If you’re a calm, orderly person, you might want Florida and LSU to solve their tangled riddle and play their unplayed game from last Saturday. If you’re a thrill-seeker who likes your life churning around a blender with fine doses of chaos, you might hope the quo keeps its status and the impasse stays impassable.
You might hope the heads stay hard, and the game stays unplayed, and the Southeastern Conference standings stay unbalanced, and the howling stays unbridled.
Wouldn’t that be something?
Fiendishly, you might even root for the doomsday scenario, for Florida and LSU to keep winning, for Florida (4-1, 2-1 SEC) to raise its total-offense ranking above No. 73, for LSU (3-2, 2-1) to raise its passing-offense ranking above No. 112, where it sits tucked between Rice and Boston College.
Do defy the odds.
Imagine how the fall could “evolve” if Florida could get past Missouri at home, Georgia at neutral, Arkansas at Arkansas and South Carolina at home, to stand 6-1 in an SEC that plays eight conference games, while LSU could get past Ole Miss at home, Alabama at home, Arkansas at Arkansas and Texas A&M at Texas A&M, to stand 6-1 in that same loud league.
Imagine a Tennessee at 6-2, with a win over SEC East brother Florida (6-1), or an Alabama at 7-1, with a loss to SEC West brother LSU (6-1). Imagine all the class envy, the bad vibes, the comments sections, the conspiracy theories and the woe-ridden radio — still, even in the 21st century, the woe-ridden radio.
Already the case has borne many of those delicious fruits, plus another peek at the humorous seriousness of football and its money, money and money. It has led LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva to state, rationally, that maybe the league ought to change the rules on the fly for SEC championship game qualification, and go by division records only instead of its current tiebreaker, overall conference winning percentage.
To start it all, Florida spotted a map of Category 4 Hurricane Matthew last week, couldn’t know for sure where it might go next and postponed the game last Thursday. Then critics assailed Athletic Director Jeremy Foley when deadly Matthew didn’t attack Gainesville, with some of the same critics maybe the same ones who would have assailed Foley had he wound up staging the game on Saturday or Sunday amid danger or lingering hardship.
Then, solutions that have sufficed in the past — South Carolina playing a home game at LSU in 2015 after flooding, South Carolina playing this past Sunday against Georgia — didn’t suffice for Florida for various reasons. That gave the impression that Florida deems itself to have more at stake than South Carolina, a lingering curiosity in a decade in which South Carolina stands 54-30 and Florida 51-31.
Soon enough, Florida Coach Jim McElwain was responding to the bubbling theories of conspiracy about game-dodging.
He shook his head in wonder at least twice and praised utility workers once.
“Nineteen deaths. Two-point-five million devastated without power. Families in dire needs,” he said, referring to other parts of Florida. “Obviously they don’t know me. They don’t know the Florida Gators. They don’t know our players. Dodging a game? Wow. Obviously those people, man, I obviously, growing up in Montana, have never been through a hurricane. Okay? But I think a lot of people around here have, and have seen the devastation. And, you know, certainly how anybody could even think that way is beyond me.”
For now, everyone fumbles for a solution, with a great one unavailable, a good one unavailable and a so-so one also unavailable. “I just get back to what I said,” LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva said Monday in his 4 minutes 3 seconds of remarks and answers in Baton Rouge. “I think it’s going to be very difficult to reschedule this game.”
A small buffet of suggestions has materialized.
There’s the Oct. 29 suggestion, in which Florida and LSU play on Oct. 29 because Florida switches to play Georgia on Oct. 22, its open date. That would entail complex reshuffling at the Jacksonville site of the Florida-Georgia game, but also a larger thorn. When Alleva announced that LSU does not want to play Alabama on Nov. 5 with Oct. 29 as an open date for Alabama but not LSU, he applied a standard widely believed to appear in the Bible, which is that one should not play Alabama after Alabama’s open week without an open week oneself.
There’s the Dec. 3 suggestion, in which Florida and LSU play then and the SEC would move its championship game in Atlanta back to Dec. 10. That one would disrupt merely the entire country, not least the boardroom near the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, where the College Football Playoff selection committee fixes to issue its final rankings on Sunday morning, Dec. 4.
Seemingly the most-favored suggestion is the Nov. 19 suggestion, for which Florida gets out of its home game with Presbyterian, LSU gets out of its home game with South Alabama, and LSU goes to Florida seven days after going to Arkansas and five days before going to Texas A&M (or seven, if it changed).
“One thing that we’re going to hold very firm on is, that we have a home game November 19th, and we’re going to have a home game on November 19th,” Alleva said, then paused, then said, “We are going to have a home game on November 19th,” occasionally putting space between words for emphasis.
Schedules, after all, are crafted so delicately.
Continuing: “We are not going to change that situation. Other than that, I really don’t have much to report to you other than to tell you it’s a tough situation.”
That all left Alleva so little leeway that if something changes courtesy of the league office or whatnot, you might even feel sorry for him. Otherwise, the season moves on with a little ball-and-chain attached to its southeast. If we wind up listening to the abundant voices that might bark, we might think of it as an experiment in what American football does to people.
In a seemingly unrelated story, Arkansas assistant professor Lawton Lanier Nalley apologized on Monday. Having witnessed Arkansas’ 49-24 home loss to Alabama, Nalley, who teaches in the Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness department, had hollered some rank expletives at Arkansas Coach Bret Bielema, and had wound up arrested in the stadium for public intoxication and disorderly conduct.
It’s a case of bizarre piled upon bizarre, beginning with the idea that anybody could get that mad after losing to Alabama. What’s more, Nalley, with his degrees from Ohio State, Mississippi State and Kansas State, also has done important research at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico City, and in Ghana, “surveying women’s cooperatives in regard to micro financing loans,” according to his bio.
All that perspective, and still, football got him. Imagine imbalanced SEC standings in early December, then imagine voices that have never been to Mexico City, don’t even know there’s a Ghana, and never gave a moment’s thought to the essentialness of seeds.