As we normally see from our SEC rivals who occasionally decide not to schedule FCS teams, there is a bit of hand-wringing in the Big Blue Nation about Kentucky's victory yesterday versus the Jacksonville St. Gamecocks. The common complaint of "Yeah, but it was just an FCS team" can be heard around the Commonwealth, and the obligatory suggestions that Kentucky should not be scheduling FCS opponents.
Of course, most of those making this complaint are blissfully unaware that every single team in the SEC this year has an FCS team on their schedule, and 83% of the 66 BCS conference teams have an FCS team on the schedule. Even mighty Alabama and LSU scheduled an FCS team.
Scheduling an FCS team is a double-edged sword. It is usually a very good idea in a tough top-to-bottom conference like the SEC, a conference in which over half the members have at least one a Mythical National Championship at one time or another. Other conferences like the Big East may find it necessary to create a home game for which a return is unnecessary -- BCS conference teams are notoriously unwilling to schedule games without a return, which leave conferences looking toward the MAC, Sun Belt, and other non-BCS conferences for home games
The downside, of course, is that the team gets no credit for playing an FCS team despite the fact that FCS teams beat FBS teams every year in football, and by playing an FCS opponent the team takes a hit to its strength of schedule. But there is no doubt that for the fans and media, winning versus an FCS team is a lose-lose situation -- you get no credit, and even get criticized for even scheduling such a team (as if it was only done by the Weak Sisters of the Poor), and God help you if you actually lose or look bad winning.
As is so often the case, this is just fans being fans. They always think their team and school are too good to stoop to playing such inferior teams, or should be. Coaches and administrators, on the other hand, know what a grind the 12-game college season can be, and that one bye week is often insufficient. FCS teams allow skills improvement and snaps for the reserves, reducing the chance of major injury and providing an opportunity for improvement.
If Kentucky somehow manages to win the majority of its remaining games, you can look at this FCS victory as the point in the schedule that it got turned around, and it would be a good example of why it is good to schedule an FCS team every year, not to mention the financial aspect. Imagine being forced to go on the road against Duke or Indiana -- not only surrendering home gate, but also the opportunity to heal up and get experience for younger players.
There are fair arguments for and against, and if you are a really good football team, it's logical to consider trying to move in lesser FBS schools. But if playing FCS teams is good enough for Alabama, LSU, Auburn and Florida, it should darn well be good enough for Kentucky.
That's my take. What's yours?