From the hype, the TV exposure and the sky-high ticket prices of the SEC Championship Game, we can infer that the conference's 20th annual title match is already captivating interest well outside the Southeast, and certainly outside the Georgia and LSU fan bases. But what if you're one of those casual non-affiliated observers who wants to take in Division I-A's ZOMG AWESOMEST conference title game with something more passionate than an outsider's clinical objectivity?
Below I've compiled a handy crib sheet for those who don't have any skin in the game, but would like some, if that's not too much trouble. It should help you take your existing college football biases and translate them into a firm rooting interest one way or the other, one that might just have you screaming as loudly and profanely at your television set as the rest of us will be.
ROOT FOR LSU IF YOU'RE A FAN OF:
Alabama. It's one thing to lose to the No. 1 team in the nation. It's another thing to lose simply because you couldn't connect on a #$&%ing field goal, and that, more than anything else, has had Tide fans salivating at the prospect of a rematch ever since the midfield handshake between Les Miles and Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. If your blood runs crimson and white, you don't want anything standing between your team and a chance at proving that Nov. 5's results were an aberration.
Florida. For Gator Nation, this season was a flaming turd pile the likes of which y'all haven't had to experience since the mid-1980s. And it was compounded by the fact that Georgia -- who's actually gotten pretty good again, you might've heard -- knocked y'all off for only the fourth time since Spurrier returned to the Swamp. Not that that one game is necessarily a harbinger, but right now y'all can't afford anything that would make Georgia's program stronger, or their fans more obnoxious. You need to cheer not just for an LSU win but for an unholy blowout.
Georgia Tech. This is a no-brainer. Y'all would root against Georgia even if they were playing a team quarterbacked by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and coached by Kim Jong-Il. Georgia fans are obnoxious enough to you guys on an average day; give them an upset win over the nation's top team and they'd be downright insufferable. Stop reading this post right now and run, don't walk, to the nearest sporting-goods retailer that sells LSU apparel.
The Big Ten. Fairly or unfairly, the B1G is seen as playing second banana to the SEC in just about every aspect of the game. If Georgia pulls the upset on Saturday, though, it may trigger an obscure rule allowing three teams from a single conference into the BCS. It's bad enough that, while the SEC has been cruising to five straight national titles, y'all are just 2-7 in BCS games; if the SEC became the first conference to reap the massive financial rewards of cramming three teams into big-money bowls, that'd pretty much be the living end. I presume B1G commish Jim Delany is already calling up his contacts in the Sicilian mafia, the Russian mafia, and the yakuza to ensure this does not happen.
The ACC. Unlike the B1G, y'all have (for the most part) accepted and made your peace with your conference's also-ran status relative to the SEC. But that doesn't make it any easier to have a juggernaut conference raking in BCS money and blue-chip recruits right in your own backyard. Like our boy Delany, you need to be hoping against hope that a three-SEC-team BCS bonanza doesn't come to pass.
ROOT FOR GEORGIA IF YOU'RE A FAN OF:
South Carolina. This is going to sting a bit, because it's killing you guys that your team has already matched the highest win total in program history and knocked off the Bulldogs yet are still stuck watching them in the conference title game. At the same time, you know deep down that your chances of knocking off LSU probably wouldn't be any greater than Georgia's are. So here's what you do: You cheer for the unlikely UGA upset, knowing that you'll get to brag about having beaten the SEC champs if the Dawgs win. This will be a huge adrenaline boost for the "This is the year we finally win the SEC!!!" chatter that starts permeating your message boards every year around July or so.
Any SEC team not specifically mentioned above. You want a Georgia win for the same reason Jim Delany doesn't -- three SEC teams in the BCS, which means C.R.E.A.M. get the money, dolla dolla bills y'all for everyone in the conference. If only two SEC teams go to BCS bowls, then under the conference's system of dividing all bowl bounty equally, each team in the conference would take home just under $5.5 million. But if Georgia beats LSU and squeezes its way in as a third SEC team, the added revenue from the Sugar Bowl would boost that check to almost $6.8 million. Alabama and Florida are profitable enough that they can write off that extra million and a quarter out of sheer spite; your program probably is not.
Oklahoma State, Stanford or Virginia Tech. As I've already alluded to, LSU's lead in the BCS rankings -- a rare, perfect 1.0000 BCS average -- is so strong that they might punch their ticket to the national title game even if they lose to Georgia. But if you hopeful souls in Cowboy, Cardinal and Hokie Nation still believe in some kind of chance your team can make it in, that means cheering for LSU to look awful on Saturday. Who knows, they screw the pooch in the Georgia Dome and poll-voter sentiment might turn against "rematch" just enough to let one of y'all sneak in there. Hope springs eternal, yo.
The Houston Cougars. Your team's chances of playing for the national title are even less than those of the three teams I just listed, but if LSU coughs one up on Saturday, that leaves you as the last undefeated team in Division I-A -- and with a ready-made "WHY NOT US" griping platform. (And you may need that to comfort you when Kevin Sumlin gets hired away by a BCS-conference program in a few weeks.)
Hating the BCS. No undefeated teams = a whole lot of one-loss teams = utter chaos in the BCS standings and heated arguments that will last for decades. If Georgia were to stroll in and blow up the entire thing on Saturday, that wouldn't by itself trigger the switch to a playoff, but it might bring us all an important step closer. Bark loudly and lustily for the Dawgs on Saturday, and never mind who hears you.
Pretty much anyone else. Even if you don't have strong opinions about the BCS one way or the other, a little late anarchy would be a good thing for a season in which shocking upsets, major upheavals and/or challenges to conventional wisdom have been relatively sparse. If you have any affinity whatsoever for Team Chaos, know that that squad will be wearing red and black on Saturday, and Mark Richt appreciates your support.