Baseball season officially ended yesterday, so now, we move on to football. This could quite possibly the longest post I've ever written, so make sure you continue after the break to read the whole thing. I'm interested in your thoughts, so feel free to leave a comment after you read.
John Canzano brought up a good discussion topic on his radio show "The Bald Faced Truth" the other day: Do you want to see your team pick up wins by rolling over teams like Idaho State, or do you want them to schedule top-tier programs like Ohio Sate, Michigan, and LSU?
While I think the answer this question is a happy medium between the two extremes, it's worth debating.
First off, let's back up. The Pac-10 scheduling system allows every team to play each other each year. It didn't used to be that way, as every year 2005 and before each team would play eight of the nine Pac-10 schools. In 2003 and 2004, that was UCLA for the Beavers. In 2005, the Beavers had a bye from playing USC.
Now that every Pac-10 school plays every other Pac-10 school each year, the competition improves. Every school has to play the California, Arizona State, and USC every year. But the one area where each school can veer off the track is the three or four non-conference games played every year.
The Beavers are traveling to Penn State this year to take on an always talented, Joe Paterno led team. According to Canzano, it's a step in the right direction for the Beavers. We also have Hawaii and Utah. The Beavers get Hawaii at home after traveling to the islands two years ago, but travel to Salt Lake City to take on Utah in return for last year's game played at Reser Stadium. Hawaii doesn't look like they'll be the same team without Colt Brennan, but Utah could be tough, especially on the road.
Vote in the poll, then continue after the break to read much more on the topic.
Let's take a look back over the last five years. In 2003, we played Sacramento State, Fresno State, New Mexico State, and Boise State out of conference. We beat Sacramento State handily at home, lost a close one to Fresno on the road, beat New Mexico State by twelve, and took one from Boise State at home by two.
From a fan's perspective, I have hardly any memories of the Sacramento State and New Mexico State games. I still remember listening to that Fresno State game on the radio (Maybe a new Pac-10 commissioner will get us a better TV deal?), and I also remember the Boise State home game, although it's not as fresh in my mind as the one that Alexis Serna won in the closing seconds in 2005. The Beavers emerged 3-1 from non-conference play in 2003.
We can all remember the LSU game from 2004, but there was also Boise State and New Mexico that year. Boise State crushed us on the blue turf that year, but we won the next week against New Mexico. We would have liked to come out of that stretch 2-1, but 1-2 is how it went. Nobody was expecting the LSU game to be as close as it was, and some may argue that we could have won the Boise State game. Still, scheduling LSU takes guts, and we did it. And we almost pulled off a win.
In 2005, the non-conference opponents were Portland State, Boise State, and Louisville. A win came easily against Portland State in the first ever game at newly expanded Reser Stadium, and a great win came over Boise State by the score of 30-27. I'm sure anyone who attended that game remembers it, and it's definitely in my top three home games all time at the new Reser Stadium. However, we did get schlacked the next week by (then #11) Louisville. After the Lousiville debacle and the Cincinatti debacle, we now know to stay away from the Big East. So there we have it, 2-1 in '05.
In 2006 it was Eastern Washington (yawn), Boise State, Idaho (yawn) and Hawaii at the end of the year. Eastern Washington and Idaho were both a breeze, but Boise State again handed it to us on the blue turf. The Hawaii game was a great one, an other one that not many people thought we could win. The Warriors are tough, the Beavers had to travel, and they've got the "haka". But Oregon State pulled off the win, went 3-1 in non-conference, and won the Sun Bowl. 2006 has probably been the marquee year of the Mike Riley era if you look at the wins against USC, Oregon, Hawaii, and Missouri, and we did it with both Eastern Washington and Idaho on the schedule. So there's an argument, Canzano.
On to the final year of our short study... 2007, a.k.a. last year. The Beavers won while switching quarterbacks at home against Utah, lost while switching quarterbacks on the road at Cincinnati, and won (yawn) against Idaho State 61-0 (yawn). Utah wasn't terrible, they weren't great, but it seemed to help our chances when two of their players left the game with injuries. We never put ourselves in a position to win the Cincinatti game (final score: 34-3), so there's not many "what if?'s" there. And then, there's Idaho State, the game when Sean Canfield threw for five million yards, Sammie Stroughter actually played, and we still didn't know how good we really were.
To refresh your memory, the year we're playing at Penn State, home against Hawaii, and at Utah. Let's just say that we have the best chance to beat Hawaii and Utah. If we could get real for a minute, right now, the Penn State game looks like a loss. We'll start looking at all the different facets of that team as we get closer to September 6, but right now, it's a loss. Beaver Stadium, State College, 108,000 screaming people, traveling across the country, the odds are just stacked against the Beavers. But it's going to be a great game for the Beavers. If we don't fall flat on our faces like we did in '05 at Louisville and in '07 at Cincinnati, it could be a competitive game. And we could make a name for ourselves on national television.
Going back to the question posed at the beginning of this post: I like what we've done this season. We've got the big-name team in Penn State. And we've got a couple of competitive teams in Utah and Hawaii. There's no Idaho or Idaho State this year. There's no team that we know we're going to roll over. I can see us going 2-1, 3-0 if we are extremely lucky, but I can also see the Beavers finish the three games at 0-3, and that's the beauty of these three games.
From a business perspective, there's not a game here that won't be well attended. Obviously, only one of these three games (Hawaii) is at home, and with all the recent history surrounding the Warriors, people are going to be interested in that game. We're not going to see a half empty stadium because fans think the opponent isn't worth the time, the tickets, the concessions, and the gas it takes to get to the stadium.
I don't think it's possible to schedule Top 25 teams for every non-conference game every year. And I don't think we want that. We need wins to get to 6-6, and when you're in the Pac-10, that's not always a breeze. I also don't think it's possible from a financial standpoint. Also, teams like Louisiana State, Florida, Penn State, etc. aren't going to want to come play at Reser Stadium. Sure, we could play them on the road like we did at LSU in '04 and what we'll do September 6 at Penn State, but we're not going to succeed by always playing Top 25 teams on the road.
Here's a look at what other schools in the conference are doing, with rankings from The Sporting News:
1. USC: at Virginia, Ohio State, Notre Dame
2. Washington: BYU, Oklahoma, Notre Dame
3. UCLA: Tennessee, at BYU, Fresno State
4. Oregon State: at Penn State, Hawaii, at Utah
5. California: Michigan State, at Maryland, Colorado State
6. Arizona State: Georgia, Northern Arizona, UNLV
7. Oregon: Utah State, at Purdue, Boise State
8. Washington State: Oklahoma State, at Baylor, Portland State
9. Stanford: at TCU, San Jose State, at Notre Dame
10. Arizona: Idaho, Toledo, at New Mexico
My first reaction is "wow, look at USC", and my second reaction is "wow, look at Arizona". Two completely different scheduling strategies are at work there if you ask me.
Next year, we've got Portland State, UNLV, and Cincinnati. In 2010, we've locked up a game with Louisville, but there's still two non-conference games to add. Louisville should have a decent team in 2010. If you're Bob De Carolis, how do you approach scheduling the final two games for 2010?
Keep in mind that our most successful year with Mike Riley came with Eastern Washington on the schedule. The second most successful season came with Idaho State on the schedule.
You may vote for your opinion in the poll below.
Again, a special thanks out to John Canzano, John Strong, Gavin Dawson, and all the others on the Bald-Faced Truth and on 95.5 The Game.
I'm interested to hear everyone's response.