Big 10 commissioner Jim Delaney last week announced his league will eliminate football games against FCS (the former I-AA) opponents.
Is that a good thing?
Ole Miss opens with an FCS foe, Tennessee-Martin, then has non-conference games against Fresno State and New Mexico State.
The schedule lacks a game against a Power Five non-SEC opponent, something that will be mandated by the league for 2016 and a requirement Ole Miss will meet with a neutral site game against Florida State. As neutral as it could be in Orlando.
Recent Ole Miss schedules have included a home-and-home with Texas which obviously works. Ole Miss and BYU played a one-time game in 2011 in Oxford, and there was last year’s neutral site game with Boise State. BYU, like New Mexcio State but a whole lot better, is that rare bird of FBS Independent. Boise while nationally competitive for many years and of top 10 caliber a few years back, is a member of the Mountain West Conference. Those are two high-profile programs but would not have met the new SEC scheduling requirement had it already been in place.
The Ole Miss schedule will be fine with Power Five games. The question is should the Rebels continue to play FCS opponents.
I say yes.
I like Tony’s reasoning regarding the health of the game. It is important that college football be strong beyond country’s most powerful programs. If it isn’t and interest in the game at lower levels begins to decay that sickness won’t stop there.
I’m a fan of small college football. I grew up outside of Baton Rouge and tried to attend games at LSU. When I couldn’t, which was most of the time, I could always get a ticket to watch Billy Brewer and others coach at Southeastern Louisiana just a few miles east in Hammond.
I attended college in Monroe. The crowds are smaller, the vastness of the skill level is less, but the the passion is the same. Those teams play hard and compete.
In the financial structure of modern day college football, it’s important for those teams to visit a big-time opponent and bring home a big-time check. It funds more than football.
That said, it’s not only important for them.
The SEC schedule is rigorous already and is trending toward nine games. That will happen one day. This year Ole Miss plays the SEC schedule with only one open date, and that doesn’t come until Nov. 14.
No coach is ever going to tell you the FCS week is an open date, but it’s the next best thing. It can be a challenge for coaches to know when to push buttons, but managed correctly it can be a week to rest and heal players.
It can be a week to recover emotionally. That wasn’t exactly the way it worked for Ole Miss when the Rebels faced Presbyterian between Auburn and Arkansas last year, but that PC game week did give the Rebels a little bit of time to begin to adapt to life without Laquon Treadwell.
I get that many fans don’t like this game, but in the big picture it’s important for the health of the team.
And if season ticket holders choose to take that day off, as many do, that’s OK too. That puts more available tickets into play and lets more kids who rarely see the campus on game day get there for the experience.