When formulating football schedules for the upcoming season, some teams just love to stack up their non-conference schedules with the biggest creampuffs around.
I can only imagine how a typical conversation would go between one coach and an athletic director, trying to figure out who to play in the following years.
“Let’s look in Junior High Weekly to find what team we could beat up on this season,” the head coach says.
“No, some of these kids in the 8th grade are pretty quick. This 5-foot-8, 175-pound offensive tackle is kind of intimidating,” the athletic director responds. “You know what? Those church football teams aren’t so tough. In fact, they don’t even hit. Let’s schedule a game against them.”
Really, there is only one season that matters in college football, and that’s conference season. The non-conference season is more or less a preseason to the real conference schedule. Coaches should know that junior-high-caliber football teams will not prepare their team for the conference season.
It kills me when a team with far-superior talent faces off against the dilapidated sisters of the poor. Coaches may think that their team will gain some momentum, going into conference play, when beating up on these tomatoes. But in actuality, they are simply teasing themselves into thinking they are better than they actually are.
It’s kind of like how us guys like to tease ourselves at strip clubs, thinking this beautiful woman actually wants to give us a lap dance. In actuality, the only thing that the stripper wants in your pants is the Andrew Jackson-faced bill.
But there is a way to make your team into a solid ball club, instead of one that just thinks they are good: play a challenging non-conference schedule.
Bill Snyder’s Kansas State teams loved playing creampuffs in non-conference games. The final score would be 64-0 or 56-9, and they would think they were really good. But you could never really bet on Kansas State playing in Big XII games because they weren’t always as good as you thought they were. And with such a poor non-conference schedule, K-State would always stumble in the conference season and never had a chance to play in a BCS bowl.
Wisconsin also has a history of playing awful non-conference teams, such as SMU, San Jose State and Murray State, but this year they have a much tougher schedule. By playing at Oregon and Fresno State, I can guarantee you that the Badgers will be much more competitive in the Big Ten.
As much as I hate to say it, Michigan always plays a tough non-conference schedule. With the Notre Dames, Washingtons and UCLAs of the world usually on its schedule, Michigan always is ready to go in conference play.
Coaches like to think that their overall record means the most. That is incorrect. Those voting in the poll look favorably upon a tough schedule, even if there were a couple of close losses. Wisconsin, for example, didn’t even move in the polls after their three-point loss to the Ducks.
Why is Fresno State so challenging this year? They have a history of playing a tough non-conference schedule, and their players and coaching staff are aware of it. With big victories against Colorado and Oregon State, they all of a sudden are one of the biggest surprises in the country. They know it’s because of their tough schedule.
“[Putting tough teams on my schedule] is the only way,” Fresno State head coach Pat Hill told David Leon Moore of USA TODAY. “Bobby Bowden did it back in the 1970s. Who would have thought it could happen at Florida State? He just hit the road every week and eventually started beating people.”
With such a rigorous non-conference schedule, watch for Fresno State to be fully prepared to tear apart the WAC.