Earlier this week, respected Pac-12 columnist Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News wrote an article discussing Southern Cal’s decision to schedule their first FCS opponent, UC Davis, in 2021 while suggesting that UCLA should start doing so.
Of course, in doing that, the Southern Cal Trojans have left the UCLA Bruins and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as the only FBS schools to never have scheduled a game against an FCS school.
That’s clearly been a source of pride for UCLA and Bruin fans.
But, Wilner makes a convincing argument for the change. He suggests that, with a nine-game Pac-12 schedule, a potential tenth conference opponent in the Pac-12 Championship Game plus Notre Dame, Southern Cal has 11 Power Five opponents every year and, if one of their two other non-conference games is against a Power Five school, then they could play 12 Power Five teams in a season.
Wilner also notes that the College Football Playoff process hasn’t been kind to contenders with two losses and he argues that adding an FCS opponent to the schedule brightens the chances of a team going either 13-0 or 12-1.
He also suggests that, because the Pac-12 is loosening restrictions on the dates on non-conference games in future years and that it’s easier to schedule an October or November game against an FCS school than a Power Five school tied to a conference because most Power Five and Group of Five conference games are played in those months, playing an FCS school at that point in the schedule can give a team a respite from the grueling conference schedule.
In discussing UCLA, Wilner argues that the realities of the sport have changed. Indeed, they have. He specifically mentions how getting to the Rose Bowl Game was the goal in the past while the goal of making the College Football Playoff is the new reality.
He discounts UCLA’s philosophy “that fans want to see quality opponents in the Rose Bowl and that UCLA should have the personnel to compete against anyone” and suggests that it doesn’t make much difference if the Bruins are facing an FCS school or, say, South Alabama or Coastal Carolina as they will do in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
On one hand, this makes sense. Will more UCLA fans show up on September 17, 2022 because the Bruins are playing South Alabama than would show up if UCLA scheduled UC Davis instead? I don’t think so. School still won’t be in session until after that and, if we’ve learned anything about the attendance patterns at the Rose Bowl, it’s that attendance is more tied to the team’s on-field performance than who they are playing.
But, then, there’s the fact that this is a tremendous source of pride for Bruin fans—and I think it’s why UCLA should not start scheduling FCS opponents. Let’s face it. The overall state of the football program during Dan Guerrero’s tenure has been so abysmal that Bruin fans have grasped onto anything which gives us a reason to be proud of our football program and being one of, now, only two FBS schools to have never scheduled an FCS opponent has been a huge source of pride.
Of course, even if UCLA did go that route, we can, as Wilner adds, point to the fact that Southern Cal caved first, but I still don’t think that’s a reason to start playing FCS schools.
Well, how about Michigan vs. Appalachian State for starters or the men’s basketball team final misadventures under Steve Alford against Belmont and Liberty this past season?
The only exception I might consider would be if UCLA opted to schedule the consistently excellent FCS schools. North Dakota State has won seven of the last eight FCS title games. That record certainly got the Bisons head coach Chris Klieman noticed enough. He’s been hired to replace Kansas State legend Bill Snyder who retired after last season.
But, given just how far in advance schedules are made, there’s really no reason to do this because there’s no guarantee that a program as good as NDSU will continue to be as dominant now that Klieman has left the school.
Sure, it makes sense that Southern Cal opted to schedule UC Davis. They had an open spot on their 2021 schedule and, again, considering how most non-conference games are scheduled far in advance, they probably couldn’t find an FBS opponent on such short notice.
Then again, UCLA had two non-conference slots open for 2020 and one for 2021 as recently as February 2018 after Rutgers cancelled their two-game contract with the Bruins and they were able to schedule a home-and-home series with Hawai’i to replace the Rutgers series and add a one-off home game against New Mexico State for 2021.
So, I don’t see any reason at all to give an FCS squad the opportunity to play the game of their life against the Bruins at the Rose Bowl.
What do you think? Let us know in our poll and, of course, explain your vote in the comments below.
Should UCLA Football start scheduling games against FCS schools?
This poll is closed
Not until after Notre Dame does.
Yes, everyone else does it. Why shouldn’t we?
Yes, the team needs an easy game to boost its national title hopes.
Yes, if Chip thinks so, count me in.
Who are we playing? I just show up for the tailgate!