If there's one thing I really hate about college football, it's when schools like Texas schedule FCS teams as part of their non-conference schedule instead of taking on some legitimate, top-flight competition. It's my belief that schools like Texas (you can toss in Florida, Alabama, and lots of major schools into the list) should be punished when it comes to BCS and AP voting. Especially when schools like Boise State are begging some of the big boys for football games (Boise State is offering to travel to any big team in the country, and that team doesn't have to play in Boise State the next season, but there are no takers).
So it pains me today that I've got to criticize the University of Houston. But the Cougars are taking the cowards' way out, and they've dropped Navy from their schedule for 2010 in order to play Texas State, a FCS team. I guess the thinking is that for the Cougars to be taken seriously as a big team, they need to schedule easy wins like the big boys do.
Now in truth, the Cougars non-conference schedule still involves a trip to UCLA and a Saturday-after-Thanksgiving jaunt to Texas Tech (the Cougars and Tech were supposed to play in September, but ESPN offered up a lot of money if Tech would play Texas on this day instead, so Tech jumped at the offer for the money and the Cougar/Tech game ended up in November) along with Mississippi State coming to Robertson Stadium. But instead of opening the season by hosting Navy -- one of the more entertaining teams to watch in the country -- the Cougars have instead opted for the easy win.
The Cougars wanted the easy win, but the word is that they're kind of tired of having to deal with teams that run the triple-option. They've played Air Force, and its triple-option, three times in the last 18 months, and they've lost two of the games. And yes, Navy is better than Air Force. But if the Cougars really want to make that leap where they're mentioned in the same breath as Boise State, then they have to take the scheduling challenges that Boise State takes.
Boise State knows that people/voters don't think much of their conference. And they know that they have to do more than win football games, they have to defeat major teams if they're going to have a shot at playing in a BCS bowl game. So they do what they can to schedule the major colleges to play them, but they usually find that most of the so-called major schools are cowards. So it's hard to see Boise State dropping a game like Navy because while Navy isn't Florida, it is seen as a quality opponent.
The Cougars will point out that they are still playing a tough quality non-conference schedule, but the Cougars aren't at the Boise State level where they get the benefit of the doubt. They're seen as a C-USA "power" that struggles to defeat some of the weak sisters of a conference that is a couple of notches below the Mountain West and the WAC, both of which, TCU and Boise State aside, aren't thought of as major conferences.
So while I understand the Houston concerns of losing to Navy and its triple-option offense -- especially with the Cougars awful run defense -- and while I understand the Houston desire for the easy opening game victory, I wish they would be more concerned with actually getting to the level of Boise State. And a team in a conference like C-USA doesn't get to the level of Boise State by dropping tough teams from the schedule in order to get the easy win.
In fairness to the Cougars, I heard that Navy was also doing everything possible to get out of this game, as well. But I can't help but wonder if Navy would have been more willing to stick with the game if the Cougars would not have been so desperate to get out of this match-up.
So if things work like they should, the Cougars should be able to brag about big wins over rebuilding UCLA, Mississippi State and Texas Tech. But a win over a rebuilding UCLA will not be quite the same in the national consciousness as would one over Navy. But I suppose there's always that chance of playing Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl again.
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