loss to knock off No. 1. Also on alert this week: No. 2 Ohio State (at Wisconsin) and No. 10 Nebraska (at Indiana).
Now let's see what's on your mind.
Why wouldn't LSU AD Joe Alleva be a better partner and avoid "drawing a line in the sand" about when and where to play Florida? -- Kevin S.
Wait, so Florida AD Jeremy Foley said Florida wouldn't draw a line in the stand? If the saying didn't already exist, he would define "draw a line in the stand" because that's exactly what he did by not playing last Sunday or Monday! -- Chris L.
The SEC looked like the Big 12 while trying to make up a football game due to Hurricane Matthew. No one looks good in this -- not Florida, not LSU and not SEC commissioner Greg Sankey. If you want all of the twists and turns about how Florida and LSU handled this, read Clay Travis' fine explanation in Outkick The Coverage.
Let's not forget that a catastrophic hurricane looked like it was headed for Gainesville. So that has to be remembered as the blame game continues. It's telling Sankey thanked everyone but LSU when the resolution was reached to play Nov. 19 in Baton Rouge. Everyone knew the game had to be played. Sankey knew it and wanted that result. Ultimately, he got LSU and Florida there by playing a hand none of us in the media apparently knew was playable: SEC teams aren't eligible for a division title if they don't play eight conference games. Good for Sankey to find leverage and reach a resolution for the game to be played.
But what transpired before that result was remarkably embarrassing for Florida, LSU and the SEC. There are huge egos at SEC schools. Unlike the Big 12, though, the SEC usually manages to keep these egos in check quietly and the bitterness in-house. Sankey is only in his second year as commissioner so it stands to reason that schools will test his leadership.
I doubt the LSU-Florida debacle would have played out so publicly under Mike Slive. Slive could pick up the phone to solve problems before one AD drew a line in the sand and the other AD claimed his school never had a true partner in discussions. Slive looked like a grandfather in public but acted with an iron fist privately when needed. Under Slive, the SEC would have provided a clearer path for resolution at a much earlier date.
SEC members will and should give Sankey more authority in the future to reschedule games himself if the schools can't agree to terms. Consider this episode a valuable lesson learned on how to settle bickering and public posturing in the SEC, where "It Just Means More."
I'm a South Alabama fan and I'm really disappointed we won't be playing at LSU. Who do we play for a 12th game now? -- Tommy K.
I feel for South Alabama, LSU's canceled opponent, and Presbyterian, which was supposed to play Florida. Both schools will still get nice checks, of course, but their players and fans won't experience those games.
No 12th game for South Alabama could be significant. The Jaguars are 3-2 and a possible bowl team. To be bowl eligible, teams need six wins. While South Alabama would have been an underdog at LSU, the Jaguars do have wins this year over Mississippi State and San Diego State.
South Alabama already has one win against an FCS opponent. Teams can only count one FCS win toward the bowl eligibility requirement, though the NCAA sometimes grants waivers for extenuating circumstances.
For those wondering why South Alabama and Presbyterian don't play on Nov. 19, "there's no real value in playing an FCS team unless (South Alabama) could get a waiver," Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson said. "I'd rather look at it as South Alabama has proven to be a solid program. I think they will more than likely become bowl-eligible regardless."
Every year there's a team ranked low right now after a loss that makes the College Football Playoff. Ohio State did it in 2014. Oklahoma did it in 2015. Who's that under-the-radar team now to watch? --Doug G.
I like this question. Of course, if I knew the answer, I might be a rich man. As I wrote this week, in the first two years of the College Football Playoff, seven of the eight teams ranked in the top four of the AP Top 25 poll at this stage didn't make the playoff. So some chaos is likely coming.
I believe there are three common ingredients explaining why Ohio State and Oklahoma bounced back to make the playoff: They significantly improved; they possessed historical track records the committee can subconsciously trust (the CFP will never say this, of course); and they had opportunities to win big games late. Here are contenders in 2016, though not every one of them meets all three ingredients:
Tennessee (No. 9 AP/No. 11 coaches). If the Vols beat Alabama -- and yes, that's a big if -- they're squarely in the playoff picture. The rest of the schedule looks smooth until one more chance to have a significant victory at the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 3. It might even be a rematch against Texas A&M, which beat the Vols last week in double overtime.
Virginia Tech (No. 17 AP/No. 19 coaches). The opportunity is still there for the Hokies, who only have a loss to No. 9/11 Tennessee out of conference. Whether they're good enough is a fair question. But if the Hokies go undefeated in the ACC and beat highly-ranked Clemson for the ACC championship, they would be seriously considered for the playoff.
LSU (NR AP/No. 25 coaches). What if Ed Orgeron somehow is the missing ingredient for the talented Tigers to go on a run? Their losses to Wisconsin and Auburn couldn't be forgotten. But if Auburn loses one more SEC game, which likely will happen, LSU would still control its SEC championship destiny and plays five games against currently ranked teams (Ole Miss, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M). The last time LSU won the national title, it was a two-loss team in 2007. Just saying.
Oklahoma (No. 19 AP/No. 20 coaches). Given how poorly the Big 12 has performed out of conference, I don't see a Big 12 team making the playoff this year. But I'll throw the Sooners into this conversation because they're talented, they pulled it off a year ago and their two losses are to quality teams (Houston and Ohio State). Oklahoma needs lots of help nationally and would benefit if Baylor and West Virginia are still winning by the time they face the Sooners on Nov. 12 and 19.
What aspects of social media are a positive and/or negative influence on college football as well as on your job? -- Andy S.
Social media is fun -- when used responsibly and understanding what it is and isn't. The reality is more people use social media today so it's important to go where people congregate. (Shameless plug: You can find me on Twitter and on Facebook. Look for Facebook Live video chats with me on most Saturdays to ask questions and recap some of the games.)
I like following Twitter on game days to interact and keep up with developments. Imagine a world without smart phones or social media to tell us to quickly turn over to another game. Social media has also given players and schools a new platform they never had before. They don't always need the traditional mainstream media to tell their story so that presents challenges for both sides.
The worst part of Twitter is the ugliness and lack of context. Only so many debates can be settled over 140 characters, and news can be misinterpreted by a handful of words in a tweet. Many fans are civil. If they're not, there's a glorious invention called the mute button.
Got a question for Jon Solomon's College Football Mailbag? Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @JonSolomonCBS.
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