What’s been speculated on for weeks on end has finally come to fruition. On Thursday, the SEC became the third Power 5 conference to officially announce a switch to an all-conference schedule.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron has been one of the biggest advocates of seeing the 2020 season pull through. While Thursday’s news doesn’t assure there will be a season, it provides a little more clarity on what one will look like.
Adapt and adjust. Those were the first two words that came to Orgeron’s mind when he first learned of the conference’s decision and said his team will be preparing accordingly.
“We haven’t talked about it at length, we’ve had some meetings. We heard this may come to a vote today and I’m glad because it means we’re playing football,” Orgeron said on Sports Talk with Bobby Hebert and Kristian Garic. “I’m sure the SEC has the plan, they’re probably going to tell us next week and I’m excited.
“Anytime you can play 10 SEC opponents, the best conference in all of college football, what a great challenge for us."
One area that Orgeron says is unfortunate is the loss of the non-conference games on the team’s schedule. The Tigers were to pay Nicholls $575,000 for a visit to Baton Rouge, which Orgeron knows would’ve helped the school a ton.
The opportunity to not get to play Texas in Death Valley or travel to Houston for the Rice game, where Texas recruits could see the Tigers play, also stings.
“The thing I’m a little disappointed in is not being able to play Nicholls State. I know they count on that money and I wanted to help the state schools," Orgeron said. "We wanted to play Texas, wanted to play Rice in Houston because of the recruiting but we’ll get back to that next year.”
Throughout the offseason, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orgeron and the coaching staff were able to pour in more time preparing gameplans for the SEC teams they are set to face in 2020.
While nothing has been officially decided as to who the Tigers will play in the extra two conference games out of the SEC East, the fact that eight games are well scouted and prepared for will only help the team because of the schedule alteration.
“We’re going to have to get two more gameplans ready for two more opponents but we’re going to be ready,” Orgeron said. “That’s a lot of time to prepare a lot of time in camp, we get three extra weeks to prepare so I think it’s going to help all of the football teams.”
Orgeron brings up a great point. Because the start of the season has now been pushed back to Sept. 26, as opposed to Sept. 5 like it originally was planned, the Tigers have more time to make the adjustments for the all-conference schedule.
It allows Myles Brennan and the offense more time to gel and also gives the defense three extra weeks to fully adapt to Bo Pelini and LSU’s switch to the 4–3 defensive scheme.
“Our guys have had the mindset, we haven’t blinked, there’s a lot of noise out there but we didn’t let it affect us,” Orgeron said. “Every time I’ve asked these guys to focus in on the task at hand, they have. Now that we know what’s in front of us, it’s good. We can talk to the team. We’re just happy that we’re getting to play.”
Orgeron said the team will use the extra three weeks to prepare in a safe manner, possibly working in a few extra intersquad scrimmages. What made last year’s team so great, according to Orgeron, was the fact that they were always fresh.
While a lot of that had to do with the advancements in technology and how the players trained, Orgeron said the coaching staff learned not to push the players too hard during the week. As such, the Tigers coach said the option of practicing Monday through Thursday would be preferable as it would give players an extra day for their bodies to recover.
A big question that went into the SEC’s decision on Thursday was the various testing protocols and the differences from conference to conference. Commissioner Greg Sankey has said in the past few weeks that the ability to frequently test the student-athletes is the single most important part of getting a college football season.
With spikes currently popping up around the country, that question has still yet to be answered. Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger reported that SEC medical experts advised the conference to delay its start time for two additional reasons.
The first was to see how various professional sports leagues respond to a return and the second was waiting to see how the return of students to campus affects the amount of positive cases within the student-athlete population.
“One of the biggest questions is testing, when are we going to test, how frequently are we going to test, tracking, who gets quarantined, we still have a lot of things to work out,” Orgeron said. “What happens when you have a certain number of kids that aren’t going to be ready to play? We control every school in the SEC as far as travel, we have the same rules so I think it makes it easier and safer for our football players.”