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SEC will try to find a spot for LSU-Florida makeup game

SEC will try to find a spot for LSU-Florida makeup game
LSU running back Derrius Guice (5) celebrates with receiver Malachi Dupre after Guice scored a touchdown against Missouri on Oct. 1. (Chris Graythen / Getty Images)

There figures to be lots of scribbling on whiteboards in the Southeastern Conference this week.

It's the sort of work coaches do when they diagram pass routes and defensive schemes, but the conjuring in the SEC will head a different direction.

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The nation’s premier football conference is dealing with a storm — literally and figuratively — as it ponders what to do about the Louisiana State-Florida game that was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew.

As Commissioner Greg Sankey said on the conference's website: "It's a situation that causes a great deal of angst."

With the death toll in the U.S. rising and flooding throughout much of the South, the game should be incidental, but that isn't how things work in a football-crazed part of the country.

The original postponement Thursday gave rise to conspiracy theories, many of them suggesting that Florida's athletic director had somehow worked the emergency situation to his school's advantage.

Developments over the weekend only exacerbated the matter.

Saturday morning dawned warm and partly sunny at Florida's campus in Gainesville — with relatively light winds and minimal rain — as Matthew remained off the coast.

Then, later in the day, Tennessee lost to Texas A&M in overtime, tightening the SEC East race.  If Florida and LSU end the season without playing each other, it could wreak havoc on the division standings and potential tiebreaking procedures.

That's why the conference is pushing to reschedule.

"I want to see the game played," Sankey said. "We have to come together to do that."

The SEC staff has already devoted several days to diagramming possibilities on a whiteboard. There are no easy answers.

So far, the most likely solution involves both teams buying out nonconference opponents to create a mutual opening on Nov. 19. Florida seems amenable, but the change would leave LSU with three road games in a stretch of 12 days.

"I've obviously heard that particular idea, but there are others as well," Sankey said, adding that numerous suggestions "have been sent to us by thoughtful people."

With the South and the way it loves football, one can only imagine.

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Nobody has to tell Tom Herman that his formerly unbeaten Houston team has been elbowed out of the College Football Playoff picture after an upset loss to Navy. The Cougars’ coach seemed utterly pragmatic when asked about his outlook for the remainder of the American Athletic Conference schedule.

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"The goal is, each and every year, to win our conference championship knowing it's the best non-Power Five conference in America and, if you do that, you're probably going to a New Year's Six bowl game," Herman said. "So we have that ahead of us."

Rooting for the underdog is a big part of college football's appeal and, as recently as a few weeks ago, it seemed possible that not one but two upstart teams might make serious playoff runs.

Louisville still has a path — if no room for error — after its loss to Clemson. Undefeated and 19th-ranked Boise State seems a distant longshot, given its low strength of schedule.

For now, familiar names are dominating the playoff conversation, with a group of contenders led by Alabama, Clemson, Washington and whichever team wins between Ohio State and Michigan.

Too bad.

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Much has been made of the statistical benchmarks in Michigan’s 78-0 rout at Rutgers, but there might be another story behind the numbers.

The Wolverines have nine players from New Jersey on their roster, including defensive star Jabrill Peppers, starting offensive tackle Juwann Bushell-Beatty and defensive end Rashan Gary.

Maybe that's why Coach Jim Harbaugh went for two with his team leading 27-0 in the second quarter. Maybe it was a recruiting ploy.

"It certainly wasn't the intent to make the score what it was," Harbaugh said, adding: "They've got a lot of good players, a lot of talented players, but we have more of them."

The Heisman Trophy race might also have played a role, with Peppers announcing his candidacy by rushing for 74 yards from the wildcat formation and fielding two punts.

"Gosh, if there's a better player in the country, I don't know who it is," Harbaugh said.

If nothing else, the final score and bewildering differential in offensive yardage — 600-39 — drew additional attention to a Michigan program that has returned to the upper echelon.

Maybe that's why the Wolverines ran up the score, hoping to impress the playoff selection committee. Or maybe it was just Harbaugh being Harbaugh.

"This is college football," Peppers said, "and crazy things can happen."

Twitter: @LATimesWharton

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