Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Solochek: Lesser foes can’t be overlooked

Suddenly cupcakes do not look so delicious.

I’m not talking about the tasty birthday treat but the
overmatched teams which enter major conference football stadiums during the
first few weeks of September.

Each year, top 25-ranked football teams — including
Wisconsin — invite non-Football Bowl Subdivision teams to their campuses each
year to act as a preseason game before the conference schedule starts.


It used to be these teams would get beaten pretty handily by
many of the big football schools. However, the cupcakes are starting to fight
back. We all know about last year’s historic upset at the Big House as
Appalachian State beat Michigan, becoming the first Football Championship
Subdivision team to beat an FBS team in NCAA history.

This year, history has begun to repeat itself.

During the first week of the season, Fresno State beat a
favored Rutgers at home. Last week, East Carolina pulled its second upset of
the season by beating then-No. 8 West Virginia 24-3.

These upsets should not come as a surprise to a lot of
people. For many years, there has been a growing parity in college football.
Many non-FBS teams have been able to delve into a growing talent pool which has
been unprecedented in recent years. Teams are finding players to fit their
systems — whether it be the spread or West Coast offense — that can make a
major impact for their teams.

Although some of these programs are getting better, it does
not mean there is a mutual benefit for the two schools to play each other. In fact,
these games have the potential to hurt the teams from the major conferences
more than help them.

For the smaller teams, there is a lot to gain by walking
into a large stadium and playing a football powerhouse. Not only does it give
the players experience in front of a large crowd, but it also allows them to go
up against a team much better than many of their conference schools in order to
prepare for the rest of the season.

Also, the exposure the smaller teams get by playing against
major conference schools is unparalleled. This exposure helps the team for
recruiting purposes and exposes them to prep athletes who would have never even
heard of many of the smaller, non-FBS teams.

For the larger, major conference teams, the risk is greater
than the reward. Sure, playing these cupcakes warms the team up for the
conference season and helps solidify a lineup that may have some questions at
any of the positions.

But what happens if one of the team’s star players goes down
for the season? What about if you are a top-10 team and you lose? What happens
to your ranking?

A loss by a highly-ranked team to a smaller school could
have a profound impact on the program for the rest of the season. Not only
could it drop them from the top 25 altogether, but it could eliminate them from
any chance of making a major bowl game.

These days, going to bowl games isn’t always about winning,
but about the money. If a team makes it to a BCS bowl game, they get millions
of dollars just for showing up, with the winners taking home even more.

For a team like Wisconsin, especially this year, losing to a
team like Fresno State could have huge implications. The Badgers are in
contention to make it to the Rose Bowl and are being closely followed by both
Illinois and Penn State. If UW falters this weekend before they have the chance
to play any of their conference rivals, it would mean another trip down to
Florida for Bielema’s squad. Or worse.

It has been my feeling for years that the Badgers should
bolster their preseason schedule. For the last two years, they have begun to
play better teams before going into the conference season. Last year, they
played Washington State from the Pac 10 and take on Fresno State this Saturday.

By playing a stronger preconference schedule, Wisconsin
would be better prepared to play some of the tougher teams in its conference,
such as Ohio State or Michigan. Also, if the Badgers were to play more
challenging teams earlier in the season, it would allow them to move higher in
the rankings before the season even started. If they lost one of these games,
it would not have the impact as a loss to a less talented team.

However, it does not look like the cupcakes are going away
any time soon. So beware, FBS teams. These games could get a little sticky.

Ben Solochek is a senior majoring in journalism
and history. If you would like to talk about the dangers of pastries, e-mail
him at
[email protected].

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