There's been a lot of, shall we say, outrage-ish stuff poring and pouring out of the BSD proletariat over the prospect of PSU switching up the UVA game with URI. We now know it isn't happening, but it definitely seems like it was sorta kinda in the works once and just fell apart.
I like exciting games as much as the next guy. I like getting amped up and excited for PSU to play somebody who's kind of a big deal on Saturday. But you know what I like more? 10 win seasons. Top 5 seasons. Being a MNC contender.
So what kind of OOC slates do teams like that have? Let's start with MNChampion, Alabama:
8-5 Big Ten team, 7-6 Sun Belt team, 3-9 Sun Belt team, 1-10 1AA team
OK..well...that's just one team. And they were automatically going to be taken seriously because they were the defending champ. They almost lost to Georgia in the SEC Title game, and if they had, Georgia would have gone on to play for the MNC. So what was UGA's slate?
7-7 ACC team, 4-8 MAC team, 3-9 Sun Belt team, 10-4 1AA team
Well, OK, but those are SEC teams. They always play patsies OOC. In tandem with oversigning, it's the secret to their power. Kansas State and Oregon almost qualified for the game too. Heck, they arguably deserved to be there more than Alabama! What did their slates look like?
KSU: 3-8 1AA team, 7-5 ACC team, 4-8 Sun Belt team
Nike U: 10-3 Sun Belt team, 9-4 MWC team, 3-8 1AA team (and a conference slate that included Colorado and Washington State!)
Alright, well, outside of Alabama, none of those are top 10 all time programs. Ohio State may have been outside of bowl eligibility, but if they had been, they definitely would have gone to the MNC game. Even though they play in the complete crap Big Ten! What was their OOC schedule?
3-9 Pac-12 team, 4-8 MAC team, 10-4 CUSA team, 3-9 CUSA team
OK, OK. So the good teams from 2012 played pretty crappy OOC schedules. I GET IT CK, THAT DOESN'T MEAN WE SHOULD AND OURS WOULD HAVE JUST BEEN SO BAD WITH URI
If you say so. Averaging those schedules together and adjusting for 4 non-con games:
6-6 BCS league team, two 6-7 1A, non AQ teams, 5-6 1AA team
PSU's with URI (using 2012 records): 8-5 BCS league team, 2 non-AQ teams with an average record of 7-7, 0-11 1AA team. So a worse 1AA team, but slightly better non-AQ teams and a significantly better BCS team.
With URI, PSU was at least at, and arguably above, the OOC schedule toughness of the 2012 MNC contenders. With URI. With Virginia? Far, far above.
And PSU is dealing with sanctions. Bad ones. Sanctions that severely damage PSU's depth. What does depth let you do? Depth lets you have injuries and not worry about it too much. Depth lets you not have to worry about getting younger guys reps, because there will be plenty of competition for every open spot next year, so there will be no shortage of talent. Depth wins close games in the 2nd half, because you've got capable 2nd stringers getting in the game and giving you solid plays.
PSU needs to get younger guys reps in those games. PSU needs to limit starters' minutes, thereby minimizing the chance of injury. Playing a tougher non-con limits PSU's ability to do just that.
We all love games against top teams. Especially ones PSU has history with. But the simple fact is such games hurt more than they help, and could hurt PSU far more than most. Scheduling machismo may be a cool thing to thump your chest about in the off season, but it doesn't make you an elite team in the fall.