Should the LSU Tigers leave the Southeastern Conference? Scott Rabalais of The Advocate thinks so

Louisiana State Tigers safety Eric Reid (1) linebacker Deion Jones (45) and head coach Les Miles react following a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium. LSU defeated Arkansas 20-13. (Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports)

No, you are not still drowsy from early morning Christmas presents and a heavy dinner — you read that headline correctly.

These days, teams are moving in between conferences at a rate never before seen in collegiate athletics. Tulane and East Carolina are headed to the Big East, Louisville is off to the ACC while Maryland bolts for the Big Ten, bringing Rutgers along with them.

The seven Catholic, non-football playing schools within the Big East have announced their decision to break away from the traditional basketball powerhouse conference.

Would a dominant football program actually decide to make the same decision to break away from the traditional football powerhouse that is the SEC?

Scott Rabalais of The Advocate seems to think the time is near. It once seemed unfathomable that Maryland would not be playing Duke and North Carolina as ACC rivals. Yet here we are.

It once seemed appalling to have West Virginia travel all the way to Lubbock, Texas to take on Texas Tech as members of the Big 12, and yet, here we are.

Rabalais provides five reasons why LSU should leave the SEC and head for the Big 12, which is closer in proximity than either the B1G or Pac-12.

We do not want you to read Rabalais’ reasoning with too much of a bias, so we will not provide reasons as to why we believe he is crazy until we reach the bottom of the article. We have taken the liberty of listing out the particulars of his five reasons here, but feel free to click this link to check out his entire article.

1 Unfair football scheduling

The main problem, from LSU’s perspective, is a schedule that puts the Tigers at a competitive disadvantage to its chief rival for SEC West supremacy (with apologies to Texas A&M and Johnny Heisman), Alabama. Not only does LSU have to play at Alabama in 2013 as it usually does in odd-numbered years, but the Tigers also have to play at Georgia and host Florida, teams that tied for first in the SEC East this past season with 7-1 marks.

Alabama’s two opponents out of the East? Tennessee in Tuscaloosa and Kentucky on the road, teams that went a combined 1-15 in conference play and are breaking in new coaches.

2 Permanent opponents

LSU is saddled with Florida as its permanent opponent, while Alabama has Tennessee. Florida has finished with a better record than Tennessee in six of the past seven seasons, with the Vols having failed to post even an above-.500 SEC record since winning the SEC East in 2007.

LSU lobbied at the SEC Spring Meeting in May to eliminate permanent opponents but was soundly defeated. The school will push again at the next meeting in May. Failing that, LSU Athletic Director Joe Alleva proposes that the SEC adopt the Pac-12 model, which allows those schools that want permanent opponents to have them and those that do not to rotate.

3 Escaping the Alabama shadow

The football scheduling plan comes out of an SEC office in Birmingham, Ala., that fairly or not has long been seen as being too close to the Alabama campus — geographically and philosophically — for the rest of the conference’s good. Certainly it is not a one-sport league, but football drives the SEC’s economic train and is the face of the conference nation-wide.

LSU’s hopes and desires when it comes to football have been routinely ignored, especially of late when it comes to permanent opponents (which Alabama favors) and in terms of this season’s bowl landscape.

The SEC protected championship-game loser Georgia by convincing the Capital One Bowl to take the Bulldogs; allowed the Cotton Bowl to choose Texas A&M over LSU; and discouraged the Outback Bowl from taking LSU (for a first-ever game with Michigan) to avoid a Chick-fil-A Bowl rematch between South Carolina and Clemson. Had the SEC urged the Cotton to take LSU over A&M — the Tigers beat the Aggies and are higher ranked — and sent A&M to the Chick-fil-A, it would have been a more equitable arrangement.

4 TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Conference realignment is trendier these days than even Johnny Heisman. The past couple of years have seen schools leave traditional conference homes for new affiliations that once would have seemed impossible: Nebraska to the Big Ten, West Virginia to the Big 12, Utah to the Pac-12 — and don’t forget Missouri to the SEC.

Eventually, college athletics is likely to be dominated by four 16-team super-conferences. The blocks of those super-conferences are now shifting. It makes sense to go now before the blocks are set in place.

5 GEOGRAPHY IS OVERRATED

Traditional geographic lines have not only been blurred in big-time college athletics, they have been obliterated. It is no longer an unwritten requirement that conference members be from states that border each other — although Louisiana does border Texas.

Before Arkansas and A&M joined the SEC, LSU was forever the SEC’s westernmost outpost. What would be so odd about being the Big 12’s southernmost? Not at all as unfathomable as it once seemed.

And now why this dude is just plain stupid, summed up in one little bitty, teeny-weenie little word:

Money.

What Rabalais fails to mention at any point throughout his long-winded and ultimately futile argument is the fact that the only conference that can come close to paying LSU the type of cold, hard cash it would take to draw them from the SEC is the Big Ten.

At the end of the day, does the LSU athletic department care whether the Tigers play in the Chick-fil-A Bowl or the Outback Bowl? Nope, because there is money to be made in both.

Are people upset that Georgia is headed to the Capital One Bowl? Of course, with two losses it could have gone to any number of teams. However, the conference has to “protect Georgia” as Rabalais so eloquently put it, because if the Bulldogs were muscled out and into the next, lower tier of bowl games, no one would ever — ever — want to participate in a conference championship game. Every school in the conference made money when Bama narrowly escaped Georgia’s best efforts, and the conference earned enough clout with the extra game to send the Tide to the BCS National Championship.

About Bama …

If you want to “get out of Bama’s shadow” so to speak, just beat them.

If you want to go to the national championship game, don’t complain about the schedule, win your games. Just in 2011, no one in Baton Rouge saw a problem with facing a Florida team that was wrapping up a weak 7-6 season.

Les Miles understands what it takes to win the crystal ball. It doesn’t take whining and crying and eventually scampering off to find a new, far weaker conference like Rabalais is suggesting.

It just takes winning the games on your schedule.

The money will always be there for the best facilities, assistant coaches and the like — because the Tigers play huge games against the likes of Florida and Georgia every year.

So don’t simply sulk in the shadow of Alabama, but go out there and build a bigger, better, badder program. Cast a shadow those in Birmingham can’t escape, if that’s what it takes.

Don’t be trendy, be tough. Be an SEC football team.

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