Friday, June 05, 2009
Well here's a great idea that will happen when pigs fly to the moon in a balsa-wood rocketship
Does anybody not want more of this? Anybody? Come on, Gators, even you have to admit this is better than bludgeoning both Charleston Southern and Florida International.
As much fun (and as lucrative) as the SEC's divisional split has been--remember, Auburn-LSU and Florida-Tennessee don't exist as the rivalries they are without it--there's still a sharp pain in the Auburn-related regions of the brain whenever Florida rotates off the schedule again. Auburn and Florida aren't just "supposed" to play every year--every fiber of my Auburn football being tells me they do play every year, and missing the Gators on the schedule is like moving a large piece of furniture out of your living room. It's the same room, it maybe even still looks great, but you can't help but feel the whole time like there's something that's there that isn't there. I suspect strongly I'm not the only Auburn fan who feels this way.
Primarily for this reason--and because the more conference games a conference requires, the truer a champion it crowns--I've been wishing for a while that rather than the Pac-10 following the rest of the country's lead, the SEC should follow theirs and play a ninth conference game. So we get only seven home games every other year--who cares? As long as we're playing a real team a la West Virginia outside of the league, that's the case already.
Doesn't matter: the SEC isn't going to go for that. But here's a question for you: could Auburn take matters into its own hands? It's come to light recently that Michigan has been trying to line up a Big 10 team as a nonconference opponent for 2010--and as (the rather excellent) MVictors has reported, that team would have been Minnesota if the Gophers hadn't already lined up Southern Cal. While Michigan-Minnesota hasn't been quite as balanced a rivalry as Auburn-Florida (and gets played more often, thanks to the Big 10's scheduling rotations), it's similar in that it's a formerly annual series rich with tradition and history that's fallen prey to modern scheduling conveniences.
So: if Michigan can take a stab at renewing an annual rivalry as a nonconference "bonus," is there anything stopping Auburn from doing the same with Florida? Sure, it's been fun playing the Eers, and it'll be fun in the future playing Clemson and Georgia Tech, but I'd give all of that up in a heartbeat if it meant we could have the Florida game back on the schedule on an annual basis. Voluntarily putting a powerhouse like the Gators back on the slate means Auburn is well-nigh bulletproof from scheduling complaints, too--pair Florida with a good mid-major/low-end BCS squad, tack on two pieces of cannon fodder, and who's going to speak against us? I recently pined for the good old days of the annual nonconference rivalry, but how much better would that "nonconference" rival be if it turned out to be Florida? It wouldn't even mean permanently giving up on playing strong nonconference opposition, since the years the Gators are on the SEC slate would give Auburn the opportunity to go after the Yellow Jackets or suchlike.
There are, of course, a gazillion unclearable hurdles to clear to put a plan like this into action. For starters, just because the Big 10 might be open to games between members that wouldn't count in the league standings--as I would theorize this one wouldn't--doesn't guarantee the SEC would be. There would likely be a subset of Auburn fans--and maybe the Auburn administration as well--that would balk at going years without playing intriguing games against nonleague competition (since even I think playing both Florida and the likes of West Virginia outside of league play is probably asking too much). And then there's the biggest monkey wrench in the plan--namely, getting the Gators to agree to play both Florida St. and Auburn on an annual basis. Not only does that make for a hellaciously rigorous nonconference slate--one I just got finished saying I don't blame Auburn for skipping out on--but having only two non-predetermined opponents three out of every five years* doesn't leave much room for flexibility.
It might be better to ask Florida for one home-and-home (and one year off) in that three year span--meaning (if I've got my math right) that for every five-year cycle, the Gators would play two home-and-homes against Auburn (one nonconference, one in SEC play). Match that with two home-and-homes for Florida against Florida St. (with one year off to coincide with one of the years Auburn would be a nonleague opponent), though, and the Gators would only have to play both Auburn and the 'Noles once ever five years. Would that be doable?
It doesn't matter if it's doable, really, because I know good and well it's not happening. But if I'm right, and the SEC says it's kosher, would Auburn have any reason not to ask? There wouldn't be anything at risk, and the reward could be ...
Well, we'd have the Florida rivalry back. Surely that's all the reward we'd need.