New southern rivalry developing


blau headshot square border

Officially, or unofficially, if you do not worship in the chapel of ESPN, this is "Rivalry'' weekend, when traditional games are added to the spice of conference championship races.

This year is a target rich environment, with Washington at Washington State, Michigan at Ohio State and Auburn at Alabama highlighting the schedule, with each of those games set up as catalysts for changes in the rankings.

Washington-Washington State will decide the Pac-12 North title, Michigan at Ohio State will determine the Wolverines' fate and either keep the Buckeyes in the mix or eliminate them from consideration for the Final Four, and Auburn can spoil Alabama's unbeaten season, if not its chances for back-to-back national championships.

But there is another drama unfolding in the South and Southwest which will have long time ramifications between two teams who are NOT traditional rivals, LSU and Texas[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

In fact, the schools have only played each other 17 times, and not met since 2003 with Texas holding a 9-7-1 edge.

But the battle will not be on the field between players, but in athletic offices, with lawyers and agents working on deals that will determine the direction that each team's football program follows for the next several years.

We are talking about the coaching opening at LSU and the soon-to-be announced opening at Texas, with both schools looking towards the Southeast at Florida State, where Jimbo Fisher has moved to to the top of both schools' wish list.

The common thread here is that all three schools: LSU, Texas and Florida State are at a level below where they want to be.

LSU is still in the also ran status in the SEC West behind Alabama, which was one reason why Les Miles was fired earlier this season, Texas has floundered for three seasons under Charlie Strong and needs new direction, if not a new leader, while FSU is dealing with a three loss season, which used to be a three season total in the hey day of Bobby Bowden and in the early years of Jimbo Fisher's reign.

The key factor here is Texas. Strong has been on a hot seat almost since he was hired three years ago. A stunning loss to Kansas on Saturday seemingly closed the deal on his tenure at UT, although no one officially has said anything yet.

Combined with that speculation was the projection of Houston coach Tom Herman as the Longhorn coach in waiting. It all looked like a nicely tied package until the middle of the season when Houston inexplicably lost games to Navy and SMU, which put a bit of tarnish on Herman's resume.

Much of that was removed last week when the Cougars rolled over Louisville and Heisman front running QB Lamar Jackson. Making the move from Houston to Austin from the American Athletic Conference to the Big 12, with at least a 2 million dollar boost in salary made perfect sense for Texas and for Herman.

At LSU, the morning line favorite to replace Miles was Fisher, who had made a pit stop at LSU a few years ago and had flirted with the job last season. Interim coach Ed Orgeron was a prime contender to get a permanent tag, but losses to Alabama and Florida have diminished that possibility considerably.

All of this would seem to leave Fisher in the best of all worlds. He can certainly stay at FSU, where, despite this season's dip, he has been an unqualified success in a conference he can be a dominant force in every season.

Or he could go back to LSU and pick up the challenge of dealing with Alabama and attempting to turn the Tigers back into THE force in the SEC.

Or he can go to Texas, which has great potential, with unlimited resources in a conference that the Longhorns could dominate or at least contend for the title EVERY year.

If that happens, FSU will then be forced to search for a coach, which could bring such names as Les Miles or North Carolina coach Larry Fedora or former USC head coach and now Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin into the conversation.

And then who knows what ramifications there will be with the Notre Dame academic scandal which was announced on Tuesday and cost the Irish two season's worth of victories. That combined with a possible 4-8 season could put ND coach Brian Kelly's job in jeopardy.

For now, we are still in the preliminary stages, but the pace will speed up considerably in the next few days and we are not just talking about the results of the games.

But the guess here is that Fisher will be at LSU and Herman will be at Texas by Christmas.[/membership]