Minor typo aside, a Mississippi State graphic artist’s spelling of Tucson is not the newsworthy nugget of today’s announcement that yet another Pac-12 vs SEC game has been brokered.
In 2022, Mississippi State will visit Arizona. The Wildcats return the favor in 2023. Certainly Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne’s time in the same role at Mississippi State played an integral part in making this series happen.
The Pac-12 and SEC were clearly the best conferences from top-to-bottom in 2013, but an unfortunate dearth of crossover matchups prevented the two leagues from settling it on the field. Programs from both conferences are taking steps to rectify that in the coming years, however.
UCLA and Texas A&M worked out a blockbuster series in March, set to begin in 2016. Arizona State is also scheduled to face Texas A&M, kicking off 2015 against the Aggies in Houston.
One of the biggies that still needs hashing out is a rumored USC vs. Alabama series, pitting two of college football’s most storied and two dominant teams of the last decade head-to-head.
A full-fledged Pac-12 vs SEC Challenge is never going to happen. Still, the inroads the two conferences are making in scheduling more nonconference bouts lends one’s imagination to wonder how it might look.
Oregon vs. Alabama
Alabama’s hard-nosed, old-school approach juxtaposed against the Oregon hurry-up is something many college football fans have wanted to see for years, but various breaks have prevented. Time to finally give those Oregon fans who chanted “We Want ‘Bama!” what they’ve been clamoring for.
Stanford vs. Vanderbilt
Each conference’s most prestigious academic university is bonded through new Vanderbilt head coach Derek Mason. The architect of a Stanford defense that won two Pac-12 championships brings the same approach to the SEC.
UCLA vs. Auburn
Brett Hundley and Nick Marshall are two of the nation’s most exciting quarterbacks, and both teams figure to be preseason Top 10 to open 2014.
Arizona State vs. Texas A&M
The Aggies and Sun Devils both phase rebuilding projects in 2014, though the severity of each is lessened immensely by the teams’ outstanding head coaches, Kevin Sumlin and Todd Graham. Each is a longtime advocate of a version of the hurry-up spread offense; putting the two teams together could produce fireworks.
Arizona vs. Mississippi State
Arizona and Mississippi State have the connection of Byrne. From a football perspective, the two perennially downtrodden-to-middling programs enter 2014 with the promise of overachieving. Rich Rodriguez has seen improvements in each of his two years with the Wildcats, while Dan Mullen has his best MSU playmaker yet in quarterback Dak Prescott.
USC vs. LSU
Bragging rights can be bestowed and hard feelings from the split national championship in 2003 can be quashed. Both teams face high turnover in 2014, but should both be ranked in the preseason Top 20.
Washington vs. Missouri
Two programs on the rise, yet still trying to establish themselves as upper-tier players in their conferences. Missouri won the SEC East in 2013 but faces some uncertainty in 2014. Washington reached its highest win total in 12 years, but faces a coaching change and turnover on the offensive skill positions. Either team could win 10 games in 2014 or seven.
Oregon State vs. Georgia
This makes sense for 2014, if only to see how many yards Sean Mannion could pile up against a badly depleted Georgia secondary, and conversely, Todd Gurley operate against an Oregon State front seven that struggled against the rush.
Washington State vs. South Carolina
Despite finishing 6-7, Washington State proved its mettle by taking the fight to eventual SEC champion Auburn last season on the road. While the Gamecocks are clearly the better team on paper, this is a worthy matchup if only for the soundbites head coaches Mike Leach and Steve Spurrier would produce in the build-up.
Utah vs. Ole Miss
Both programs are trying to turn a corner: Utah is seeking to prove its place in the Pac-12, while Ole Miss is vying to climb into the upper echelon of SEC contention. The Utes’ stout defense against a potentially explosive Rebels offense presents an interesting styles clash.
Cal vs. Arkansas
The Golden Bears and Razorbacks went winless in conference play in Sonny Dykes and Bret Bielema’s respective debut seasons. Bielema’s criticism of uptempo offenses makes Dykes and his bear raid an obvious counter. Some insensitive remarks Bielema made in February didn’t win him any new fans in Berkeley, either.
Colorado vs. Tennessee
For children of the ’90s, this is a dream matchup. As it stands in 2014, both Colorado and Tennessee are trying to recapture their glory under promising, second-year head coaches.