College Football’s First Saturday Needs to Be Better Than That

When trying to come up with a single word to sum up the first Saturday of the 2015 college football season, anticlimactic is the one that immediately came to mind. That’s due mainly to the fact that it was a day filled with uncompetitive blowouts, instead of actual compelling action and meaningful matchups.

If you want to know just how bad it was, all you have to do is look at the lopsided numbers.

There were 58 games involving FBS teams on Saturday (not counting the canceled LSU-McNeese State game). The average score of those games was 45-15.

35 of those 58 games were decided by 20 points or more, 28 were decided by 30 points or more, 18 were decided by 40 points or more, seven were decided by 50 points or more, two were decided by 60 points or more and one was decided by more than 70 points.

That 70-plus-point game was Mississippi’s 76-3 throttling of UT-Martin—an FCS program from the Ohio Valley Conference.

Do you really think the 60,186 Rebel fans in attendance left the stadium that afternoon thinking they got their money’s worth?

Ole Miss is hardly the only team, though, that deserves to be criticized for padding its non-conference schedule with inferior FCS cupcake opponents.

34 other FBS programs —Boston College, Cal, Clemson, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Kansas (who lost 41-38 to South Dakota State), Kansas State, LSU (who had its game with McNeese State called off due to repeated lightning delays), Maryland, Miami, Missouri, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Texas Tech, Washington State (who lost 24-17 to Portland State), Air Force, Appalachian State, Buffalo, Colorado State, East Carolina, Houston, Louisiana Tech, Memphis, Miami (Ohio), Middle Tennessee, Navy, New Mexico, Rice, San Diego State, South Alabama, South Florida and Wyoming (who lost 24-13 to North Dakota)—started off their 2015 campaigns in the same fashion.

I’ve already explained how much I loathe FBS programs beating up on FCS schools in my article “College Football’s Power-5 Teams Must Stop Feasting on FCS Cupcakes.” Still, even though I feel it’s a slap in the face to the fans and something that drags down the quality of the sport overall, I’ll admit that I fully understand the logic and the reasoning of it.

In this day and age, most head coaches and athletic directors have some type of postseason incentive clause in their contracts that gives them a nice five-figure payday if their team reaches a bowl game. Therefore, it only makes sense they want to make things as easy as possible to get to the necessary six wins to earn a bowl invitation. Obviously, padding the schedule with one or two drastically inferior FCS opponents helps the cause.

Plus, in this case, schools know that they’re most likely going to rake in big attendance numbers on opening weekend, regardless if the team is hosting a quality opponent or not.

Luckily, there’s at least some hope that this practice will begin to die off in the coming years. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is one of the champions of the cause. Delany’s made it clear that his league’s schools will no longer be scheduling FCS opponents after the 2016 season. Hopefully, other league commissioners will soon follow suit.

The best possible solution could be the installation of some sort of Exhibition Weekend such as the one I outlined in my Blueprint For a College Football Superconference System article. In that proposed scenario, every FBS school would host an FCS opponent on the Saturday before the season started in an exhibition game that would be like a glorified spring game atmosphere. The games and the stats wouldn’t count, but it allows FBS teams to work out the kinks, and it allows the FCS schools to still get a nice payday from a cut of the gate revenue.

It’s certainly a better alternative to having a Week 1 slate filled with a plethora of meaningless record-boosting, stat-padding games.

The start of the college football season should have an extravagant feel. Nothing about the first Saturday of the 2015 season felt anything relatively close to extravagant.

Admittedly, it didn’t help that the three marquee prime-time games — Alabama vs. Wisconsin, Arizona State vs. Texas A&M and Notre Dame vs. Texas — turned out to be rather ho-hum one-sided affairs. Still, the fact that there were only really three games that had any national buzz shows how weak and sub par the overall slate of games truly was.

When college football is at its best, it’s arguably the most exciting and entertaining sport in America. But there was nothing exciting nor entertaining about what we witnessed on Saturday in those abundance of boring blowouts.

Sure, a month from now, once conference play kicks into full gear, no one will remember how lackluster Week 1 may have been. Still, it’s clear that a change is needed, and that change needs to start with the elimination of the FBS-FCS matchups that only serve to drag down the overall quality of the sport.

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