Wednesday, June 10, 2009

ESPN Takes a Potshot at Kentucky, Ball State

You know, this time of the summer is usually reserved for media coverage of the major programs. Most all of your ESPN headlines will be about the Notre Dames, the Floridas, the Texases of the college football world, with an occasional Lane Kiffin violation sprinkled in for good measure and a routine breaker. So imagine my surprise when I opened Mark Schlabach's newest column on ESPN and both Kentucky and Ball State were actually mentioned.

Schlabach's piece chooses to highlight the best and worst non-conference schedules in FBS for the 09 season, and while neither BSU or UK will set the world on fire or the pundits aflutter with their scheduling, I find it challenging to believe that either team would be in their bottom 10. Au contraire, mon frère. What is most disappointing is not that Kentucky is ranked 9th worst in the country and BSU 10th, it is the sort of catch-22 hypocrisy that the WorldWideLeader perpetuates with this sort of drivel. Says Schlabach...

9. Kentucky Wildcats
I'm guessing new Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari can't wait to watch the Wildcats play football this season. UK's football schedule looks a lot like the ones Calipari's basketball teams played at Memphis every season. The Wildcats open the season Sept. 5 at Miami (Ohio) and then play rival Louisville at home two weeks later. After opening SEC play, Kentucky plays Louisiana-Monroe at home on Oct. 24 and FCS opponent Eastern Kentucky at home Nov. 7.

10. Ball State Cardinals
Want to finish the regular season with an unblemished record? Call Ball State. The Cardinals have the scheduling formula down to an exact science. A year after the Cardinals rode a soft schedule to a 12-0 record during the regular season, they'll once again play one of the country's weaker nonconference slates. Give Ball State credit for playing at Auburn on Sept. 26. But they could have done a little better than North Texas (home), FCS opponent New Hampshire (home) and Army (road).

As the SNL Church Lady says, "Isn't that special!" Schlabach makes some good points, and I would argue that Kentucky and Ball State's schedules aren't exceptionally strong, but for an accurate picture to be given, one has to look at the context. The why's behind the schedule. And you, or Schlabach, or whomever else chooses to look past the "truth" of ESPN, will find some context.

For Kentucky, it's a simple explanation really. Not only do the Wildcats play in the toughest conference in football in the SEC, they play in the toughest division of the toughest conference. Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina, Vandy, and Kentucky. That's tough stuff, brother. Also in conference the Cats get Mississippi State, Alabama, and Auburn. Show me a non-SEC team with a schedule like that from top to bottom. As for their out of conference opponents, the Cats have two pillow fights with Eastern Kentucky and Louisiana Monroe. Miami of Ohio is a game specifically designed for the Cats to make the trip to the Bengals stadium, and will be a good series. As for the Louisville Cardinals, don't blame Kentucky for their recent struggles. The fact that Steve Kragthorpe has driven the Cardinals into the dark abyss faster than if Ted Kennedy was behind the wheel shouldn't reflect poorly on Kentucky.

For the Ball State Cardinals, it's much more infuriating. This is the same ESPN that used to bag on Ball State left and right and go so far as to making them a punchline in their bottom 10 when the Cardinals scheduled their rear ends off in the late 90's and early 00's. So if you schedule hard and lose, you're a joke. If you schedule easy and win, you're a coward. What exactly is the middle ground? And more importantly, that's even under the assumption that there is anyone who would voluntarily play the Cardinals. Last I checked, finding games for mid-majors who were 12-2 the previous year and ranked in the Top 15 were fairly hard to find.

To be completely truthful, I'm not sure how to take this. Is this Schlabach simply looking for some commentary amidst the summer doldrums? Is this Schlabach not doing his homework? Is this Schlabach simply taking a few swipes at programs who in recent memory has seen their share of jokes? It's hard to say, really, but Schlabach is quickly putting himself in the OTP doghouse, and should definitely be a Take-With-A-Grain-Of-Salt columnists for Cardinals and Cats fans.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Stop making excuses for cowardly scheduling.WTH did you expect ESPN to say?No reason why UK cant schedule a decent OOC opponent like UNC or Cincy.All of the other SEC-E teams play a decent OOC opponent.

Anonymous said...

Taking up for our fearless author and not UK, but did you skip the part where he noted that it's not UK's fault that their in-state rival has gone into the tank? Got news for ya: Florida's annual game against the Seminoles don't look so tough no more, either, Rock...

As for BSU, Schlabach can take a flying leap. Your point about the double standard was salient... did they give us any credit when our 2005 non-conference schedule consisted of road games against Top 10 Iowa and Auburn teams, followed by a roadie at Top 20 Boston College (easily the toughest OOC in the country that year)? Hell, no. They mocked us when we started 0-5 and put us in the Bottom 10. Screw them.

(UNH was only added after *every* Big Ten school with an opening turned us down, BTW.)

Anonymous said...

You know, considering the fact that Kentucky plays no less than 3-5 national powerhouses a year and is in the toughest division of the toughest conference in Division I Football, I do not see where anyone has the right to complain about our OOC schedule. No one complains when Ohio State or USC play some patsy every year. We play Florida,Georgia,Tennessee, South Carolina EVERY YEAR....we play LSU,Alabama, and Auburn every OTHER year. Spare me the talk about scheduling. Kentucky has THREE CONSECUTIVE bowl victories against teams that were all ranked above them during the season. The only way to get to a bowl game with this lousy system is to get 6 wins.

Dirk said...

This isn't a potshot at all. He's saying that the Cats schedule a few patsies because their in-conference schedule is the toughest anywhere.

Davis said...

First, Memphis routinely scheduled difficult nonconference games to make up for their weak conference schedule. His UK team will play Louisville, North Carolina, Indiana, UConn and possibly Texas.
Second, the other big boys in the SEC are actually higher on the list than Kentucky. And I think teams are afraid to schedule Ball State. Terrible reporting, Mark.

Anonymous said...

Davis..... this story and the rebuttal there of..... is about football........not basketball.....

Anonymous said...

Is Kentucky the only SEC team that has to play these 3-5 SEC powerhouses each year? NO!What about Vandy? Miss St? Ark? South Carolina? All simular caliber SEC teams as UK, yet they scheduled at least one halfway decent OOC opponent. Last year UK outscored their OOC opponents 126-22.This yrs OOC opponents won 11 combined games last yr in very weak conferences.Pathetic!

Anonymous said...

@4:22 p.m.: You have to be shitting me, right?

Miss. State? The same MSU that lines up Jackson State, MTSU, a Conference USA team on their non-conference slate?

Vandy? Who lines up Western Carolina, Rice and Army?

Arkansas? Who takes on Missouri State, Eastern Michigan and Troy?

You realize that Louisville would have kicked the ass of both GT and A&M when these games were scheduled, right? (And might still be able to kick A&M's ass today).

Anonymous said...

^ I said schedule one "decent team".Louisville hasnt been a decent team in 3 yrs and I hardly doubt they would beat GT or TAM when they cant even beat Syracuse or half the other sorry ass teams in the Big East.You convienantly listed the cupcakes that MissSt,Vandy and Ark play but you avoided the ONE DECENT TEAM THAT THEY SCHEDULE! Miss St schedules GT. Vandy scheduled WF last yr and GT this yr.Ark scheduled Texas last yr and TAM this yr.Not great teams but "decent" and alot better than anything UK lines up.