Rutgers Very Nervous: Big 10 Will Not Schedule FCS Games
According to Barry Alvarez, or more accurately according to CBS Sports quoting Alvarez, the Big 10 will no longer schedule games against FCS schools. The most immediate reaction is extreme nervousness in Rutgers. However, Rutgers has perfected the art of scheduling crappy FBS teams, so the need for panic is overblown.
For fun, let’s just look at Rutgers’ history in the Big East era (stats courtesy of http://www.jhowell.net/cf/scores/Rutgers.htm#2012). From 1993 to 2000, Rutgers record was a well below-average 24-63. But at least there are some decent OOC opponents each year, such as Penn State, Notre Dame, and Texas. In fact, one year–1999–featured Texas, California, and Wake Forest, three major conference opponents. There were three seasons where Rutgers took on two major conference opponents, 1993, 1995, and 2000. Not that Duke is that strong an opponent, but it’s still reasonable.
But then in 2001, a scheduling philosophy emerged–cupcake city. From 2001 to 2011, the BEST OOC opponents scheduled by Rutgers for each season were as follows:
- 2001: A 1-10 California team
- 2002: Tough schedule–Tennessee and Notre Dame
- 2003: Michigan State
- 2004: Michigan State
- 2005: Navy (only BCS foe was Illinois)
- 2006: North Carolina
- 2007: Maryland
- 2008: North Carolina
- 2009: Maryland
- 2010: North Carolina
- 2011: North Carolina
- 2012: Arkansas
Thus, between 2003 and 2011, the toughest opponent Rutgers faced was some combination of North Carolina, Michigan State, Maryland, and Navy. But it is not like Rutgers was scheduling in quantity, with three BCS foes. Instead, for the most part, it was Army and Navy that would provide the more difficult 2nd and 3rd games. The rest of the schedule would be MACtion and FCS. Not surprisingly, playing these soft schedules led to a historical surge in wins.
Sure, you say… the Big East was too strong for Rutgers to schedule tough. Really? In 2002, equally inept Temple scheduled South Carolina and Oregon State. Pitt scheduled Notre Dame and Texas A&M. Boston College scheduled Stanford and Notre Dame. West Virginia scheduled Wisconsin and Maryland. Syracuse scheduled Auburn and North Carolina. Virginia Tech scheduled LSU and Texas A&M (in addition to rivalry game against Virginia). Miami scheduled Tennessee and Florida (in addition to rivalry game against Florida State).
OK, perhaps you can rationalize that because that was the older, tougher Big East. Fast forward to 2007. Rutgers OOC slate was Maryland (6-7), Buffalo (MAC), Navy (8-5), Army (3-9), and Norfolk State (FCS). In contrast, Syracuse scheduled Washington, Illinois, and Iowa. Pitt scheduled Michigan State and Virginia. Louisville had Utah, Kentucky, and NC State on the slate. UConn–just making the move to FBS–scheduled Virginia and Duke. South Florida challenged itself with North Carolina and Auburn. Cincinnati had a weak schedule too, with only Oregon State having any relevance. West Virginia had Maryland and Mississippi State. Again, if Rutgers was not the weakest schedule, it was second weakest to only Cincinnati.
2012? With the recent success, surely Rutgers would have taken on some tough opponents? Nah. Rutgers deserves credit for scheduling a trip to Arkansas–the first game against an arguable king of college football since 2002. But the rest of the schedule was Tulane, Howard, Kent, and Army. Wow. Again, the other Big East schools were way ahead of Rutgers. Temple could not get a 5th OOC game, but still found room for Penn State and Maryland. UConn missed a bowl, but scheduled North Carolina State and Maryland. Pitt had Virginia Tech and Notre Dame on the slate. South Florida faced local kings Miami and Florida State. Syracuse had an incredible Northwestern, Minnesota (road), USC (neutral), and Missouri (road). Cincinnati was weak–with only Virginia Tech being a tough foe. Finally, Louisville had North Carolina and Kentucky. Again, Cincinnati is the only school providing Rutgers competition for weakest schedule.
While the Big 10 shifts away from FCS games, Rutgers will still be able to sprinkle in the MACtion and Army/Navy games. At least playing a Big 10 schedule will provide some toughness. Although Penn State’s sanctions and Maryland’s woes mean that the two rivals will be well-below par. But at least Rutgers will see what it is like to play multiple football kings in a single season. It has not happened much in the past 20 years and almost never in the past dozen. Winning is impressive, but only when you beat good teams too. Going big time might mean a return to small time win totals.