Opinion: SEC scheduling gods nice to LSU with the spacing of hard games around pillows
BATON ROUGE - The Golden Age of LSU Football continues - so far.
On Aug 7, the Tigers received the lightest schedule additions in the Southeastern Conference with Vanderbilt and Missouri being added from the East Division by the league for the new 10-game, conference-only opponents.
And on Monday night, LSU received the best spaced schedule in the league with soft pillows placed lovingly next to the hard parts.
First of all, the Tigers - on paper like the rest of the league - do not have the luxury of non-conference warm-ups. But look closer, and No. 5 LSU's scheduled first three weeks does amount to a preseason and will serve the same purpose.
LSU 2020 Preseason Schedule:
- Mississippi State at home on Sept. 26
- at Vanderbilt on Oct. 3
- Missouri at home on Oct. 10
The combined overall records of those three teams last year was 15-22 with a 7-17 mark in the SEC for a .291 winning percentage.
Looks like a traveling rent-a-win surrounded by a pair of home barbecues, meaning LSU will have to work a little early to get the fire going.
LSU does need to be wary of former Washington State coach Mike Leach, who will be making his debut as Mississippi State's head coach and visiting Tiger Stadium for the first time since Oct. 17, 1998.
The "Air Raid" offense of Leach and head coach Hal Mumme barbecued LSU's defense that night, 39-36, on ESPN2, putting up 573 yards on defensive coordinator Lou Tepper with quarterback Tim Couch hitting 37 of 50 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns.
With the score tied 36-36, Leach, or Mumme, or both, called a reverse on third-and-12 at Kentucky's 24-yard line when No. 21 LSU was likely expecting the Wildcats to play for overtime. The 38-yard gain set up a 33-yard, game-winning field goal as time expired. It was Kentucky's first road win over a ranked team since 1977. LSU was not ranked again until late 2000. Kentucky's previous road win over a ranked foe was at No. 16 LSU, 33-13, in 1977. Leach, though, has little to work with at State at the moment.
Vanderbilt, meanwhile, is coming off a 3-9 and 1-7 season in 2019 that included a 66-38, home loss to LSU. Missouri was 6-6 and 3-5 last season and also has a new coach in Eli Drinkwitz, who left his first head coaching job at Appalachian State after one season.
The Hard Part
- at No. 8 Florida on Oct. 17
- South Carolina at home on Oct. 24
- at No. 11 Auburn on Oct. 31
With a good sweat likely worked up, LSU will play at No. 8 Florida on Oct. 17 in its first true test of the season. Afterwards, the Tigers come right back home and host South Carolina, which was 4-8 and 3-5 last season and is 11-14 and 7-9 the last two seasons.
Another well-spaced difficult game will be at No. 11 Auburn on Oct. 31 with the open date following. That's two games against ranked teams in three weeks, but it will be with breaks before and after each. Nice planning. Thanks SEC. And sorry again about all that conspiracy talk in the past.
- Open Date on Nov. 7
- No. 3 Alabama at home on Nov. 14
- at Arkansas on Nov. 21
- at No. 13 Texas A&M on Nov. 28
After the open date and plenty more time than usual for players and coaches to recover from any COVID-19 issues - at least in the short term maybe - LSU hosts No. 3 Alabama for a Nov. 14 clash likely at night on national television. The Tigers can go to 2-0 vs. Bama for the first time since the 2011 regular season.
And another open week for all intent and purposes follows for the Tigers, who will spend Nov. 21 at Arkansas, which is not beautiful that time of year. But, boy, that Arkansas game film sure is for opposing teams. The Tigers will soothe any sores - win or lose - left from Bama with another vacation rental win to put in the scrapbook.
LSU faces its only back-to-back road trip at No. 13 Texas A&M, which frankly is getting some preseason love for no apparent reason.
- Ole Miss at home on Dec. 5
- Open Date on Dec. 12
- SEC Championship Game on Dec. 19 in Atlanta
The Tigers will end the regular season at home on Dec. 5 versus Ole Miss, which was 4-8 and 2-6 last year for a fourth straight SEC losing season and second straight overall.
The rescheduled game, which was originally set for Sept. 26, now falls on the 50th anniversary of No. 8 LSU's 61-17 win over No. 16 Ole Miss and Archie Manning in Tiger Stadium on ABC at night that clinched Coach Charles McClendon only SEC title at LSU.
Maybe LSU can invite Archie and grandson Arch - the 6-foot-3 sophomore quarterback at Newman High who is Cooper Manning's son and a LSU and national recruiting target for the Class of 2023.
LSU may promise Archie it won't show highlights of the 1970 game on the video board.
The Tigers could also clinch a SEC West title on this night as the scheduling gods have not been as kind to Alabama. Two weeks after playing at LSU, the Tide will host Auburn on Nov. 28. Alabama also has Texas A&M and defending SEC East champion Georgia over three Saturdays in October. LSU does not play Georgia.
Well, that was fun, and this season could be as well. But now, the question remains amid COVID-19, how much of this season will we actually see?