Overall, Not a Banner Weekend for F.B.S.
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 4, 2012
Over the course of last year’s opening weekend, F.B.S. teams went a combined 36-2 against F.C.S. opponents. The two losses: Oregon State to Sacramento State (29-28) and Duke to Richmond (23-21). There were other close calls, including Washington’s flirtation with disaster against Eastern Washington, Iowa State’s near-loss experience to Northern Iowa and UTEP’s overtime victory against Stony Brook.
The point: F.B.S. teams have owned F.C.S. opponents, by and large, but with a few examples at our disposal, F.C.S. teams have narrowed the gap over the last two or three seasons. That’s one way to explain what occurred over the past weekend, from Thursday to Saturday. Not that it makes the weekend any less inexplicable.
Four teams lost to an F.C.S. foe: Middle Tennessee State to McNeese State (27-21), Idaho to Eastern Washington (20-3), Pittsburgh to Youngstown State (31-17) and Memphis to Tennessee-Martin (20-17). Another five teams beat an F.C.S. opponent by a touchdown or less: Indiana, Wisconsin, Wake Forest, Maryland and Florida Atlantic.
The big-picture takeaway from the season’s opening weekend was the exponentially larger number of ugly losses suffered by teams on the F.B.S. level – or the overall ugliness of several victories. That eight teams struggled putting away F.C.S. opponents – the F.B.S. went 31-4 overall in such games – speaks to the increased level of competitiveness across the entirety of college football.
Or does it? These games say more about the F.B.S. teams in question than their F.C.S. counterparts; in every case but Wisconsin, you’re looking at an also-ran, if not worse. What else does nearly every team share? Outside of Wake Forest, each team entered 2012 dealing with coaching or massive personnel turnover.
Middle Tennessee State is a mess – which is why Rick Stockstill isn’t long for Murfreesboro. Idaho is dealing with a quarterback quandary, not to mention the off-field expansion-related news that has plagued the program since the early summer. Pittsburgh is breaking in a new coaching staff.
As if Florida Atlantic, which beat Wagner, 7-6. Once again, Indiana is the youngest team in major college football. Maryland’s already thin roster has been further decimated by injuries, especially at quarterback. Even Wisconsin is breaking in a new starter under center while retooling its coaching staff.
You can take this a step further – including B.C.S. conference teams that lost to supposedly inferior competition off of the F.B.S. level. Colorado State topped Colorado, making Jim McElwain the first first-year coach in program history to top the Buffaloes. California lost at home to Nevada; as an aside, the last time Nevada topped the Golden Bears in September it went on to win 13 games.
Houston lost to Texas State. Florida had its hands full with Bowling Green. Likewise with Minnesota, Stanford, Iowa and Rutgers, with U.N.L.V., San Jose State, Northern Illinois and Tulane, respectively. Simply put, it wasn’t a banner weekend for the F.B.S. – you could even say it was one of the worst opening weekends in recent memory.
Mark it down to… what? Opening-week jitters? That’s one option, and when combined with new-staff jitters, it makes for a tidy explanation. One example: Pittsburgh wasn’t just stepping onto the field under Paul Chryst, but stepping onto the field with the program’s third full-time coach in as many years. Florida Atlantic might even get worse under Carl Pelini before it gets better; while those who watched the Owls a year ago might say that it can’t get any worse, Pelini knows that he needs to build F.A.U. from the bottom up.
Or are there more bad teams in the F.B.S. than most originally believed? It’s too early to go that far – though I’m tempted to throw Pittsburgh and Colorado into the same boat with Memphis, South Alabama, Akron and others, it’s more likely that these B.C.S. conference programs simply need time to gather themselves before entering conference play.
Tags: Carl Pelini, Florida Atlantic, Idaho, Indiana, Maryland, Memphis, Middle Tennessee State, Paul Chryst, Pittsburgh, Rick Stockstill, Wake Forest, Wisconsin
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