Let’s just cut to the chase: For Penn State fans and everyone else, are these games against FCS schools, or even the mid-major FBS schools, fun?
Okay, maybe they are valuable for the depth guys that won’t see the field a lot when conference play comes. That’s next week for Penn State. But other than those backups, does anyone really enjoy these games?
Major college football schools will pay about a million dollars to another small school just so they can beat up on their football teams. And for what? To pad their stats? It surely doesn’t help postseason positioning.
Let’s take a look at the non-conference schedules for the first few weeks of the season this year. There was Alabama-Texas and Ole Miss-Tulane this weekend, and LSU-Florida State last weekend drew big television numbers. But for every one of those games, there’s a Penn State-Delaware, a Michigan-Bowling Green and an Ohio State-Youngstown State matchup.
Delaware’s solid FCS school with a rich history that churns out NFL talent. Former Baltimore Ravens QB Joe Flacco’s probably the most famous Blue Hen alum that went on to a solid career, including a Super Bowl. But it’s still an FCS opponent. There’s some talent on this Delaware team too, but nowhere near PSU’s level.
A lot’s been made of the Penn State-Pitt rivalry over the last couple weeks. Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi will take every opportunity he can to ask why those two teams don’t play every year. It’s a fair question.
But why would any team that has the hopes and dreams that Penn State does this season agree on playing a rivalry opponent when they’re rewarded just as much by a win over Who Cares State?
Besides, the Big Ten’s about to welcome USC, UCLA, Oregon and Washington to the conference. When those schools from the west coast are about to play their road games across the country, who cares about geography anymore?
So what’s the solution?
For me, it’s past time everybody goes to 10 conference games and two non-conference games, especially with the new re-alignment when the Big Ten is about to become closer to the Big Twenty.
Sure, it’s not a perfect fix. The Penn States, Ohio States and Michigans don’t really have a lot of interest in playing Rutgers every season. There’s also at least a little bit of a chance that Northwestern only wins one or two more games this season, but the Wildcats are also in the middle of a terrible hazing scandal that left their head coach out of a job.
But most fans would probably take those games rather than seeing Delaware, Villanova, or Idaho. Those three schools have visited Happy Valley just in the last five years alone, and one of those years the Big Ten only played conference games.
When will the almighty dollar no longer be important enough to sacrifice the sport’s quality? Probably not any time soon, but a football fan can dream.