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.