by John Furgele
Dana Holgorsen has broken free. The West Virginia coach, in his weekly presser before their game against Liberty has come out and said that FBS schools shouldn’t be playing FCS schools. Is he right? Will others listen?
The coach stated that the game against Liberty and its 2016 contest against Youngstown State were scheduled before he arrived on the scene and as long as he is coach, he will no longer entertain FCS foes. In fact, Holgorsen said that in the future, West Virginia will schedule two Power 5 schools and only one Group of 5 school for its nonconference games.
Holgorsen didn’t call anybody out, but clearly was taking a shot at TCU and Baylor. Last year, Baylor coach Art Briles cried about his Bears being left out of the College Football Playoff, but his Bears played NOBODY, beating up SMU, Rice and FCS Northwestern State in nonconference action.
Competition is intense for a coveted spot in the CFP. There are five Power 5 conferences and only four spots and even if there were more teams involved, there is no guarantee that each conference would get an automatic bid. One could easily see two SEC schools making the field, and if Ohio State were to go 13-0 and Michigan State finished 11-1 with its only loss to the Buckeyes, could the Spartans leapfrog a Baylor or TCU? The answer is a resounding yes, because MSU would have a win over Oregon on its resume, while Baylor can tout Rice and SMU of the old Southwest Conference on its victim list.
As a fan and more importantly, a booster or season ticket holder, why would you want to see Baylor play Lamar? Think about it? You work all week, spend money on tickets, tailgating and driving to and from to see your Baylor Bears cruise to a 63-10 win. Is that exciting? Is that riveting? Isn’t it a waste of time? Wouldn’t it be better to see Baylor host Vanderbilt, or Temple or dare we say, a Georgia Tech? I’d rather watch Oklahoma play Tennessee than Oklahoma play McNeese State.
We know why Lamar wants the game—money. And, we know Baylor can pay Lamar less than they would have to pay a Temple or Cincinnati, but the game needs to have quality matchups each week, not mismatches. And, what benefit is there for Baylor? They’re supposed to win and win easily; if they struggle to win, they get knocked and if they lose, they’re laughingstocks. Didn’t anybody learn that Ohio State’s loss to Virginia Tech actually resonated more than Baylor going 3-0 in their nonconference slate?
Holgorsen is right, but Baylor and TCU are not the only culprits. SEC teams litter their schedule with FCS teams and often use them as buffers before they play a huge conference game. Alabama takes on Charleston Southern the week before the Iron Bowl versus Auburn, but “because the SEC it just too tough to navigate,” these breathers go unnoticed. The exception is Mike North of Fox Sports Radio who has indeed, taken the SEC to task for their scheduling faux paus. If Baylor is 12-0 and Alabama is 12-1, let’s remind everybody that the Tide played FCS Charleston Southern because everybody will know about Baylor’s game against Lamar.
There are always going to be biases toward the conferences. The SEC has gotten top billing the last decade, but in the big bowl games last year, the SEC fell flat as Alabama, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Auburn all lost, and for good measure, LSU lost to a Notre Dame team that was reeling. On the contrast, the Big Ten did very well, with Ohio State winning the College Football Playoff with Wisconsin and Michigan State winning the Capital One and Cotton Bowls. The time has come for teams to schedule tough, competitive nonconference games. And, as fans doesn’t Oregon-Michigan State and Oklahoma-Tennessee excite more than Buffalo-Penn State?
The Michigan Wolverines are a good example of scheduling quality. Last week, they went to Utah and lost and this week, they are hosting Oregon State. On paper, it doesn’t come across as a marquee game, but Oregon State is a Power 5 team from the Pac 12 and this game is much more enchanting than if the Wolverines and Beavers played Western Michigan and Idaho respectively.
The Wolverines certainly scheduled tough for Jim Harbaugh’s first season. After Oregon State, it’s UNLV, a home game against Brigham Young, and then on to the Big Ten. Should the Wolverines finish 10-2, they will certainly earn more CFP votes than a 10-2 or even an 11-1 Baylor.
It certainly sounds like I’m down on Baylor and that’s because I am. After last year’s parade of cupcakes, the Bears had plenty of time to drop Lamar and find somebody willing to play a home-and-home, but they stayed arrogant, going as far to say that they will continue to play games against creampuffs.
College football is the best of all regular seasons. Each season there are 12 “auditions” and if those 12 go well, there may be a 13th in the form of a conference championship game. The margin for error is small, quite small. People believe that there is more parity than ever in the game and if that’s the case, then teams should knock each other off in conference play. There will come a time where a 9-3, regular season team finds its way into the CFP. In reality, if an Alabama or Florida State goes undefeated in conference play, what does that say about the conference? Of course, it’s always been that way, but with parity, shouldn’t the SEC West winner be 7-1 or even 6-2?
What Holgorsen did was a good thing for college football. It should lead to serious discussion about the future of scheduling among Power 5 schools. If you’re a fan of FCS football, you might not like what he or I say, but P5 schools should stop scheduling FCS schools. If Furman can’t play Virginia Tech, perhaps they will schedule a Delaware or an Illinois State in what would promise to be a competitive contest. FCS schools should do their part and stop scheduling Division II schools. If it’s good for the goose, it has to be good for the gander, and FCS schools often stray away from their kind, too.
The game is too good right now and like I said, there are only 12 to 13 chances to see teams play. Wasting one week for FBS-FCS blowouts takes away a precious week and the time has come for it to stop.