McNeese State’s Damion Dixon make a leaping catch for the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter against LSU on oct. 16, 2010, at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. The Cowboys, who count on money from playing larger Football Bowl Subdivision teams, open the 2015 season at LSU. (American Press Archives)
Last Modified: Monday, July 28, 2014 3:12 PMIf you listen to some college football experts tell it, Northwestern State could have an impact on the national championship picture this season.
The Football Bowl Subdivision championship picture.
For the first time, the concept of a playoff system will finally make its way into the FBS old-boys club. One of the criteria for the four-team College Football Playoff is strength of schedule.
And as some will have you believe the mere presence of the Football Championship Subdivision Demons on Baylor’s schedule could cost the Bears a shot at the four-team bracket. While those experts are taking a leap of faith in regards to Baylor’s ability to tackle fellow Big 12 opponents, their argument brings into light that the future of games pitting FCS teams against opponents from the so-called “Big Five” conferences could be in jeopardy.
No less an authority than Alabama coach Nick Saban has already chimed in on that matter, saying this May that he’d like to see Big Five teams play only each other.
Logistics may make that impossible, but the Big Ten has committed to taking FCS games off its schedules. McNeese opens its season at Big Ten-member Nebraska on Sept. 6.
So is there reason for Southland Conference schools to be concerned that a major part of their budgets could be turned off in the future? Commissioner Tom Burnett doesn’t seem to think so.
“I don’t know that I would say that the sky is falling or there is any need for panic,” Burnett said. “The Big Five conferences have talked about wanting to remain as Division I to keep the basketball tournament whole as it is. They’ll probably get a few things out of this that they haven’t had before, and I don’t know that we begrudge them the opportunity to do that financially.
“As is pertains to us surviving, I don’t have any qualms about our future existence. I think there’s some math involved — they talk about not playing FCS opponents. But then who are they going to play? They can’t play Notre Dame every week. They have to play somebody. I think a lot depends on how strength of schedule plays in the College Football Playoff, and it may take them a few years to figure that out.”
Coaches like McNeese State’s Matt Viator use the FBS games to their advantage in recruiting. Next year’s freshman class will have the biggest carrot available to a high school player in Louisiana — a chance to play a game at LSU’s Tiger Stadium to open their careers.
“We’ve won five (FBS games) in the last (11) years, so that’s something we use to our advantage,” Viator said. “And I’d be remiss, certainly, if I’m not telling kids ‘We’re playing LSU next year,’ especially kids in Louisiana. How much good it does, I don’t know. But we’re going to use it.”
Players don’t want the challenge taken away from them.
“It’s a time for us to show what we can do. Sometimes people don’t give us as much respect as we deserve,” said McNeese defensive end Everett Ellefsen. “A lot of FCS schools are taking out FBS schools in the first one or two weeks of the year. There’s a lot of talk on ESPN and everything. I think it gives a limelight to the FCS and a lot more respect as a division. I think it would be really disappointing, even though I understand why they don’t want to play us anymore.”
Even players from the league’s sacrificial lambs, Nicholls State, don’t want to see the games go away. The Colonels are playing three FBS teams for the second consecutive year.
“Sometimes we’re overpowered, but we still go out there and give it our all,” said Colonels offensive lineman Rafe Plaisance. “We really enjoy playing those caliber of teams just being able to compete.”