(Monday, Nov 2nd)

Jeff Long: So our most important parameter is the team’s record, the records of their opponents, and their game control…

ESPN Exec: Excuse me… I know I’m just here as an observer and financial investor, but can I make a suggestion?

Long: Sure. 

ESPN Exec: We aren’t using game control anymore, for one.

Long: Oh. Why?

ESPN Exec: Don’t worry about it. We just aren’t. The other thing… Team records aren’t that important. Really what is most important is STRENGTH OF RECORD.

Long: Isn’t that the same thing?

ESPN Exec: Nope. Here you all go [Hands out “ESPN Strength of Record” Rankings].

Long: Wait… You have a 1 loss team at #2 whose record includes no wins over currently ranked teams. I’m confused.

ESPN Exec: Strength of Record is truly about how many SEC teams you’ve played. A win over the NFL caliber SEC West is like 5 PAC-12 wins. And a quality loss to an SEC team is as good as, say, a win over a Big 12 team.

Long: I like it! But wouldn’t that put Memphis at #2? They’re undefeated against SEC too.

ESPN Exec: Do you want to keep this job or don’t you? 

Long: Sorry, sir. Proceed.

ESPN Exec: We are working on a “Strength of Results” ranking too. We need to see the outcome of the LSU-Alabama game first to figure that out though. For now, just use this… Jeff why is your hand up again?

Long: I’m sorry. I like this, I really do. I’m just confused. You’ve got Florida pretty low on this and Bama number 2, but Bama lost at home to the team Florida trounced. If these wins over SEC West teams count so much, why didn’t Florida get credit for it?

ESPN Exec: [Sighs] Jeff, Jesus Christ! Shut up or so help me God I will give the Alabama Athletic Director your spot!

Long: Sorry sir. I just need to know what to tell them all when they grill me in interviews Wednesday. 

ESPN Exec: [Grabs Jeff by back of neck] Do you trust me Jeff? DO YOU???!!!!
Long: Yes… Yes! [Begins weeping uncontrollably]

ESPN Exec: Good. Then listen carefully. When they ask you why Alabama is ranked so high, you deflect. Do you know how to deflect Jeff? Just talk about how Baylor plays nobody… or TCU has no defense… or Michigan State has no quality losses. Or use words like “eye test” and “resume”. You’re a big boy, you can think of something.

Long: What should I say about Iowa?

ESPN Exec: [Laughing] Iowa? Don’t worry about Iowa, buddy. We made a video about them that has the whole nation laughing at them. Nobody will grill you on Iowa. Hell, who in here can even point out Iowa on a map?

[Room erupts in nervous laughter] 

Long: [Wiping tears away] OK, I think we know what needs to be done. Could we get some game film just in case some of the committee has some questions about one of the teams? 

ESPN Exec: Do you watch ESPN and the SEC Network?

Long: Yes sir! Every day just like you told us to.

ESPN Exec: That is all the game film that you need. 

Long: Yes sir.

ESPN Exec: And remember… no matter what anyone else tries to tell you, SEC teams are the best because they all have to play each other and their schedules are so grueling from playing each other that sometimes they lose games that they shouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean they are not the best. Let’s not have another repeat of last year. Be smarter about this to make sure that we can get 2 SEC teams into the final four by this time next month. 

Long: I think I know how we can do that, i’m just worried about how hard it’s gonna be to pull that off if LSU beats Alabama Saturday.

ESPN Exec: [Smiling while patting Long on the shoulder] Why don’t you let our friends from the SEC take care of that little snag. You guys just do your part. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, keep those high scoring Big 12 teams as far away from this as possible. Are we clear?

Long: Got it. 

ESPN Exec: Look alive boys! Tomorrow is gonna be awesome!