With the start of the college football a few weeks away, a glance at the schedules for the highest level of competition is warranted. Since programs have the freedom to arrange their opponents outside of the games dictated by their conferences, matches reveal much about the quality and the level of courage or cowardice of each. Every season contains some intriguing inter-sectional matches as well as some yawn-inducing mismatches.
A round of applause for only scheduling full-fledged 1-A opponents goes to Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Boise State, Central Florida, Tulane, Ball State, Massachusetts, Florida International, Louisiana-Monroe and Notre Dame. These thirteen programs eschewed the prevalent practice of padding schedules with overmatched teams from the lower division formerly known as 1-AA. Connecticut, Nevada, Rice and Houston merit at most a half-hearted recognition for their games against provisional 1-A members in their first year among the big boys. While technically Massachusetts, South Alabama, Texas-San Antonio and Texas State qualify as FBS opponents, their depth charts equal those of the FCS level.
An award for courage for scheduling more than one opponent from a Bowl Championship Subdivision conference goes to Missouri, Vanderbilt, Florida State, Maryland, Clemson, Virginia Tech, North Carolina State, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Fresno State, Nevada-Las Vegas, New Mexico, Utah State, Idaho, Central Florida, Tulane, Marshall, Tulsa, Southern Mississippi, East Carolina, Rice, Alabama-Birmingham, Northern Illinois, Toledo, Bowling Green, Eastern Michigan, Central Michigan, South Alabama, Florida International, Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, Troy, Western Kentucky, North Texas and Middle Tennessee. The same commendation applies to playing both Notre Dame and one team from the FBS conferences, namely, Michigan, Southern California, Miami, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest and Boston College. Northwestern, Louisiana Tech, Southern Methodist, Texas-El Paso, Buffalo, Ball State, Western Michigan and Louisiana-Monroe will go an even harder route against three non-conference teams from 1-A. The most acclaim is reserved for Syracuse and Massachusetts for squaring off against four major conference teams outside of their own conferences.
A standing ovation is deserved for those facing both more than one BCS conference-caliber team outside of conference play and no FCS members. Out of one hundred twenty full members and four provisional members, only Southern California, Stanford, Arizona State, Central Florida, Tulane and Massachusetts accepted those challenges. The fact that less than five percent of 1-A members face such a caliber of non-conference competition reveals the general decline in quality of non-conference games across the country.
A chorus of boos should be rained down on teams for lining up two or more 1-AA opponents or 1-A members in their first year of the elevated status. Two FCS members sully the slates of Texas A&M, Florida State and Navy. Vanderbilt, Indiana, Mississippi State, North Carolina State and Texas Tech took the slightly less easy option of one 1-AA opponent and one provisional 1-A team. Texas-San Antonio’s decision to rise from FCS to FBS looks suspiciously incomplete with four matches against FCS teams.
Demerits for no non-conference opponents from a BCS conference are slapped on Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Texas-San Antonio. One should why fans would pay for season tickets that include their teams beating up some hapless punching bags from other conferences. Their slates of pushovers will rightly drag down the overall strength and reputation of the Big Twelve and Pacific Twelve Conferences.
A barrage of rotten tomatoes should be launched Texas Tech and Texas-San Antonio. Both avoid playing a non-conference opponent from a major conference in addition to playing more than one team who is not established in the upper classification of Division One football. UT-San Antonio could be excused since this year is its first in FBS. As for the Red Raiders, everyone associated with that program should be ashamed of such a blatant bunch of rent-a-wins posing as real games.
The Atlantic Coast Conference should be commended for every member playing at least one member of another BCS conference. In fact, eight ACC teams play two opponents from other conferences. In addition to its annual three intra-state rivalries with Southeastern Conference opponents, the ACC will also face two more SEC opponents in the neutral setting of the Georgia Dome on opening weekend.
The Pacific Twelve particularly deserves a citation for a quarter of its members scheduling so bravely. Three members will only play 1-A members plus one team from another BCS conference. The Pacific Twelve continued the practice of scheduling a few games versus the Big Ten; four will occur this season. Additionally, there will be two games at SEC’s venues.
The Southeastern Conference has both extremes in scheduling. All fourteen members play at least one FCS member. However, all but two will play a team from another BCS conference. These include two games against the Big Ten, part of a recent trend for members to play each other in the regular season instead of having to wait until New Year’s Day.
All twelve of Conference USA’s members play a BCS conference opponent. Ten of the members play two or more members from BCS Conferences. Two members play three. With seven matches against the SEC plus five versus both the Big Ten and Big Twelve respectively, Conference USA has the opportunity to improve its reputation with wins over these more acclaimed conferences.
Nine of the thirteen Mid-American Conference teams play two opponents from BCS conferences. Three each face three BCS teams. Every team plays at least one. The MAC can chip away, if not smash, its reputation as merely the Big Ten’s patsies during the eleven contests between the two this autumn.
All ten Sun Belt members will face an opponent from a BCS conference. In fact, all but one will play two or more. If the Sun Belt wants to dig out of the perceived status as the weakest FBS conference, it has to win more than one of its ten scheduled games versus the SEC. Three contests against the Big Twelve and two versus the ACC also would give the Sun Belt more credibility with some victories.
After the announcement of a four-team playoff to start during the 2014 season, many college football fans rejoiced. Of course, some questioned why this improvement would not take place for the upcoming and following seasons. Speculation began about the possibility of yet another controversial finish with one or more undefeated teams being left out of the BCS title game during the remainder of the BCS’ contract. Time will tell if this improved attempt at determining a true national champion will be needed in 2012.
COPYRIGHT BY CHARLES KASTRIOT AUGUST 2012