Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college football (Liberty afghan certain to be covering the legs of bedridden Hugh Freeze this week sold separately):
LSU-Texas and more flag-planting games we need to see
One of the two sexiest non-conference games of 2019 will be contested Saturday when LSU (21) visits Texas (22), an SEC-Big 12 clash that matches programs long on tradition but striving to break into the Playoff Club.
The winner will have a major addition to its résumé in that quest. The loser can congratulate itself on having the gusto to schedule the game, while knowing that the defeat might not be fatal to playoff aspirations.
In other words, it’s pretty close to a win-win-win scenario. Both teams benefit, and so do fans of the sport. And it’s even being played on campus.
This is the kind of matchup that offers memorable moments not easily replicated in the sterility of a neutral-site NFL stadium— think Baker Mayfield (23) planting the flag in Ohio Stadium in 2017. Think Texas catapulting itself toward the BCS Championship Game with a win at Ohio State in 2005, and the Buckeyes doing the same with a win in Austin the next season.
We’ll be seeing more of these games in the future, thankfully.
Schools finally are getting wise to the idea of playing at least 10 Power Five opponents. That means both SEC and ACC teams — which play eight-game league schedules — bumping up their usual diet from one notable non-conference game to two. Some good intersectional matchups are in the works (Alabama-Texas, Alabama-Notre Dame and Alabama-Oklahoma; Clemson-Georgia, Clemson-Oklahoma; and so on).
The Dash can easily think of a few more that would be fun to see:
Florida-Washington (24). The Gators have famously not traveled farther west than Texas since 1983, when they visited USC. Prior to that, their last trip to the West Coast was to play UCLA in 1931. So, how about a trip to Seattle, which would be as far as Florida can go and still play a Power Five opponent? Florida fans should pack full-length jeans instead of just jorts for that trip, because it can get chilly at night on the shore of Lake Washington.
Alabama-Michigan (25). Two of the five winningest programs in college football history have met four times, but never on each other’s campuses. This is a crime. Let it happen, and let the Wolverines go ahead and schedule the game in Ann Arbor for late November, when the weather is cold and the Crimson Tide is usually playing Western Carolina or its equivalent. And then let the return game in Tuscaloosa be Labor Day weekend, to test the Wolverines’ tolerance for Southern humidity.
Penn State-Oklahoma (26). Another pair of all-time heavyweights who have never met in the regular season, and never met on-campus. They haven’t played at all since New Year’s night 1986, when freshman Jamelle Holieway led Oklahoma to the national championship by defeating the Nittany Lions in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson-California (27). If Dabo Swinney was amazed and amused by the sight of a tumbleweed last winter in Santa Clara, what will he think when he travels further up San Francisco Bay to the cultural antithesis of Clemson, which is Berkeley? The Tigers haven’t played a regular-season game in California since 1966.
Notre Dame-Boise State (28). Just for the sight of the most storied program in college football history running onto the blue turf, one time.
The downside of more Power Five matchups
This is basic math: The more the big boys play each other, the fewer opportunities those outside the Power Five get to prove themselves.
“I don’t like to see it,” said American Athletic Conference commissioner Mike Aresco (29) last week from the UCLA-Cincinnati game — exactly the kind of opportunity that could become more rare for members of his league as the Power Five consolidate their schedules.
Aresco said his league members have “about 160” games scheduled against Power Five opponents over the next decade, with the goal for each AAC team to play two such games per season. But those opportunities could be harder to come by, especially for the top-tier AAC programs.
The AAC is a quality league that hung two Power Five skins on the wall last week: UCLA’s and Mississippi’s, which lost at Memphis. This week, the league gets its biggest opportunity of the season when Cincinnati visits Ohio State (30) — a tall order for the Bearcats, but exactly the kind of game AAC teams want to schedule.
But if the big boys go to 10 or even 11 Power Five games per season, the one or two others they schedule will not be against the Cincinnatis of the sport. They will be against teams from the Mid-American Conference or the Sun Belt or Conference USA — and, generally speaking, the lower-level teams from those leagues will be the most desired opponents.
If something has to go in terms of Power Five scheduling, it will be losable Group of Five games. Which would further curtail playoff dreams for the likes of Cincinnati, Central Florida and Memphis.
“We’re not afraid of the games,” Aresco said. “It’s the only way you build.”
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