Matt Hayes of Sporting News did some interesting analysis on Big Ten football schedules. It got me thinking, so here we are.
Hayes looked at the non-conference schedules of the teams and rated them in order of strength. I have no issue with the rankings he drew up, nor do I have any issue with the content of his post or the idea behind it.
In fact, I applaud it. It really got my mind working on some stuff.
A grand total of two out of 11 teams in the Big Ten have non-conference schedules that don't include any Division I-AA (or Football Championship Subdivision, if you prefer) teams. Michigan State and Michigan are the only ones (kudos, by the way).
Three teams in the league (Wisconsin, Indiana, and Minnesota) don't meet a single foe from a BCS conference (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Pac 10, and SEC). Two teams (Northwestern and Iowa) don't face a single bowl team from a year ago.
In short, these schedules suck. Lots.
While my loyalty to the Big Ten is not without limits, I still didn't believe it would be fair to simply bash the Big Ten over this. The Big Ten is not the only guilty party. In fact, they aren't the worst offender.
Not even close.
Hayes broke down the other league's non-conference slates (check his archives for the info), and I consulted my Athlon's preview magazine for a quick gander.
There are 65 teams in the six BCS conferences. Of the 65, only 13 have a non-conference schedule void of any Division I-AA opponents this year. That's 20 percent.
Of the 42 BCS conference teams that play Division I-AA opponents this year, 11 of them won ten or more games last year.
By conference, the worst offender is clearly the ACC. The All-Cupcakes Conference has just one freaking team (Wake Forest) who didn't schedule a I-AA opponent. I hate to go all TMQ on you, but I hope the football gods reward Jim Grobe with another conference championship. Three bowl teams from a year ago (Clemson, Florida State, and Georgia Tech) saw fit to schedule TWO I-AA opponents this year (Clemson plays The Citadel and South Carolina State, Florida State hosts Western Carolina and Chattanooga, and Georgia Tech hosts Jacksonville State and Gardner-Webb).
You could justify Duke playing James Madison. It's Duke versus the Dukes. Imagine the shirts.
North Carolina and North Carolina State sucked last year, so it's not totally sinful for them to schedule McNeese State and William & Mary, respectively.
But why the hell is Boston College playing Rhode Island and Virginia Tech playing Furman?
All this lunacy has me thinking that it's time for an extreme move by the powers-that-be in college football.
It's time to make a rule that bans teams from BCS bowl consideration if they schedule more than two I-AA opponents over a rolling six-year period.
No one will be for it. The I-AA schools like the six-figure (possibly soon to be seven-figure) guarantees that come with these beatdowns (well, "beatdown" may not apply if you're Appalachian State). The BCS schools enjoy the guaranteed home sellouts and normally easy wins. Those wins help them move toward bowl eligibility, and they help the team gain confidence.
But it's a necessity. Think about it for a moment. If you match up open dates and weeks where I-AA opponents were used to fill the schedule, we're being robbed of some nice matchups. Among them:
Florida State-South Florida
That's just a few off a quick gander at schedules. You could draw up probably dozens of other great combinations.
Instead, we get crap.
Now, I know many of you will say "Hey! My team played so-and-so". And you'd be right. Ohio State does play USC. Clemson does play Alabama. Florida has Florida State and Miami on the docket.
Also valid would be the "My team only plays that I-AA team because someone else backed out of a contracted game on short notice".
That's why I went with the rolling two-year period. I don't deny that there are situations where a I-AA team is on a short list of options. It takes two teams to make a non-conference game happen. But we need to change the lazy, unimaginative, gutless mindset that has become epidemic in the game. We deserve better for our ticket money, and the fans who crowd around the TV sets for dozens of Saturday games every weekend deserve to see better matchups.