I understand why these games were scheduled, and while it's nice to give the new starters time to grow into their roles, this schedule isn't intriguing to fans. The Lafayette game has the 300th sellout to draw interest, but even last week for a season opener, tickets were plentiful outside the stadium.
Tom Shatel of the World-Herald seems to agree that this type of schedule is the way to go in college football, pointing out the BYU upset from last week. His justification?
NU’s schedule could be better, but it makes sense because of what comes after Louisiana-Lafayette: Missouri, Texas Tech, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kansas State and Colorado.
You see a lot of gimme putts on that list?
There's just one issue with that argument. If parity is making the conference schedule that strong, is that because everybody is good...or is everybody about the same? You see, we need intersectional matchups to show us which conferences are for real, and which ones aren't. The Big XII took some pride last week when Oklahoma and Missouri posted solid wins over SEC and Big Ten/Eleven/MAC teams. On the other hand, the Mountain West claimed victories over Oklahoma and a team impersonating the Colorado Bufaloes.
Look around college football tomorrow: what are people talking about? Colorado's massive suckage, yes. But the big story is USC and Ohio State, and how Ohio State is defending the Big Ten's honor tomorrow night. If USC wins at the horseshoe, the Big Ten's reputation may be impossible to salvage this season because it's one of the few opportunities for the Big Ten to prove themselves worthy.
As long as sportswriters reward teams for avoiding competition by ranking wins above all else, this is what we have to look forward to in college football. Teams like Texas will continue to play nobody in the non-conference schedule because they are rewarded for it. But fans suffer when they are asked to spend $50 or more to attend meaningless games that don't prove a darn thing about the quality of the team.
Next year, Nebraska's non-conference schedule is even worse: Western Kentucky, Idaho, at Washington, and South Dakota State. Some people point out that with all of the underclassmen playing for the Huskers this season, things are setting up for a banner season in 2010 for the Big Red. But with such a poor non-conference schedule, would they be worthy of any respect going into the conference season? Likely not.
But that's getting the cart ahead of the horse. In the meantime, Nebraska has to play an Arkansas State team in a no-win situation. If Nebraska rolls, it's because they played nobody. If Nebraska struggles, it's because Nebraska must not be very good. Arkansas State doesn't pass the smell test with most football fans, so while the game counts in the standings, it doesn't really count in reality.