I had a lot of thoughts about what the conferences should do moving forward, but there were a couple of LSU issues I wanted to cover first, this being the last non-game week.
Mettenberger seems to be dong extremely well. In the final scrimmage, he completed 26 passes on 36 attempts for 336 yards. There was an indeterminate number of TD passes, but I’m not sure how relevant that is anyway. According to the stats given, he didn’t fare nearly as well in the first two scrimmages, with only 15 completions each time.
Kenny Hilliard seems to be at or near the top of the RB depth chart, so I’m excited to see him this year.
There are a couple of linemen who are “a little nicked,” according to Les, but I’m still feeling fairly positive about the offense.
Defense is a little more up in the air. There is only one real returning starter in the secondary, and there has already been an injury. FS Eric Reid is the only returning starter from that unit. The defense as a whole returns 4, although Tharold Simon had a lot of impact in more limited playing time last year. There is a lot of talent, but talent alone doesn’t stop tackles from being broken/evaded and passes from being completed by the other team.
In recruiting news, LSU has two good incoming quarterbacks, Rivals’ #4 pro-style QB and another product of the state of Georgia (as was Mettenberger), Anthony Jennings, whom Rivals ranks as the #12 dual-threat QB. It will be interesting to see how much LSU goes for the dual-threat options in the future. LSU is now ranked #5 in overall recruiting class by Rivals.
Moving from the future to the distant past, I thought this was a nice tribute to a former LSU player turned NFL Hall of Famer: http://bleacherreport.com/tb/d8jlB?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_campaign=lsu-football
Onto the conferences, I know I like to talk about this topic a lot, but the regional rivalries and series histories are important to me.
First off, I’m hoping the ACC and SEC stay at 14. The only way I would support a 16-team conference would be if 7 or maybe 8 games counted toward the conference title. With 9 games, you could have one team with two extreme lightweights from the other division as well as an extra home game, and that team could end up ahead (either by a single game or due to a head-to-head tiebreaker) a team who had an extra road game and played two of the best teams in the other division. I can countenance 8 games because there may be a natural rival in the other division anyway, and it could be used to even out the home/away situation mentioned. One game is less likely to be determinative than two. Such an arrangement might work in the ACC if it continues to poach the Big East but I don’t think it would work well in the SEC.
I did have one specific thought about the SEC. I think it would make more sense if West Virginia were in the SEC and Missouri went back to the Big XII. They’re losing a lot of good Big 8 rivalries, and except for Arkansas, I don’t know if anyone is very excited about Missouri joining, particularly not in their division, the East.
I calculated the travel times for the SEC. The benefits for the Big XII are too blatantly obvious to elaborate upon. I think most people aren’t going to drive in a car for 800 miles, so the 300-mile difference in the trip to Baton Rouge, for instance, might not be that significant, but if there are 5 divisional teams less than 600 miles apart, that’s better than the 2 divisional teams (Kentucky and Vanderbilt) that close to Missouri. If you draw the line at 550, it’s 4-2; at 500, it’s still 3-2. (Georgia is between 550 and 600 from WVU, while Vanderbilt is between 500 and 550 from WVU.)
As referenced, Missouri does provide something good in that it’s closer to Arkansas than any other team and as Arkansas had no logical interdivisional rival before (it had been South Carolina), that was a marriage made in heaven. WVU, however, does not have a logical interdivisional rival. Since the two Alabama teams are seemingly off-limits (can’t break up Alabama-Tennessee or Auburn-Georgia), the one that made the most sense was Mississippi St., whose currently “rival” is Kentucky, which in turn could be paired with Arkansas as two of the more Northern teams. This still would add significant travel times to the interdivisional rivalries for the other teams.
With an 8-game schedule, the average travel time is almost exactly the same, around 740 miles (the interdivisional games make almost a negligible difference since only one would be played per year). If a 9-game schedule were adopted, WVU would involve an average travel distance of 877 miles to Missouri’s average travel distance of 851 miles. This was calculated by only counting the non-annual distances for 1/3 since only two of the 6 leftovers would be played every year. But restricting it to permanent rivalries (including divisional rivalries), WVU is only an average of 590 miles to Missouri’s 632. And strictly looking at divisional rivalries, it’s 525 for WVU to 685 for Missouri. There is a thought out there that maybe with 14 teams, not every team should have the permanent interdivisional rival, although you would at least want to keep a few of them. The two involving Alabama teams especially, but Ole Miss-Vandy is a good tradition too, even though it’s not usually two of the better teams of course. LSU has played Florida for 40 years in a row, but this has only really meant a whole lot for the last 15 years. No one (except Lou Holtz) is going to miss Arkansas-South Carolina, and few would miss Miss. St.-Kentucky.
Boise St. should forget about the Big East and instead join the Big XII. TCU came to its senses and gave up the Big East for the Big XII before playing a down in the Big East. A coast-to-coast, Canada-to-Mexico-to-Cuba (Tampa isn’t Miami but still isn’t far) league is completely ridiculous. Of course BYU would seemingly want to join the Big XII, and this would actually make sense to give Boise a more natural rival. San Diego St. would be another possibility, but let them and the Big East be stupid together, basically the same sentiment I have regarding WVU and the Big XII.
I know that still isn’t as regional as I typically argue for, but Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas make up 8 teams. So it would still mostly be regional except with teams to the Northwest (2), North, and Northeast–enough to be a presence in those other regions without destroying the natural rivalries. And the schools in question don’t have better offers anyway.
I don’t know how Tulsa doesn’t get involved in all the changes being made, but maybe that’s because it’s not a big school (fewer than 3000 undergrads). Plus, it’s going to be a team within some reasonable distance of Louisiana Tech, which has been a misplaced member of the WAC for years. In 2005, several Texas teams bolted for the CUSA when it expanded, but Louisiana Tech (in Northeastern Louisiana) was left out, with its closest opponent all the way in southern New Mexico. Now this will finally be remedied. Tech will have Tulsa to the Northwest, North Texas to the due West (only requiring one interstate highway really), UTSA and Rice to the Southwest, and Tulane and Southern Mississippi to the Southeast. It would have had Memphis to the Northeast, but that’s another seemingly misplaced future Big East member.
The Big East still has the two NYC-area teams, and it still has the two Ohio Valley teams, but it’s not extending into the rust/coal belt in what used to be the west of the conference, and it’s not going North of the NYC area to Boston or Syracuse. Why not build on that and become a regional conference again as it should be, only this time more Southern? There are a few CUSA teams that could rejoin Cincinnati and Louisville. East Carolina and Central Florida might be good, for instance. Maybe Villanova could be convinced to make the leap to FBS. Temple is already moving back to the Big East.
But instead it’s on a ridiculous quest to become some hybrid of the original Sun Belt conference (which went from Moscow, Idaho, to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to Miami) and the 16-team WAC (Hawaii to Wyoming to Fort Worth, Texas). Hopefully, it will be a similarly temporary arrangement. Maybe the Big West can become more of an FBS conference again and they can draw the line of separation at the Mississippi River at least. Or perhaps several members can be the football WAC and perhaps in other conferences in other sports. It does not seem the current WAC will have enough teams for football in 2013.
I wonder if the BCS could have avoided some of this by kicking the Big East sooner and replacing it with the Mountain West. At least the MWC would have stayed together longer.
I’m unclear on why the MAC decided it needed 13 teams and replaced Temple with UMass. I fail to see how 13 is convenient, fair, or logical. Perhaps Youngstown St. can become an FBS team and they can make it an even 14. That’s another thing I wonder. We have 4 new FBS teams this season; will the new and upcoming conference shifts result in increased pressure from FBS conferences to tempt the FCS members?