Monday, March 21, 2011

The Schedule: Why It's Not THAT Bad

"Can't is the cancer of happen; 'I can't do it.' The Nike slogan doesn't say 'Just Try It'...No, 'Just Do It,' man."
~Charlie Sheen

The 2011 schedule was finally released and let's be honest: it blows. After everything came together and the sports gods finally smiled down on Nevada Wolf Pack football and its fans in so many ways last year, those same gods appear to have reverted back to their prior stance of hating our guts. Like one of Mr. Sheen's alleged mood swings, the schedule has totally shifted from "logical, well-crafted and smart" in 2010 to "illogical, cruel and bat shit crazy" in 2011.

Four straight September road games -- three against Top 25 competition, two against likely Top 10 teams -- and no home games until October 8th. These are not the ways in which to capitalize off of a season like 2010. It's most definitely not "bi-winning"...whatever the hell that means.

Nevada's 2011 football schedule gets the Charlie Sheen Winning Stamp of Winning Approval......duh!

But consider the following before you gnash your teeth anymore than you already have about the schedule. First, the conference realignments of 2010 have had a profound effect on schedules across the country, even for the teams who aren't going anywhere. Some teams were able to emerge from this chaos relatively unscathed or even better off than they were before, while other teams found themselves victims of trying circumstances.

Nevada's Mountain West invitation threw all of its future schedules into temporary disarray, with UNLV now becoming a conference opponent and the status of New Mexico and a slew of other future opponents -- either actual or potential -- suddenly up in the air. Imagine you're throwing a big, fancy dinner party for fifty or sixty guests and then find out you have to rearrange the seating fifteen minutes before everyone is expected to arrive. That's what scheduling was like for countless athletic departments in the wake of 2010's realignments, and unfortunately, Nevada re-emerged in a seat further down the table than they had originally envisioned.

Second, the game with Boise State had to be scheduled with the future in mind. Boise State and UNLV are arguably the two biggest must-see games that Pack fans could count on seeing at Mackay every year: Boise in even years, and UNLV in odd years. If you take a one-year break from playing BSU, what's to stop the Mountain West from making Nevada play there in 2012 instead? Then you'd have Boise and UNLV in the same rotating slate of home/away games instead of the opposite ones they're currently in. Needless to say, this would be bad for Nevada's bottom line and bad for Nevada fans (And as the last game added to their 2011 schedule, it's safe to assume Nevada probably wasn't trying to get it removed altogether as some sanctimonious/resentful Bronco fans have convinced themselves they were).

This schedule isn't what Nevada wanted. From what our sources have told us -- and with respect to the privacy of those sources -- the plan that was in place for scaling down the schedule didn't come to pass for a variety of reasons. Whatever happened behind the scenes is ultimately beside the point, though: this is the schedule they've been dealt and that's what they have to play. And after last season, who says this team doesn't have a little tiger blood in its veins and why shouldn't we put them to the test? Or maybe I'm every bit as loopy as Mr. Sheen is and I'm just biding my time with this blog until I get tossed back into rehab? Either way, the guy's obviously enjoying himself and I've resolved to do the same.

And if you recall my preview of San Jose State last year, you'll remember the lesson that no matter how bad things may seem, there's always someone out there who has it worse than you. So with that in mind, here are three teams whose schedules are even more "can't" than Nevada's.

#1 San Jose State

I know, I know -- "Quit piling on to San Jose State!" But the level of abuse this program continues to subject itself to with its scheduling is nothing short of astounding. Seriously, they make the albino guy from "The Da Vinci Code" look well-adjusted. A year after playing Alabama, Wisconsin and Utah on the road, it's a relatively modest slate by their standards: Stanford, UCLA, BYU and Colorado State on the road and Navy at home. Even so, these are the kinds of non-conference games Pacific was forced to play right before their program was discontinued. If San Jose State still has an FBS football program five years from now, we'll buy the first Spartan fan we meet a stiff drink or five. (I'll also explain in a minute why Nevada's game in San Jose on September 17th is important for looking at the schedule in a better light)

#2 Florida Atlantic

The only team in the nation (to my knowledge, at least) whose first home game is later in the year than Nevada's. They start off with Florida, Michigan State and Auburn on the road, then get a couple of conference road games before finally playing at home on October 15th. Revenue-wise, it's never a good thing when you can only manage to schedule five home games, and (thankfully) that's one pitfall Nevada has successfully avoided since 2001. Don't feel too bad for the Owls, though: their schedule was only drawn up this way to accommodate the grand opening of their new stadium. Additionally, the Sun Belt will probably look and sound a lot better than the WAC in a few years, and when was the last time the Sun Belt could brag about being better than anyone in football?

#3 Colorado

The Buffaloes got perhaps the most raw deal out of the 2010 conference upheavals when it came to their schedule. First, they took a guarantee game at Ohio State -- one of the few times you will EVER see one BCS team play another with no return game. Next, they decided to let Dan "Zen Master (of Losing)" Hawkins go and replaced him with an entirely new staff. Then, when they couldn't rework a series they had previously signed with Cal before their Pac-12 invitation came, they had to get approval from the Pac-12 offices to have it counted as a non-conference game for both teams (try wrapping your head around that for a moment). Finally, thanks to their new conference and its new championship game, their full schedule of 13 regular season games (they open the season at Hawai'i) has no bye weeks. None. That's not only shitty -- that's shitty with a capital "S," a capital "H" and a capital "I-T-T-Y."

I'll end this entry with a challenge to Nevada fans. You've probably noticed by now that the WAC added insult to Nevada's (mostly self-inflicted) scheduling injuries by making them travel to San Jose State on September 17th. Aside from a reprieve in Week 1, they'll be on the road for the entire month of September and the first week of October.

You'll also recall that our fans invaded and took over San Francisco in true winning fashion for the Fight Hunger Bowl, no? Well I ask you, loyal readers: what's to stop us from doing the same for that game in San Jose? If the WAC won't give us a game at Mackay until October, then I say screw the WAC and let's make one ourselves elsewhere! Let's take over Spartan Stadium that day and turn it into Mackay Stadium West.

Sure, it ain't the real City by the Bay, but who cares? The best revenge we can exact upon the WAC (after winning the whole damn thing, of course) would be to show up at that game in droves and turn it into the Pack's (unofficial) home opener. This isn't an extended weekend in San Francisco, so you needn't worry about spending a ton of money on a trip like this. It'll all be a matter of getting up early, heading over the summit for a 1:00 afternoon game and heading back that same evening. Easy peezy lemon squeezy.

Get your tickets through Nevada's ticket office when they become available later this summer, then buy them elsewhere after the allotment runs out. There's plenty of time to start up some grass-roots efforts to get people to head out to this game -- convoys and bus trips will be extremely simple to organize. We've already proven we can travel well to the Bay Area and we can do it again!

The WAC tried to throw us another curveball by scheduling this game when they did, but we can turn it into a point of pride if we work together to make this plan happen. Just do it, man.

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