USF football has officially announced a home-and-home series with Florida State, for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Bulls will travel to Tallahassee on September 26, 2015, and host the Seminoles on Sept. 24, 2016.
Needless to say, this is fantastic news.
As memorable as the 2009 and 2012 games were, neither team was at its best. The 2009 FSU team ended up with six losses, its most since 1976. Last year's USF team posted its worst record ever at 3-9. Despite this, both games were exciting, well attended, and had a great atmosphere -- things USF football desperately needs going forward.
In our new post-BCS reality, where one major bowl slot is allotted to all the non-BCS leagues, it is great to have non-conference games against Wisconsin, Florida State, Michigan State, and other "big five" conference schools. Lord knows what cockamamie system they're going to use to pick the winning team from the non-automatic leagues, but it's safe to say that marquee victories will help. Props to USF Athletics for recognizing that, and upgrading the schedule accordingly. Double props for not over-scheduling the team into a foolhardy death march of road trips. All these series are one-for-one.
Here's how USF's future schedules play out:
at Florida State
The first thing that jumps out is that we have five non-conference games booked for 2015. Joey Johnston tweets that the Nevada game will be moved, though it's not clear from Nevada's future schedules what year it might be moved to. I wouldn't be shocked if that game just goes away entirely. Like a bad road trip hookup, that series was expensive, thrown together at the last minute, and embarrassing to both parties. The other 2015 games would all be problematic to reschedule, for various reasons.
The sequencing of the games is nice. Dates are always subject to change this far into the future, but you can see what they're going for: an annual FCS home opener; strategically placed off weeks (before Miami this year, and before the trip to Wisconsin); and never too many big-name opponents or road trips in a row.
Another good thing is that USF is back-loaded on home games. The Bulls are actually looking for road games at this point. Everybody's looking for home games, especially at the last minute; this gives USF some bargaining power. USF can unobtrusively add road games for 2016-18, with the home ends of those series coming further in the future.
Another thing we couldn't help but notice: the long period of time in which USF added no meaningful future opponents lines up almost exactly with Skip Holtz's tenure as head coach. As Jamie noted previously, the last major scheduling announcement was January 2009, when USF added the first Florida State series. Holtz took over in 2010. We didn't see a single major-conference opponent announced during Holtz's three-year tenure. But within six months of his firing, Maryland, Wisconsin, and a second FSU series were added. I don't know how much say the football coach has in choosing opponents, but it's awfully coincidental that USF's non-conference schedule got a lot more ambitious when its head coach did.
But that's looking back, and we should be looking forward at this point. Over the next six years, we've got Miami, North Carolina State, Maryland, Florida State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State coming to Raymond James Stadium. We'll also get one last visit from Louisville; continuing series with Cincinnati and Connecticut; Navy, which is always a good draw; and, let's face it, the Central Florida game will bring a large crowd.
Between the bad 2011-2012 seasons and the heat death of the Big East, USF football has been all doom and gloom for awhile. But for the first time in a long time, we have something tangible to be excited about.