Pelini not fan of games vs. FCS foes

BY foxsports • September 19, 2012

Nebraska coach Bo Pelini says up front that he'd rather not play Idaho State.

Cornhuskers fans aren't excited about it either, though out of habit they'll show up 85,000 strong Saturday for Memorial Stadium's 321st straight sellout.

Even the most optimistic Idaho State fan probably doesn't hold out much hope the FCS-level Bengals (1-1) can keep up with the No. 25 Huskers (2-1).

The Bengals will take their lumps and go back to Pocatello with a $600,000 check and memories of playing in one of the bastions of college football.

''One of the great things in America is going to Yellowstone Park, or going to Mount Rushmore, or going to Nebraska for a football game,'' Idaho State coach Mike Kramer said. ''We are not necessarily going as tourists, but we will enjoy the trip and enjoy the process.''

Idaho State-Nebraska is among more than 100 games this year matching a team from the Football Championship Subdivision against one from the big-boy Football Bowl Subdivision.

In one afternoon the Bengals will earn 5 percent of the $12 million annual budget for their 13-sport athletic department.

''Games like this have become, if you allow me to say it, a necessary evil,'' Idaho State athletic director Jeff Tingey said.

Nebraska, for its part, gets a seventh home game. Athletic director Tom Osborne has said that's the number needed to balance the $83 million budget for his 23-sport department.

This is the third straight year Nebraska will play an FCS opponent.

''I'm not big on playing these games,'' Pelini said. ''I'd rather play all I-A opponents. I'm not sitting here trying to talk bad about Idaho State. I'm talking about what we like to do as a football program. There are a lot of scheduling difficulties. You look across the country and you see a lot of them, and you talk to a lot of coaches and a lot of them aren't real fond of playing these games.''

The number of FCS-FBS games has increased sharply since 2006, when the NCAA began allowing teams to schedule 12 regular-season games.

Some of the games are downright ugly (see Oklahoma State 84, Savannah State 0).

Yes, there have been memorable upsets (see Appalachian State 34, Michigan 32 in 2007).

Usually the games are forgettable, though there have been a couple surprises this year with Youngstown State upsetting Pittsburgh and Sacramento State toppling Colorado.

Sacramento State is, along with Idaho State, a member of the Big Sky Conference, which is 4-12 this season against FBS teams.

Idaho State played its opener at FBS-level Air Force and lost 49-21. Bengals receiver Derek Graves said the three touchdowns his team scored against Air Force's No. 1 defense, plus the success of other Big Sky teams against FBS opponents, motivates him for the Nebraska game.

''We're trying to go in there and win,'' Graves said. ''That's the only reason why you play the game. If you're not playing the game to try to win, there's no point in playing. We might as well stay at home.''

Idaho State's win this season is against Division II Black Hills State - a South Dakota school whose name Pelini couldn't remember during his weekly news conference.

The Bengals have one of the most explosive offenses in the FCS. Graves caught 15 passes in each of their two games. Kevin Yost has completed 74 percent of his passes for 401.5 yards and four touchdowns.

Their defense, however, gave up 484 yards rushing and 626 total to Air Force.

With most FBS teams looking for home games, Idaho State and other FCS programs have become accustomed to fielding scheduling inquiries.

Tingey said Idaho State had lots of options for this Saturday. When he was finalizing the Bengals' schedule last November, he narrowed the choices to Nebraska and Colorado State. Then he went to Kramer and asked which opponent he would prefer.

Colorado State was willing to pay only about half as much as Nebraska, but the Rams are in a down cycle and nowhere near the level of the Huskers.

Tingey said he was surprised when Kramer told him he wanted to play the Huskers and let his players experience Memorial Stadium and the history a program that has won five national championships.

''I said, `Coach, are you kidding me? You want to go to Nebraska?'

''He said, `Oh, yeah. We don't want to go to Fort Collins. That's boring. There's nothing fun about that. We're going to lose anyway, so let's go to a place with heritage and tradition like Nebraska.' ''