Each season, the Ferris football team is scheduled to play eight games against Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference foes as they battle for a conference title.
It is generally easy to sort out scheduling-wise because it is the same eight teams every season that appears on the schedule. Of course, that is where it stops being easy for Ferris as they try to fill a full 11-game schedule. Each year, the athletic department gets a significant challenge in terms of putting together the rest of the schedule by finishing it off with non-conference opponents.
The non-conference slate is two or three games that are played against non-GLIAC opponents to complete the regular season schedule. These games can be against any other Division II or Division I FCS schools across the nation.
There are a lot of factors that come into play when scheduling games for the non-conference slate. Obviously, money is at the forefront, but that’s not the only factor. Other factors to think about come down to strategy and the amount of confidence you have in your football team.
For example, if you have a substandard team, it is typically not smart to schedule the top teams in the nation. However, if you feel you are one of the top teams in the nation like Ferris is, then it makes it easier to schedule high profile opponents in the non-conference. While this matters to those who vote on the polls, senior offensive linemen Cory Carr believes the strength of the team they play does not necessarily mean much to the players.
“We try to come into every game focused on what we have to do to play our best, so when we’re preparing for a game, it’s never really preparing to win or preparing to lose,” Carr said. “We’re preparing to play the best possible game we can play. It doesn’t matter who we really schedule because, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what our opponent does. It just matters whether we can execute and make the plays we need to make to win the game.”
However, as mentioned above, in the eyes of the Division II football committee and national media members, big games matter, so this leads to an interesting question for Ferris. Should they schedule a Division I FCS opponent sometime soon? This is a tough question that involves many layers; one that would require an FCS school to want to play what they would likely deem as “lesser” competition.
However, if they could get it done, it could be a good barometer of where Ferris is at before they head into GLIAC play and boost the school’s profile on a slightly larger stage. Carr agrees, although he also reiterated that who they play doesn’t matter to the players themselves.
“I wouldn’t be against that. The better opponents we play, the more prepared it gets us for the harder games throughout the year,” Carr said. “But again, it doesn’t matter who we play because at the end of the day, if we execute the plays, we think we can beat anybody in the nation.”
Also, on top of being a barometer, it is not like this is something Ferris has not done before. Back in 2013, the Bulldogs traveled to Fargo, North Dakota to take on FCS powerhouse North Dakota State, a team that would go 15-0 that season and win the FCS title. While they would go on to lose that game 56-10, it helped them see where they stood against an elite program and kicked off a solid season for the Bulldogs.
Again, scheduling is a challenge for any college program, and Ferris is finding it difficult, as evidenced by its 10-game schedule this season, as opposed to the more common 11-game schedule. A solution to that would be looking for even tougher competition, even if that competition comes from the D-I level.
*Athletic Director Perk Weisenburger and Head Football Coach Tony Annese were unable to be reached for comment.