Coaches have talked about it, fans want it, but the B1G and SEC aren’t any closer to having a conference challenge on the gridiron right now.
The idea of a B1G-SEC Challenge in football — much like the B1G-ACC Challenge or SEC-Big 12 Challenge in basketball — has been a topic of conversation for quite some time now. Having all 14 teams from two power conferences going toe-to-toe to determine which league is superior would be a lot of fun to watch.
Unfortunately, it’s still not a thing. It probably won’t be for a long time, either. But hey, we can dream, right?
Since the closest thing we have to a B1G-SEC Challenge is bowl season, we’ve decided to come up with a few matchups we’d love to see between the two conferences. But the games aren’t necessarily best-on-best. There are a few other factors involved, such as storylines, coaching matchups and scheme. Going down the standings and matching up teams based on last year’s finishes wouldn’t be quite as fun.
So, we’ve listed seven games we’d love to see between the B1G and the SEC in 2019. Hopefully we see a few of these in the postseason.
Ohio State vs. Georgia
Not only are Ohio State and Georgia two of the top programs in the country, there’s that whole Justin Fields transfer decision that would add a little extra flavor to this matchup. Both teams had two of the highest-powered offenses in college football last season, so the game might be decided in a shootout. And who wouldn’t want to see if Fields could out-perform Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm in a battle of top 10 teams? Who knows, these two teams could square off in a New Year’s Six bowl game or the College Football Playoff at the end of the year.
Michigan vs. Alabama
Based on Michigan’s results against top 10 opponents in the Jim Harbaugh era, this may seem like a bit of a stretch. Still, it’s a matchup of two major college football brands that would draw plenty of attention. The Wolverines would also have some inside information on their side, as new offensive coordinator Josh Gattis spent last season on Alabama’s staff. Would that be enough to give the Wolverines a shot? We all know Nick Saban’s record against former assistants, so maybe not, but it does add an interesting element to the matchup. Plus, five-star defensive back Daxton Hill decommitted from Alabama to join Michigan’s 2019 recruiting class and is expected to have an immediate impact, giving us another reason to like this matchup. It’s another potential B1G-SEC clash that we could likely see this postseason in a New Year’s Six or College Football Playoff game.
Penn State vs. Mississippi State
It’s obvious why we’d like to see this one, right? Was Joe Moorhead primarily responsible for Penn State’s success, or can James Franklin deny that notion by beating his former offensive coordinator? There would be a lot of pressure for Franklin and the Nittany Lions to win this game and prove the program is headed in the right direction and hasn’t taken a step back since Moorhead took over in Starkville. The added element here is Tommy Stevens’ departure from Penn State and rejoining Moorhead at Mississippi State. It would be really interesting to see how Stevens would handle this matchup and what he’s capable of when he’s got something to prove.
Nebraska vs. Florida
If you love high-scoring, fun offense, then this would be a can’t-miss matchup. Both Scott Frost and Dan Mullen are entering their second seasons with their respective programs and the expectation for big offensive production in 2019 is through the roof. Adrian Martinez and Feleipe Franks have emerged as two of the more exciting quarterbacks in college football and Wan’Dale Robinson and Lamical Perine could be two of the better running backs in their respective conferences. These are two really passionate fanbases, too, which should lead to some epic trash talk on social media leading up to kickoff.
Michigan State vs. Auburn
Why would people want to watch this? To see if either team could score, obviously. Michigan State ranked eighth in scoring defense last season (17.2 points per game) while Auburn was 14th (19.2 ppg). But both teams struggled offensively last season, so this could come down to a punting game and field goal kicking contest. Admittedly, this wouldn’t be the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat game, but fans of hard-hitting, defensive football would love this matchup. Plus, Michigan State and Auburn are somewhat unknowns headed into the season. An early matchup between these two could provide some clarity as to whether either is a contender in the B1G or SEC.
Wisconsin vs. LSU
The head-to-head matchups in 2014 and 2016 were so good that we want more. Two programs that have been traditional run-first offenses, stout defensively and have consistently won eight games each year this decade. Ironically, both teams have been a quarterback short of getting over the hump, too. The Badgers have been more of a contender in the B1G than LSU has been in the SEC recently, but these two teams have been on equal ground for most of the last 10 years.
Indiana vs. Kentucky
The Indiana-Kentucky rivalry has been halted in both football and basketball, which is disappointing considering the strong hatred between the two schools. At one time, the two schools played for the Bourbon Barrel (probably the best trophy in college sports) and have played 36 times on the field, with the Hoosiers owning an 18-17-1 series lead. Not only is the passion there, it’s been a relatively even all-time series. Basketball is king in Bloomington and Lexington, but Tom Allen (IU) and Mark Stoops (UK) are hoping to bring the football programs to life. This would be a fun matchup not just this fall, but every season.