While justinrsutton is clamoring for State to introduce a tougher non-conference football schedule this week, I thought I'd chime in on why that's a bad idea.
The simplest way I can say it is this: there is NO NEED for increased strength of schedule unless you are competing for a national championship. Now I love Mississippi State, and I believe there is a chance for that one day....but today is not that day. And with the strength of schedule the SEC provides + going to a 4-team playoff, I don't even think 3-5 years down the road there will be a need for scheduling a BCS conference school in the non-conference.
1. So, if we are not in contention for a national championship AND/OR we can still be in contention without a tougher non-conference, then what is the point? Beating an ACC school would be nice, but I'd rather be heavy favorites in four games that are going to pad our record. And let's face it, State isn't exactly setting the world on fire against these non-BCS schools: OT to beat LA Tech last year, trailing 3-0 at halftime against UAB, close call vs. UAB in 2010, losing at home to Houston in 2009, 22-14 loss at LA Tech in 2008 and only beating MTSU at home by 9 points? Shouldn't we make sure we can win these games, and win them big before locking arms with bigger schools?
2. I could say all day long that we could beat ____ school from _____ BCS conference, but when I look at on-the-field results I'm not seeing it. Our last foray into this was Georgia Tech...result: two losses including a 38-7 thrashing in '08. Before that was West Virginia: spanked twice by the Big East. Oregon: 2 losses. We scheduled Houston in 2003 and 2005, lost both times. Troy beat us, BYU, we lost to Maine. Maine. The last time we beat a non-conference BCS school was Oklahoma State in 1999 - one of the top 5 greatest seasons in MSU history.
Beating BCS schools in bowl games are different. When you are in the midst of a SEC season the team is taking a beating week in and week out. Why throw in a tough non-conference game when we are struggling to keep our head above water in the SEC? It doesn't do anything but hurt our chances to win that game and other SEC games. It's not always that we can't beat GA Tech or WVU, but when we're coming off 3 SEC games it makes things difficult. The SEC does so well in bowl games because all those aches and pains, those bruises get to heal for 5-6 weeks and the opposing team is a sitting duck.
3. Do we need better preparation for the SEC? Heck no. Are you telling me that we should go toe to toe with N.C. State in Week 1 and then face Auburn all black and blue? I will say that Jackson State and Memphis are so terrible they don't do anything to prepare us - a Tulane or LA Monroe would be better....but I think Auburn is somewhat disadvantaged this year by playing Clemson the previous week. That is going to be a hard-hitting game.
4. Will playing a legit non-conference team give us better exposure? Uh, sure for one game. But why do we need that? We-play-in-the-S-E-C! If we want exposure, all we have to do is win some conference games and we'll be on CBS in front of the whole country. How has all that national exposure gone for Tennessee while they lost to all those PAC 10 teams (Cal, UCLA, Oregon '07-'10)....or when they beat Cincinnati last year?
5. What if instead of traveling to Troy we were going to Kansas State. Both teams probably pretty even, but we have to go to Manhattan. Now, you're looking down the list of SEC games and thinking there's a legit shot at going 5-3 or even 6-2. So we could be talking about a Cotton Bowl here. But we go to Kansas State - a team we have no familiarity with - and get beat. Music City Bowl here we come.
6. Yes, we should always play a FCS school. EVERY OTHER SEC SCHOOL DOES IT, why shouldn't we? How in the world can anyone say Mississippi State should not play a Division 1-AA program every year when LSU, Alabama, Florida (teams that are winning all the national titles) are doing it? What's more, FCS school = less money paid to play than a FBS school. Hmmmm, I'll keep the cash. In addition to that, we can't shell out $1 mil+ to Troy and South Alabama so we have to play a two for one. Well, I don't want to do that any more than we have to, so let's keep the slaughter going please.
I don't know about you, but I do not care to see State play a tougher non-conference schedule. The SEC is tough enough, and if we win it we'll get our shot at the big one. If we get to be so good we're preseason Top 5 then let's play one of those Chick-FIl-A or Jerry's World games like Alabama and Auburn are doing this year....neutral site. Other than that, Scott Stricklin's got the right idea.....line up the little guys and let's tee off.