For all the contract wrangling and network engineering, neither opening weekend neutral site blockbusters - Georgia vs. Boise State in Atlanta and LSU vs Oregon in Dallas - will weigh as heavily in our beloved "The SEC is better than" debate as Sept. 10's Alabama at Penn State.
The SEC officially released their 2011 schedule Wednesday and Jerryworld Duck Gumbo ($35 per 5 oz.) certainly has the most star power - the Tigers will enter 2011 as arguably the best team in the SEC thanks in part to an experimental new offense featuring a "quarterback" position on certain plays.
But Oregon's constituency is practically invisible in our backyard, whereas a score of broken-but-not-bowed Big 10 expats are quite prominent, and a mite sassy in the wake of Ohio State's Sugar Bowl win (requisite F#@^ING THANKS PETRINO is requisite).
LSU should be more comfortable on defense with Oregon than Auburn was in the national title. Besides, anyone who watched Tiger fans absorb their neutral site surroundings at the Georgia Dome last year can assure you it's grossly unfair to Duck fans and the city of Arlington that LSU's constituency will be afforded miles of Texas-hot parking lots to "percolate" in before dark, all with the swarthy confidence only Louisiana's flimsy-at-best extradition laws can inspire.
The game to sweat is Alabama and Penn State, the kind of pairing that absolutely pukes history from every corner of every talk radio curmudgeon in both states. You have no idea how important this game is, because you are reading the internet box at this moment and are therefore too young to understand the important importance. Despite replacing most of their skill position players on offense, an Alabama loss in Happy Valley could inspire a snowbird revolt of confidence. It's half the game of Oregon/LSU but ten times as potentially insufferable (base levels of Alabama insufferability considered).
Remember, Atlanta: when routinely humbled on the playing field, a transplanted Big 10 fan is a worthwhile piece of grist in your fine city's economic mill. Displaced Yankees can be a valuable part of our cultural fabric, offering advice for driving on icy roads, low-fat cooking and other heretical customs we elect not to embrace, because the weather's just fine and you're all ugly.