Observations and Punditry
Monday, October 29, 2007
By Woody Peele
Scheduling down has perks and
By Woody Peele
All rights reserved.
Eyebrows went up across the country back
in September when Appalachian State, a member of what used to be called
Division I-AA, stunned nationally-ranked Michigan in its season opener.
It’s not the only upset this season by a
team from what is now called the Football Championship Subdivision over
a school from Division I-A — now labeled the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Several other of the “lower-rated” teams
have posted wins: Southern Illinois over Mid-American member Northern
Illinois; New Hampshire over Conference USA’s Marshall; McNeese State
over Louisiana-Lafayette of the Sun Belt; North Dakota State over the
Big Ten’s Minnesota; and this this past weekend, Delaware over
There’s still the possibility of a few
more of these so-called upsets before season’s end.
Maybe it’s no surprise that a full 57
percent of the Bowl Subdivision teams are playing at least one game
against their little brothers from the Championship Subdivision. A few —
Mississippi, Hawaii and New Mexico State — have a pair of games against
the old I-AA's.
There are probably several reasons:
One, obviously, is to play a cupcake to
get an easy victory.
Another aim is to get a lot of players
into an early game in order to see who performs against someone other
than themselves. Good depth can come from this.
A third likely reason is to have a
middle-season game against an opponent that should be easy pickin’s.
With a rough schedule, having a date like that could be better than an
open date since it continues the season but without too much of a
Among other reasons could be that it’s
hard to find games against Division I-A teams. East Carolina fans can
easily remember when other I-A’s didn’t want to play ECU and the school
had to schedule teams from the lower ranks. The addition of a 12th game
has added to that problem.
There may also be some politics involved,
including situations in which a state institution plays against another
state school. But who knows?
Then, there’s always the cash reason.
Usually, a Division I-A can bring in a I-AA, draw a good home crowd, get
a lopsided victory, and send the visitor home with a decent paycheck and
Some conferences dig deep into Division
I-AA — I’m going to use that term because it’s easier to use and
understand than the new terminology — while others seem to avoid them.
The fabled Pac-10 has the “best” record of
not playing the small schools. Of its 10 members, only one, Arizona, has
a game against a I-AA team, giving that league a "percentage" of 10.
The next two leagues will probably
surprise you. Second best, with just two of its eight teams dipping into
1-AA (25 percent) is the Sun Belt. Only Louisiana-Monroe and
Louisiana-Lafayette, have such games. Then comes the Mountain West with
four of its nine (44.4 percent) playing down: Air Force, Colorado State,
New Mexico and San Diego State.
Worst among the leagues is the Western
Athletic. Eight of its nine schools play games against I-AAs, and two of
them — Hawaii and New Mexico State — each play two Division I-AA teams.
Now that’s a really strong schedule!
Ranking in the middle, from low to high,
come the Atlantic Coast with six of 12 (50 percent); Mid-American, with
seven of its 13 playing down (53.8 percent); the Southeastern with seven
of 12 (58.3 percent); the Big 12 with eight of 12 (75 percent); the Big
East with six of eight (75 percent); and the Big Ten with eight of 11
Eight of 12 schools (66.7 percent) from
East Carolina’s league, Conference USA, play I-AA foes.
There are three independent teams, Notre
Dame, Army and Navy, and both of the latter play one game down.
The percentage for the indies actually
could be higher, considering that Western Kentucky is in its transition
season, moving from I-AA to I-A. I did not figure in its percentages,
since it largely is still playing a I-AA schedule.
It’s worth noting that in this week’s BCS
Top 25, over half (13) played at least one game against a Division I-AA
— top-ranked Ohio State; No. 2 Boston College; No. 8 Kansas; No. 9
Missouri; No. 10 Georgia; No. 12 Michigan; No. 13 Connecticut; Now. 14
Hawaii (two games); No. 17 Alabama; No. 18 South Florida; No. 21
Wisconsin; No. 22 Boise State and No. 25 Clemson.
Maybe the old saying that for years
"explained" why the lesser known schools didn't get a fair shake in the
polls still has a modicum of truth: It ain’t who you play, it’s who you
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10/29/2007 02:33:21 AM