HATTIESBURG, Miss. For years, Boise State has been accused of scheduling its way to the top. The Broncos have beaten up on weaker conference foes, defeated mostly middling non-conference opponents and made a splash with one huge victory over a highly ranked team.
It has been a recipe for ridicule. But its hard to argue with the results a slew of conference championships and two Fiesta Bowl appearances.
That formula, however, appears to be changing for the better, a product of conference moves and a stiffening of the nonconference slate. Future games against overmatched MAC teams are gone. More Pac-12 teams are moving in for the Broncos, who conclude this years nonconference schedule at Southern Miss on Saturday.
And the change might be coming just in time as college footballs new playoff system promises to place a premium on strength of schedule.
The playoffs begin in 2014 and conference commissioners have said strength of schedule should be a component used by a selection committee in choosing the four teams. Boise State Athletic Director Mark Coyle said strength of schedule will be a factor in future nonconference decisions, but right now it is ill-defined.
When they put this committee together, they need to define what strength of schedule has to look like, Coyle said. We do have to take a look at strength of schedule.
Other schools arent waiting.
Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith said earlier this week that his goal beginning in 2018 is to play BCS only teams outside of the Big Ten. Top-ranked teams, 1-50 teams, Smith told Yahoo! Sports. Ohio State and TCU announced a two-game, home-and-home series for 2018-19.
The Big Ten, as a conference, is pushing for its teams to schedule better read: fewer MAC foes and more big intersectional contests with the advent of the playoff system in 2014. Wisconsin said it would try to schedule two major non-conference games in the future.
The skyrocketing costs of bringing in teams from the non-BCS conferences and the possibility that those teams can beat you are certainly working to change the scheduling model, too. That might be bad news for Idaho, which needs to find 12 games a year as it pursues FBS independence.
Distinguishing themselves in nonconference play might be the only way for the Big Ten and other power conferences to break the SECs stranglehold on the top of the rankings. Four of the top six teams in this weeks Associated Press Top 25 are from the SEC.
The ACC decided this week to stick with an eight-game conference schedule, allowing its schools more flexibility in finding out-of-league games.
It will be hard for Boise State to schedule on the same level as teams from the Big Ten, but the Broncos certainly have improved their strength of schedule as they move to the Big East next season.
One thing weve been very consistent on is 2013 will be the toughest football schedule in school history, Coyle said.
The Broncos will play eight Big East games plus face road games at Washington and BYU and home contests with Southern Miss and Tennessee-Martin. Coyle scheduled the game with Tennessee-Martin of the FCS about a month after starting the job in January.
Coyle justified the decision to schedule Tennessee-Martin based on the strength of the rest of the schedule, the need for a home game and the uncertainty surrounding conference realignment.
We wanted to solidify our schedule, he said.
Tennessee-Martin is the only FCS team on the Broncos future schedules, which are loaded with Pac-12 teams (Washington, Washington State, Oregon State) and Western opponents (annual series with BYU and a two-game series with Utah State). Boise State also plays Mississippi of the SEC and Michigan State of the Big Ten in future years.
With the trips well have in the Big East, and getting that great exposure, weve got some of the schools in the western part of the country, Coyle said. Were playing teams from so-called BCS conferences.
That doesnt mean there wont be some strategic scheduling by the Broncos moving forward. Coyle consults with coach Chris Petersen about scheduling choices.
We need a balanced schedule, Petersen said this summer.
The coach desires competitive balance, and thats necessary. But theres also a need to fill an expanded Bronco Stadium and best position the program for a new playoff system.
Its a puzzle one Coyle is tasked with solving at a place that has proven scheduling can be as important as any player in building a program.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444