Voice of the Scantlebury: Scheduled Leave
After cruising to a 38-7 win over West Virginia, Missouri gets its first unofficial bye week of the 2019 season:
That’s right, it’s FCS SZN in Columbia.
The annual contractual bloodletting in every Power 5 town save for Lawrence brings Southeastern Missouri to town for a six-figure win. It’s been an unbroken streak for the Tigers since 2006, when a 47-7 win over Murray State started a 13-going-on-14 year streak of big wins against overmatched opponents.
It’s been pretty impressive, really. The average score for Missouri against FCS opponents in this 14-year stretch: 51-11. They’ve scored over 60 points four times; over 70 twice. There hasn’t even been a direct correlation between final score against an FCS opponent and the final record of Missouri’s season. Two of the three biggest wins came in seasons in which the Tigers failed to make a bowl — 62-10 over Southeastern Louisiana in 2012 and 79-0 over Delaware State in 2016.
(Had that Delaware State game occurred in my NCAA 14 Dynasty, it would have made me go, “OK, this is getting a little unrealistic,” and I once took UTEP to nine consecutive national titles.)
So, really, the only storyline going into Saturday that matters comes down to attendance. It always does.
After crediting Missouri’s crowd of 51,000-plus in the win over West Virginia, Barry Odom then challenged the fans to sell out Memorial Stadium against SEMO. In terms of likelihood of that happening, it falls somewhere between “PowerMizzou message board agrees on best BBQ” and “NCAA admits mistake, overturns Missouri sanctions.”
With the line ever thinner between a contract extension and termination papers for a coach, the advantage to continually scheduling FCS opponents is clear: A scheduled win (outside of Lawrence) means you essentially have an 11-game season. Five more wins for a bowl game; at schools like Missouri, seven more wins for that solid eight-win benchmark.
Average eight to nine wins a year, and your job is safe at most (realistic) programs.
But then there are fans -- like myself -- calling for more non-conference games against opponents with pulses. The current model is one non-conference Power 5 opponent a year. I wish that teams would start scheduling two Power 5 non-con opponents a year, giving fans ten games a year to look forward to. The remaining two could still be an FCS school and a non-Power 5 FBS school.
(My crazy dream? I wish the former schools of the Big 12 North -- Nebraska, Colorado, Iowa State, Kansas State, Kansas and Missouri -- would start a yearly rotation in which each team plays two other Big 12 North teams in non-con.)
Of course, expectations within fanbases and athletic departments would have to shift. A heavy dose of reality and patience would have to come into play. There’d be more chances for non-conference losses if you’re playing better competition; the line between a contract extension and walking papers for coaches would have to get much thicker.
Realistic? No. But until schools get more aggressive in their scheduling, they’ll have to understand that sparsely-attended non-conference games will continue to be the norm — and that’s not the fans’ fault.