Recently, Arkansas Razorbacks ringmaster and head football coach Bret Bielema re-mentioned an interest in one of his pet projects, which is to create an SEC/Big 10 football series. That would be cool, because it would create some non-conference rivalries and fan interest that an Alabama Crimson Tide vs Chattanooga Mocs game cannot.
It begs the question, Why aren't conferences already doing this? We did with with hoops. This seems like a magic football formula that makes big piles of hot, steamy money. Sure, such a series could expose the SEC as maybe not the most dominant football conference in the universe. That outcome would leave the nation confused and jaded in its belief in the media. Still, we should all be brave and just give Double B what he wants.
Except, we already do.
You see, Brett, your SEC is already engaged in a football series. It has been for years and years: The Sun Belt/SEC Sweet Tea and Deer Jerky Southern Football Classic. Sadly, I had to invent that name because the series has no name. Why? Because we are fools.
In 2016, a deserving nation will be treated to eight fantastic SBC/SEC showdowns. The only Sun Belt programs abstaining this year are Georgia State Panthers, Troy Trojans and Idaho Vandals. Everyone else is down with throwing hands against the SEC. Is anybody marketing these games as the joygasmic bundle it is?
Nope. We're fools.
Guys, the SEC has dusted up with the Sun Belt for ages. Arkansas State Red Wolves have played an SEC opponent 10 of the last 14 seasons. So has the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns. Troy, who's taking an SEC breather this year, has entertained an SEC foe 11 times in 14 seasons.
The rub of The SEC/SBC series, of course, is that the Sun Belt doesn't often win against the SEC. There was that five-year stretch (2001, '02, and '05) when Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders owned Vanderbilt. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers beat Kentucky in 2012. And ULM Warhawks upset Alabama in 2007 and Arkansas in 2012. That's about it. And two of those programs are now enjoying a new television contract with CUSA.
In total, the Sun Belt is an inglorious 7-126 against the SEC, including a perfect 0-9 in 2015. Instead of dwelling on the past, let's just say there's room for improvement and leave it at that.
Still, we've exchanged too many bruises and too many gallons to blood not to call this arrangement a "Series." And the skills gap is narrowing. Last year, Georgia Southern Eagles and Arkansas State nearly upended Georgia Bulldogs and Missouri Tigers respectively. (To say both SEC teams narrowly escaped with victories is an understatement). This year, the Sun Belt's three strongest programs play Auburn Tigers (Arkansas State), Ole Miss Rebels (Georgia Southern) and Tennessee Volunteers (Appalachian St. Mountaineers).
Those are good games, y'all. Those are damn good games. And that's a football series that deserves to be called a Series.