Friday, May 27, 2011
Top 10 'should-be' rivalries that aren't
By Edward Aschoff
ESPN senior writer Bruce Feldman has gone and made me wish I was in charge of national football scheduling.
He recently ranked his "Top 10 'should be' rivalries that aren't" and the SEC is all over the place. In fact, half of the rivalries involve SEC teams, including his top three.
I understand big-time programs don't really like these kinds of matchups because one loss could derail national title hopes, but for my own selfish reasons I want these games every year. As a fan of the game I'd love to see an early-season Goliath vs. Goliath in place of the traditional cupcake snoozer. If only there was a way for games like this to exist during the regular season without the postseason being completely wrecked by one loss ...
Here's what Feldman had to say:
1. Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Boise State Broncos
Attached to the Broncos' storybook rise to the sport's elite has been a feeling that they've also become one of the most polarizing topics in college football. No fan base seems more offended by Boise State hype than the SEC crowd, which feels as if most of the Broncos' success has come against suspect competition. What better way to prove that they belong than by taking on the SEC's resident super heavyweight, Alabama? Watching the Crimson Tide on Boise's blue "Smurf Turf" would be a fantastic spectacle.
My thoughts: The Broncos aren't scared of anyone, but a trip to Tuscaloosa might make that walk off the bus just a little slower. Just imagine the shock the state of Alabama would be in if the Broncos took down one of the SEC's finest. This one needs to happen soon.
2. USC Trojans vs. Tennessee Volunteers
The intensity between these two programs has cranked up dramatically since Lane Kiffin bolted Knoxville to return to USC. To say Kiffin had a messy exit from Tennessee would be a understatement on the level of saying that he only stepped on a few toes in the SEC while coaching the Vols.
My thoughts: When USC visits Tennessee, Kiffin might have to arrive in disguise. Seriously, imagine the getups he'll have to wear just so he can make it inside the locker room with his team. Funny hats? Reconstructive surgery? With the SEC bridges Kiffin nuked during his time in Knoxville, the entire SEC will become Vols fans for at least three hours every year.
In winter 2010, he left Knoxville for USC and took half of his staff -- and a few of his top UT recruits -- with him. As it turns out, he walked into a situation in which he had to inherit massive NCAA sanctions. After that, Trojans defensive lineman Malik Jackson left the program and signed on with the Vols. Kiffin's successor in Knoxville, Derek Dooley, also faxed over a list containing every junior and senior on the Trojans' roster, seeking more wanna-be transfers from USC.
Complicating things even further, a cloud has hung over Kiffin and UT in the form of an ongoing NCAA investigation. The Vols waited until after Dooley's signing day press conference was completed to leak the allegations. It remains to be seen who gets hit harder by the NCAA: Tennessee or Kiffin.
3. Texas Longhorns vs. Florida Gators
These two almost met in the 2009 BCS Championship Game, but Oklahoma got the title shot, not the Longhorns. UT and UF had disastrous 2010 seasons and now each is going through staff transitions. The spicy part here is that new Gators head man Will Muschamp had been tabbed coach-in-waiting behind Mack Brown in Austin but decided not to stick around and instead took the Florida job.
My thoughts: We'll find out which state is truly the football king when these two meet -- Texas or Florida. Plus, there's got to be a little bit of bitterness brewing in Austin with Muschamp spurning the Longhorns to take over at Florida. And I'm sure Muschamp would love to walk out of Darrell Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a win and a smirk on his face.
6. LSU Tigers vs. Michigan Wolverines
After years of rumors that LSU coach Les Miles, a former Wolverines lineman and Bo Schembechler disciple, would return to Ann Arbor to rescue his alma mater, we now know that he's not leaving Tiger Stadium for the Maize and Blue. Of course, it would be fun if he and his program visited Michigan every other year. Any time one of Jim Delany's prized programs takes on one of Mike Slive's, you're going to end up with a lot of compelling drama.
My thoughts: So, if Miles wins at Michigan, will he be asked to stay for an interview afterward? Obviously, Michigan will offer him the job (again) when he steps off the team bus. Maybe it would take a return to The Big House for Miles to reconsider. Or maybe it would just be fun to silence that place.
7. Florida State Seminoles vs. Georgia Bulldogs
One of Bobby Bowden's favorite protégés, Mark Richt, left Tallahassee for Athens, and the Noles haven't been quite the same since. Then again, after a very strong first eight years at Georgia, Richt is getting close to hot-seat status, while the Noles' second-year boss, Jimbo Fisher, appears to have FSU on the upswing. Both of these programs face off about a dozen times a year for blue-chip recruits. They should carry it over to the field, too.
My thoughts: Finally, a team from the state of Florida would make the trip to the state of Georgia to play the Bulldogs. This one has the potential of getting heated pretty fast with the recruiting implications. Richt would have to feel a little funny returning to his old stomping grounds on the wrong sideline.