If this is the goal, the path is clear...win games, and the non-conference opponents you beat aren't that critical.
A major item that arose during the recent bout of tug-o-war between Mike and Mike (not the ESPN tandem) involved scheduling philosophy.
Holder wants $$. That means higher profile matchups, usually against stronger non-conference opponents.
Gundy wants to pile up wins before running the gauntlet that is the Big 12 schedule.
Somewhere in the middle is the solution, and the status of your program is the starting point.
Boise State? Non-AQ conference, therefore need to play a non-conference "big boy" in order to establish credibility.
Oklahoma State? #1 or #2 AQ conference annually, so no need to take chances against "big boy" opponents. Win, or finish 2nd, in your conference, and you are likely BCS bound (poor OU found out that is not always the case). With a future playoff looming, winning the conference will be what matters, and you definitely won't want to take any unnecessary chances in the non-conference schedule.
Still, you like to play somebody of SOME substance. It does help somewhat with program recognition, but only if you win. Look at Kansas State...played Miami 2 years in a row, both marquee wins. Nobody will remember that Miami sucked those 2 seasons, but of course the Wildcats didn't know that Miami was going to suck when they made the home and home deal. But the rest of Kansas State's non-conference schedule is just like the rest...weak as hell.
So let's compare some close friends and their schedules to what OSU has done since 2002, and will do in 2013.
The list is broken up into AQ (opponents from auto-qualifying conferences), non-AQ, and FCS (formerly Div 1-AA). Opponents are listed where they fall when the game was played. For instance, South Florida was not yet a member of the Big East when it played OU and Alabama. I've put an * next to West Virginia for OSU, as that was the game that was scheduled until conference realignment voided that contract. With such short notice, I am not holding Savannah State against OSU. Holder was in charge of that, and we all know his philosophy. They did what they had to do to fill the slot, so the opponent was not completely in their control. I have also listed teams by name and the number of times they have been played, including the scheduled games for 2013.
|Games againts AQ conference opponents since 2002|
|Michigan||West Virginia *||Notre Dame||UCLA|
|Penn St||Arizona||Notre Dame - 2013||UCLA|
|Penn St||Arizona||Florida State||Arkansas|
|Virginia Tech||Washington St||Florida State||Arkansas|
|Virginia Tech - 2013||Washington St||Cincinatti||Arkansas|
|Mississippi St - 2013||Washington|
|Games againts non-AQ conference opponents since 2002|
|Western Kentucky||UL - Lafayette||UTEP||Wyoming|
|Western Kentucky||UL - Lafayette||UTEP||Wyoming|
|Florida Atlantic||UL - Lafayette||Tulsa||Wyoming|
|Florida Atlantic||UL - Lafayette||Tulsa||New Mexico|
|Kent State||Tulsa||Tulsa||Ole Miss|
|North Texas||Tulsa||Tulsa||Ole Miss - 2013|
|North Texas||Troy||Tulsa - 2013||Rice|
|San Jose State||Troy||Ball State||Rice|
|Arkansas State||Houston||Air Force||Rice|
|UL - Monroe||Houston||BYU||Rice|
|UL - Monroe||Houston||TCU||Rice|
|Hawaii||Florida Atlantic||North Texas||BYU|
|Hawaii||Florida Atlantic||North Texas||BYU - 2013|
|Florida International||Florida Atlantic||UAB||Florida Atlantic|
|Middle Tenn State||Arkansas State||Middle Tenn State||Florida Atlantic|
|Southern Miss||Arkansas State||Bowling Green||UL - Monroe|
|South Florida||SMU||Fresno State||UTEP|
|Northern Illinois||SMU||South Florida||Central Florida|
|Wyoming||UL - Monroe - 2013||Central Florida|
|Louisiana Tech||Arkansas State|
|UT - San Antonio - 2013||TCU|
|UL - Lafayette|
|New Mexico St|
|New Mexico St - 2013|
|Games againts FCS opponents since 2002|
|Western Carolina||Grambling State||Florida A&M||Sam Houston St|
|Western Carolina||Missouri St||Idaho State|
|Western Carolina||Missouri St||Chattanooga|
|Georgia State||Sam Houston St|
|Georgia State - 2013||Montana St|
|Chattanooga - 2013||Lamar - 2013|
What do ya think?
Now let's add some college football ranking data to the mix.
Since the inception of the BCS in 1998:
- Only 1 AP preseason unranked team has ever made it to the NC game...Notre Dame this season...you think name recognition had anything to do with it?;
- Only 8 out of 30 NC game participants started the season outside the AP top 10;
- Only 3 out of 30 have started outside the AP top 14;
- 50% of the NC game participants (15) started the season #1 or #2;
- Only 1 team started outside the initial BCS top 10...LSU at #12 in 2003;
- Only 2 teams outside the TOP 2 in the AP have lost a game and still made it to the NC game...LSU in 2003 (#6 AP when they lost) and Florida in 2008 (#4 AP);
- Nobody outside the TOP 2 in the initial BCS poll has ever lost a game after that and made it to the NC game;
- 11 out of 30 NC game participants suffered a loss during the regular season. One of those lost twice...LSU in 2007...but that was a bizarre season. Four of the top 5 teams in the final BCS rankings had 2 losses;
- Only 2 NC game participants have EVER lost a game in September, and they were both conference games;
- Only 1 NC game participant has EVER lost a non-conference game...Florida St lost to Miami in 2000;
Only two "non-traditional" football powers have competed for the BCS NC...Virginia Tech in 1999 and Oregon in 2010. Neither won, but they got there by beating 4 patsies out of 6 non-conference opponents. At the time of the games, neither Tennessee nor Clemson were scary opponents. The patsies...James Madison, UAB, New Mexico, and Portland State. Notice that includes 2 FCS opponents. Neither Clemson nor Tennessee were the first games of the season.
And as we can see from the above schedules, this is not a HUGE departure from what the "big boys" do.
If you are not a marquee program starting the season very highly ranked, then you need to win games early. No rocket science involved in that, and who you beat is not that important if you are part of an AQ conference.
Berry, I strongly disagree, and I'm definitely on Gundy's side with this. Winning games in September is more important than who you beat.