I want more.
That’s the first thing that came to mind when news broke that Texas A&M and UCLA were starting a home-and-home series in 2016.
The news by its lonesome is worth celebrating, of course. Two of the nation’s hottest brands—poised to be national championship contenders by the time the series arrives—will meet in their unique environments in back-to-back years. That’s a win for all of us on face value alone. But I don’t want it to stop there.
As my crooked friend Gordon Gekko once said, “Greed is good.” In the instance of wanting more quality football programs to abandon their comfort zone, choosing to touch gloves against other worthy adversaries, greed is good.
And on a list of improvements that seems to grow daily, the sport could use a philosophical change when it comes to what made it popular in the first place: Good teams should be playing other good teams more often than they are right now.
Texas A&M and UCLA’s dive into what is now unchartered waters will take place in relatively short order. The Bruins will make the trip to the revamped Kyle Field on September 3, 2016 and the Aggies will travel to the Rose Bowl almost exactly a year later.
Eric Hyman, Texas A&M Athletic Director, said the following in a release posted on the school’s website:
We are very pleased this series was able to come together and provides our program with an exciting, premier non-conference matchup against UCLA. UCLA brings one of the top programs from the West Coast to the redeveloped Kyle Field in Aggieland, and for our Aggie team and the 12th Man to have the chance to play in the Rose Bowl is a historic opportunity.
Nothing is a given in these games. UCLA coach Jim Mora could be gearing up for a game against Kevin Sumlin, only Mora is wearing a Dallas Cowboys hat and Sumlin is on the Washington Redskins’ sideline. This is far-fetched—very far-fetched—but certainty is dead in the college coaching world.
More than likely, however, these teams will continue to thrive—regardless of the coaching situation—and the teams will be ripe with talent after continued recruiting success.
In fact, such successes are a product of the excitement building right now, and scheduling meaningful high-profile games only adds to the winning formula.
There is much to be won with a matchup such as this beyond the team that comes away victorious. UCLA and Texas A&M have marketed their programs brilliantly over the past few seasons, and the buzz generated within the program stretches beyond results or an individual player.
This decision will continue to drive such a positive narrative, and we’ll be talking about the game for the foreseeable future. Heck, we’re talking about it right now—salivating over its inception—and there are multiple seasons before it is realized.
In terms of impact—and this is where our hopes for more could become a reality—each team will likely benefit from its attempt to up the ante. At least that’s the narrative being sold us from the College Football Playoff.
Strength of schedule is poised to play an integral role in deciding which teams compete in the four-team playoff going forward. Adding a potential quality opponent to the front end of the schedule should (hopefully) impress the selection committee—at least if they’re able to deliver on the message being sold before it’s put in motion.
Perhaps that will be the case, although not everyone shares this sentiment. Baylor athletic director Ian McCaw—fresh off the announcement that the Bears will play Incarnate Word in 2019 (that’s a real FCS school, apparently)—certainly isn’t ready for such movements.
He shared his thoughts with Craig Smoak on ESPN 1600:
Baylor AD > MT @CraigSmoak: McCaw: Hear from fans & they want us to play Bama, USC, OSU. Might be exciting but not for me or our coaches.— Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer) March 19, 2014
The sad truth regarding McCaw’s stance is that it has plenty of company. Other programs will gladly take a guaranteed win, hand over the cash required, avoid playing in a hostile environment and hope the conference schedule is enough.
It’s this cash-for-win mindset, however, that has turned roughly a third of the college football season into a formality of sorts. For further proof of this, sort through the first month of the 2013 regular season. While you’ll see a handful of intriguing games sprinkled throughout, an overwhelming majority of these games lacked any interest whatsoever.
It’s because there was a system to be gamed, and it was gamed. Ideally, college football’s new postseason will do a better job of encouraging bold behavior. With the future built off initiatives and promises, we just don’t know if this will actually develop.
It’s more complicated than simply telling good teams to play other good teams, although our demands aren’t specific. While financial issues and conference scheduling concerns are considerations schools must be mindful of, that’s no problem of ours.
We don’t care who or why, we just want it. It’s why the shared perception of Baylor’s AD is so remarkably frustrating. And it’s also why a potential growth area for the sport—an enormous opening weekend slate of games delivered from various campuses—remains out of reach.
We want Oregon and Michigan State to duke it out, and they will in Eugene in September of this year. Regardless of how this fits—or doesn’t fit—a program’s personal agenda, it fits the fan’s agenda just fine.
This, in many ways, is what we’re attracted to most. Not postseason resumes or 60-point wins over FCS schools. We want two quality unfamiliar opponents sliding their chips into the middle of the table, going blow-for-blow in environments that cannot be imitated.
This mindset is not extinct in college football, and Texas A&M and UCLA are ensuring it stays alive. Now we just want more.
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