A scheduling conflict

“Anyone, anytime, anywhere,” has become a phrase synonymous with Fresno State football.

When Pat Hill took over the football program in 1997, his mission was to bring “big-time” football to the Valley.

And he has definitely succeeded.

Since 2000,  Hill and the Bulldogs have played 31 games against teams from Bowl Championship Series (BCS) conferences, more than any other mid-major program this decade.

Hill’s philosophy? He believes that if the Bulldogs play that type of schedule they will be able to succeed in the current playoff system in college football – or lack thereof.

But does scheduling the big boys really help the program?

The Bulldogs have definitely gained a reputation over Hill’s tenure of not backing down from any challenge, but many of these games have left Fresno State battered and bruised.

So much stock goes into these games against BCS-conference foes that the ‘Dogs aren’t healthy enough to compete in their own conference.

Which brings us to Saturday’s contest against the Cincinnati Bearcats.

This will be the second of three games against BCS teams the Bulldogs will play this season.

In fact, the Bulldogs have played at least three BCS opponents during the regular season in eight of the last 10 years.

However, a brutal schedule may not exactly be needed to crack the system.

Let’s take a look at programs that have busted the BCS and see what formulas have worked for them.

BCS Buster No. 1 – Utah (2004, 2008)

The Utes are the only mid-major program in BCS history to break into a big bowl game twice and they came out victorious each time.

Utah went undefeated in both the 2004 and 2008 seasons, capping off their runs with BCS-bowl victories.

But, Utah definitely hasn’t taken the easy way out.

Over the last decade, Utah has played 28 BCS games (second to the Bulldogs) and holds a 17-11 record in those games.

Utah’s 17 wins are the most among mid-majors for wins against BCS foes.

Kyle Whittingham’s ballclub has played at least three BCS schools in the regular season six times since 2000.

And they’re BCS bowl wins? Dominant performances against Pitt and Bama – enough said.

But, let’s take a look at a couple of program’s in Fresno State’s conference who took a little easier route.

BCS Buster No. 2 – Boise State (2006)

The Broncos have only been to the BCS once, but are always right up there with Utah as prime contenders to crash the party.

But when it comes to scheduling difficult opponents, Boise State digresses.

The incumbent WAC champs have played 17 games against BCS teams this decade, but have never played more than two in a single season.

And they’re record against those schools? Six wins and 11 losses.

When the Broncos made it to the Fiesta Bowl in 2006, their only significant win was against Oregon State at home.

They had zero wins against ranked opponents that season, but still found a way into the discussion.

Not that they didn’t deserve it. Who could forget that epic, overtime win that stunned Oklahoma and put Boise on the map.

And it looks like Boise State could do it all over again.

They’re already in the Top 10 with no other mid-majors in front of them, meaning they just need to win out.

With no ranked teams on the schedule, it could be 2006 all over again for Boise.

Although they went undefeated in the 2008 regular season, the Broncos strength of schedule eventually kept them out of the BCS.

Apparently sometimes the formula works and other times it doesn’t.

Let’s look at one more.

BCS Buster No. 3 – Hawaii (2007)

This may have been the most overrated team in BCS history.

The Warriors didn’t play a BCS team until the last game of the season in 2007 and were barely able to hold off the Washington Huskies, who finished that year 4-9.

Additionally, in 2007 conference play, the Warriors were only able to win half of their games by more than seven points – none of those teams were even ranked.

Colt Brennan and Co. went on to be embarrassed in the Sugar Bowl by Georgia, 41-10.

Hawaii has played 20 games against BCS schools since 2000 and is 8-12 against those teams.

What Does This Mean For the ‘Dogs?

It’s only happened four times, but mid-major teams have showed it is possible for “the little guy” to make an impact in college football.

But each example shows that there is no “right” way of getting there.

Utah chooses to schedule the big boys and it has worked twice. Boise and Hawaii on the other hand, well they were able to get by through playing a lone game against a BCS school and reached the big dance.

Each way has worked, but since Fresno has yet to put it all together, it may be time to change the philosophy.

This season may be the most brutal of all, as the Bulldogs are playing three BCS teams on the road for the first time since 2002, traveling more than 3,000 miles.

But Fresno State’s schedule is what attracts recruits, fans and national exposure, right?

However, will it result in wins? That is what remains to be seen.

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