Imagine pulling for a team that can’t possibly win a championship, and not just because they aren’t good enough. In College Football, it might literally be impossible to even qualify for a championship based on the company we keep. Because of that, and that alone, it falls on the schedule-makers at Nobody U to make said program outside the Cartel relevant to the national conversation.
That’s not to say any of the participants from “non-qualifying” conferences ever really diluted the product, quite the opposite, in fact.
Boise State was the nation’s only unbeaten team from the 2006 season. The Broncos had to ‘settle’ for that historic Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma. Meanwhile, one-loss Florida took down Ohio State in the bigger game on that same field in Arizona a week later. After Boise State’s 43-42 overtime win over Oklahoma, their quarterback was asked if they deserved a title shot, and he said he thought so. He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t quite all-the-way right either.
That perfect Boise State squad scheduled Division I-AA Sacramento State, a 10-win Oregon State team, Wyoming, and Utah in a down year, out of conference. None of their Western Athletic Conference rivals were ranked at the time of their game against the Broncos or the end of the season, so it was very difficult to argue their body of work against that of Ohio State’s or Florida’s for a spot in the two-team playoff. Being undefeated basically became the standard for the Broncos, but even non-league wins over Oregon, Virginia Tech, and Georgia were not enough for National Championship consideration. Playing other mid-majors in 8 or 9 contests per year, it impresses no one.
What are the contenders in the American, Conference-USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt doing to chase down more than just small conference glory? What type of 2016 schedule might qualify these nobodies for the very exclusive tournament that College Football uses to crown its champion?
American Athletic Conference
The geography of this league lends itself to some really good non-conference games, as SMU gets backyard games with TCU and Baylor, but the team with a schedule worthy of national consideration is Houston. Sure, they’re playing Lamar, and I will not support any playing of FCS opponents by teams that want to be the best of the FBS, but I’ll let it go for Oklahoma and Louisville. The Sooners and Cardinals will both play Houston in Houston, which should be good enough if they survive the AAC.
Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) is going to attract the big boys to the Alamo Dome, but they will usually have to reciprocate with a road game. This year, they host Arizona State in September and take a trip to College Station, where Texas A&M will host them in November. Don’t expect competitive games. I might like Marshall’s gauntlet of ACC adversaries, if they weren’t coming immediately after an opening slate of Morgan State and Akron. Like Marshall, Western Kentucky will be taking on Louisville, but we’re focused on their Week 2 matchup. They’ll tussle with Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide, so should there be a running of the table, the Hilltoppers may get to dance.
There might be a case to be made for Northern Illinois, but Bowling Green accompanies their visit to Columbus to play Ohio State with solid mid-major matchups against Middle Tennessee State and Memphis. They’ll see both NIU and Toledo in conference play, games they need to win for anyone to take them seriously, especially if Ohio State doesn’t boat-race them in the opener.
Boise State will make headlines in some markets with their Pac-12 opponents, at home against Washington State and in Corvallis versus the Oregon State Beavers, but BYU may give them their biggest challenge. However, it is the much traveled Hawaii Rainbow Warriors that play Cal, Michigan, and Arizona. Those are all long-ish to long road trips against 2016 teams that are much better than their 2015 counterparts.
If I skipped this section or listed FCS schools in this paragraph, would you even notice?
On a serious note, Troy plays Clemson, which is cool, but it’s off-set it is by playing the dregs of the FBS in Idaho. Austin Peay and Southern Miss don’t move the needle for me either, looking at the Trojans schedule. However, our eye is on Appalachian State. The team best known for upsetting Michigan in 2007 is going FCS-free in ‘16, visiting the best Tennessee Volunteers team anyone has seen in years, and they convinced The U to come to Boone, North Carolina. The Mountaineers have already won, if you ask me.
At the end of the day, if we’re talking about those four lines and those two semi-final games, to open our game’s championship up to the anyone outside of the Cartel, it’s probably Houston.
(featured photo via Sporting News.com)