LSU fires shot for SEC superiority

LSU fires shot for SEC superiority

Published Sep. 3, 2011 1:00 a.m. ET

Les Miles had preached to his somewhat embattled LSU team for weeks about the importance of pushing every single distraction not associated with playing Oregon Saturday at JerryWorld to the perimeter. Suspensions and shoes, arrests and lawyers, talk of Jordan Jefferson and Josh Johns, all were to be backseated in favor of the 60 minutes on the field which the founding fathers always intended to be most interesting.

Add in scandals and street agents, conference realignment rumors and playoff debates, and Miles’ message plays even bigger.

Hey everybody, he seemed to be screaming all of college football, can we focus on the games for a while?

No. 4 LSU practically insisted that we do just that by jumping into this game with No. 3 Oregon, a rare big-on-big this early in the season, and then by putting on an absolute woodshed whopping, 40-27, on the Ducks. And as a result, we were all able to go with them for 60. We were able to enjoy the very best of college football — atmosphere and rivalry, big-time performances from fill-ins and unknowns and big-timers and kids at times acting their age.


“I used to just think about LSU, but I would like to speak on behalf of all of the SEC teams. I just think we run the league, we run the NCAA. Period,” Tigers defensive end Sam Montgomery said when asked about SEC superiority. “Whether it is Auburn, Vanderbilt, South Carolina, I think SEC . . . ”

Wait, what? Vandy?

“I am throwing Vandy in there, too. They are part of the family, too,” he said.

What he did not mention is the family is growing, with Texas A&M’s adoption officially set to go through any day now. And back to reality we go, a reminder that in college football nowadays the game is not even the half of it.

As good as Mr. Montgomery’s team and quotes were, the night in college football was won by somebody else. Three hours South on I-35, with The Longhorn Network broadcasting all relevant happenings to at least 20 homes Austin wide, the band geeks from Rice stole the show by summing up what college football has devolved into nowadays.

$EC, flutes and woodwinds joined together to spell during their halftime performance.

Apparently PAC $IXTEEN took too many trombone players, and E$PN was deemed insensitive to Bristol and everybody knows what happens when Craig James gets angry. And frankly, too many targets existed to try to cram all funnies into allotted visiting band time even for a group famously called The Mob.

Yes, many culprits exist in what now is semi-officially the death of The Big 12, and the seismic change in landscape of college football that surely is coming.

Oklahoma and Texas look poised for "Pac-16" glory almost assuredly, with State and Tech squeezing into overhead bins, thrilled that the first parts of their school names match schools actually desirable to BCS mega conferences. Baylor, Mizzou, Kansas and a couple of others whose names I and every other conference commissioner cannot remember are nearly as lucky. They wait (and pray and beg and politic) for life rafts from the SEC, Big 10 and Big East or ACC (whichever one lops off the head of the other first) as all of them surely will join this race and ramp up. Big 16, SEC 16 and Big ACC 16 or Big East 16, whichever lops off the head of the other and brings it to the BCS first are coming to a TV network near you soon, to renegotiate those TV deals.

Of course, everybody is pretending to be an innocent victim in this. Nobody wants blowing up tradition and history and proud schools on their résumés. Pac-12 commish, or so the button on his blue sports coat says for now, Larry Scott spent a lot of syllables Saturday explaining why he was not the predatory jerkhole he’s likely to be painted as in coming weeks.

“Predatory, I object to the connotation,” he said when we media types gathered around him before Saturday’s game.

He blamed instability of a few unnamed conferences for this sudden wandering eye by Oklahoma and Texas, and he may as well have said, “Hey, do not blame me because Dan Beebe cannot control his woman” — because that is what he meant.

And he’s right in a way. Nobody is looking to leave the SEC because they have a fair and equitable distribution of wealth, and lack a Crimson Tide Network. The death of the Big 12 is on Texas AD DeLoss Dodds for refusing to play nice with his 11 mostly loyal subjects, thanks in part to a lot of help from his wingman Beebe.

Of course, Scott played a part, too. Wasn’t the Big 12 fairly stable, or at least moreso than say The Big East, until Scott whispered to Dodds about going West?

And doesn’t that make him kind of predatory, or at least partially responsible, I asked?

“Last year would be fair. That is fair,” Scott said. “This year is very different.”

Which is a very good defense except momentum from Scott’s Longhorn full-court press helped create the instability which Oklahoma president Boren referenced in his very ominous remarks about Sooner Nation not being a wallflower and feeling better if The Big 12 actually had 12 all-in members instead of 9-ish depending on the day, right?

Scott kind of balked at this, though not strongly.

It is impossible for anybody to lay all of this at Scott’s feet, not with Texas and ESPN forming an unholy partnership with The Longhorn Network, and Nebraska bailing for the Big Ten and Texas A&M finally having enough and deciding not to spend another second as Texas’ supporting cast. Add in a weak Beebe and seeming inevitability of further consolidation and, well, Scott was just one of the smarter ones playing the game. He knew, everybody did really, that super conferences were coming, so instead of sitting there waiting to be poached he played offense.

The irony, of course, is the Big 12 was the better football conference a year ago with Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Nebraska, et al than the Pac-10. They may still be even with the nine remaining. The best team of the 12, Oregon, just got absolutely destroyed on national TV by an LSU QB who himself admitted he had a few ugly days in Baton Rouge.

So how is the Pac in control? What the Big 12 lacked was the leadership, proactive thinking of any of the skills necessary to survive in big-time college football nowadays. Not that anybody has explained, not with anything definitive, how Supersizing makes the sport better.

Richer? Absolutely.

Better? I have my doubts.

Scott’s argument that mega-conferences or consolidation (his word) brings needed stability fails the timeline test. Yes, stability is needed. But the instability was caused by the preemptive moves to consolidation. So solving a problem created by the solution is hardly a ringing endorsement of 16-team conferences lacking in the very things we love about the sport.

I almost guarantee Texas and Oklahoma wake up in a couple of years and wonder what they hell they were thinking leaving the cushy path of Baylor, Kansas State, et al to a National Championship for Oregon, USC and Stanford. Which is to say nothing of A&M, who is stepping into the 12-team death match that is the SEC. Saturday in Texas was just an infomercial for what they are about.

Which the Rice band summed up perfectly . . . $EC.