Orange Watch Friday: Opening against a FCS opponent

It has always baffled me why some teams open up the college football season with much tougher opponents than others. Look at Maryland and Miami meeting Monday night, an ACC conference game for crying out loud, while a team like Rutgers goes the complete opposite direction hosting and romping over FCS foe North Carolina Central, and a program like SU splits the difference by opening with and hosting a BCS opponent in Wake Forest squeaking by in OT.

In a sport in which one loss essentially eliminates a team from national championship consideration, each of the 12 regular season games (a team can play 13 if it travels to Hawaii such as upcoming SU foe Tulane) counts mightily towards BCS bowls for the major contenders, and the reward of a bowl game (although often at a financial loss for the participating school) and valuable extra December practice time for teams that finish .500 or better.

With so many teams going the FCS route to pad the win total for a bowl invite in exchange for a wealthy payout to a small program, why can’t that be the first game of the season?

After all, the SU hoop team annually plays two exhibition games.  The NFL still crazily schedules four pre-season games (ridiculously ticketed at regular season prices) when two would do, and MLB teams have almost a month of tune-ups during spring training.  As much as logistically possible, college football teams should follow suit.

All Orange fans would likely agree that despite the fantastic fourth quarter comeback and OT win over the ACC’s Demon Deacons to put a big, fat smile to the start of Doug Marrone’s third-year of rebuilding, a team with a lot of inexperience on defense and newcomers at key special teams spots might have been better off getting its feet wet against week two, FCS opponent Rhode Island.

Sure, that’s only a hypothetical scenario now that the Orange is 1-0 instead of 0-1 and has a decent shot at sitting at 5-1 before Big East pre-season favorite West Virginia comes into the Dome for a rocking Friday night game Oct. 21., and yes, TV often times has the last say when it comes to schedules.

But with the future schedules showing only a few openings through the end of the decade, and out-of-conference series with the likes of Southern California this year and next, Penn State and Notre Dame for three games beginning in 2013, along with the expected addition of TCU to the Big East ledger and the unknown future of exactly who the Cuse’s conference rivals will be moving forward,  there should be an earnest attempt to allow the football team to annually get the kinks out against a less talented opponent in the season opener.

Brad Bierman is the editor-in-chief of The Juice Online.

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About Brad Bierman 848 Articles
Now in his sixth decade of covering SU sports, Brad was sports director of WSYR radio for eight years into the early 1990s, then wrote the Orange Watch column for The Big Orange/The Juice print publication for 18 years. A Syracuse University graduate, Brad currently runs his own media consulting business in the Philadelphia suburbs. Follow him on Twitter @BradBierman.