The 2019 Florida State Seminoles will open the season against Boise State’s Broncos in Jacksonville.
Florida State vs. Boise State Aug. 31, 2019 season opener in Jacksonville will be officially announced at Wednesday news conference— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) May 15, 2018
All respect to Brett, aka “Sources,” but this is not really news. The deal with the Broncos has been in place for five years now, and Jacksonville has been the presumed site for FSU’s home game for at least two years. But, because the powers that be decided to make it official today, which suggests that it somehow wasn’t, the match-up is back in the news. Seizing on that opportunity, it’s time to talk some things out.
First, there is the fact that this game will be played in Jacksonville. FSU will be giving up a seventh home game to do it, and although the impact of one fewer home game on the Tallahassee community is not insignificant, playing in a different part of the state in front of a large booster contingent is a smart thing to do every now and then. General distaste for neutral site college football games aside, this is probably not a big deal.
More importantly, there is the match-up itself. Boise State is a very good football program. Everyone remembers the great BSU teams of the 2000s, culminating in one of the most exciting bowl victories in history, but the Broncos have also been the best group of five (“G5”) team in the country over the last five years. They are second among G5 teams in two-year recruiting ranking and third in five-year recruiting ranking. And they have retained their dominance even after Chris Peterson left for Washington, as Bryan Harsin has won 42 games in 4 years.
All of that said, Florida State will almost certainly be favored to win this game. However, the question of whether this series (yes, series—we’ll get there) was a wise scheduling decision remains. Under the BCS system, the recipe for smart scheduling was fairly simple: amass wins. It’s fair to ask whether that remains the case in the College Football Playoff Era. The Selection Committee’s standards have been, to put it nicely, amorphous. We’ve also seen an increase in teams interested in scheduling marquee non-conference games early in the season, although FSU fans are keenly aware of the potential drawbacks to such a strategy. With four years of data, it’s probably too early to define optimal scheduling strategy, but it’s certainly worth a deeper dive than we’re going to undertake today, because I was told to stay on topic.
Against this backdrop, it’s now time for a take: this series was not a good idea. Chiefly because, even if Florida State thumps a good Boise State team, it will not get the credit it deserves for doing so. Unfortunately, this is due to the G5 stigma, and there’s no way around it in college football.
Take this season, for example. The Broncos started 2-2, including getting shellacked at home, somehow, by Virginia, for whom a home-and-home with Boise was an even worse idea (see: 56-14 beatdown in Charlottesville). At that point, the damage to Boise’s perception was done, and it entered its conference schedule. The Broncos proceeded to close 9-1, winning the Mountain West, defeating Oregon in a bowl game, and rising to 25th in the nation by S&P+. Do you think a playoff contender would have gotten any real credit for beating the Broncos in 2017? If so, do you think it would be more, or significantly more, than if the contender had beaten a much worse team in an out-of-conference game, such as South Carolina, Texas A&M, West Virginia, or Kansas State? These questions are not rhetorical, so answer them in the comments. This is a discussion. The title says so.
It’s a point we’ve made before about playing USF: Florida State has nothing to gain and everything to lose by playing good G5 teams. Granted, Boise does not present the in-state considerations that the series with the Bulls did, but Boise is also consistently a much better team. No team has ever played for a national title in the BCS or CFP era after losing to a G5 team. No, I did not look that up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true, and it seems like something you’d want to avoid.
This is before we even get to the worst part about the series: the return trip to Boise, Idaho in September of 2020. Now, I am not for one second suggesting that Boise in September will be anything but lovely. Bill Connelly did a trip out there and a full profile of the Broncos that is 1000% worth your time. I am quite confident that any FSU fan who makes the trek will enjoy it. It’s a great reason to go see a part of the country you otherwise would not, and this factor is certainly worthy of consideration weighing an ideal schedule from a fan perspective.
I am also not suggesting that Boise State as a program is unworthy of a home-and-home series with Florida State. The Broncos have a better program than several ACC teams at whose fields the Seminoles play each season. This is not a Miami-Appalachian State/Arkansas State/Toledo kind of scenario. Boise State finished 2017 ahead of Wake Forest, NC State, and Boston College, not to mention a team hailing from Tallahassee. But, like the home game, the Seminoles get nothing out of a game in Boise. Win? Cool, you were expected to. You’re Florida State and they’re a G5 team. Lose and it’s a coup for the ages on the blue turf. Not to mention that, unlike Boise’s trip to Jacksonville, the geographical area the Seminoles will be visiting is not exactly rife with recruits. It’s also a cross-country trip in week three after playing a neutral site opener against West Virginia, and it may very well immediately precede conference play. From a football perspective, an away game at Boise State is a disaster.
Having sufficiently berated FSU’s athletic department, I feel compelled to give my questionable opinions on how to fix things. It is important to recognize that the best schedules for fans are not always the best for football success. But I do think there’s a happy medium that can be reached. For example, there’s no reason not to schedule cool home-and-home series. Return games in Boulder, Berkeley, Pasadena, Tempe, Chicago—any number of great destinations, would provide FSU fans with unique travel opportunities and its football team with name-brand, power five games. Even the Ole Miss game could have been a nice home-and-home opportunity. The key, for me, is scheduling games in which FSU will most likely be favored, but also likely would not constitute the end of the world if they lost. Nice trips and recruit exposure are added bonuses.
All of this comes with a massive caveat: scheduling is hard, y’all. There’s a reason Alabama just set up a series with Notre Dame that’s ten years away. But there has to be a way to avoid home-and-home series with the best G5 teams in the future, which provide the least possible return on a given scheduling investment.
This being a discussion piece, it’s time for y’all to jump in. What are your takes on the Florida State-Boise State engagement?