Marek Warszawski

Warszawski: Little chance to see likes of Nebraska on future Fresno State schedules

Hope you had a blast, Fresno.

Hope you enjoyed the festive atmosphere Saturday night in and around a sold-out Bulldog Stadium: the tailgates, the costumes, the spontaneous pep rallies.

Hope you had fun mingling with Nebraska fans -- there sure were thousands of them -- dressing in Corn Dog hats ("Dogs on top, corn underneath," you said with a laugh) and soaking up every drop of pregame excitement.

Then came the opening kick, after which reality set in and Nebraska disrobed Fresno State 55-19.

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The Bulldogs have never played host to a bigger-name guest. Sure, Wisconsin came here in 2008, followed by Mississippi in 2011. Illinois made the trip, and so have a few Pac-12 schools.

None of those measure up to Nebraska, a program with five national titles and the fourth most wins (behind Michigan, Texas and Notre Dame) in college history.

Hope you enjoyed rubbing elbows with the blue bloods. Just don't get used to it.

I can't state this with certainty, but Fresno State may never again host a nonconference opponent of this caliber. Nebraska isn't coming back, nor is anyone with the Cornhuskers' cachet.

Apologies for being such a buzzkill.

LIVE BLOG REPLAY: Nebraska 55, Fresno State 19

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter disagreed (mildly) when presented with this thesis earlier in the week.

"I'd like to think Nebraska would come back," he said, optimistically. "I'd like to think their fans would have a good experience. We're going to go back to Lincoln in a couple of years. It's a good rivalry. I think our fan bases are both passionate, only they have a few more in theirs because of the longer history.

"If the Nebraska fans come out here and enjoy themselves, they're going to realize there's a lot in common. Maybe there'll be a push to continue the series."

Certainly it won't happen any time soon. Except for one open date in 2017, Nebraska's schedule is booked solid through 2019.

But, really, this isn't about the Cornhuskers. It's more about where programs like Fresno State fit in college football's new playoff era.

First, though, let's take a peek at the Bulldogs' future nonconference schedules. (Try not to yawn.)

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Utah and Abilene Christian visit next season, while Fresno State plays Mississippi and BYU on the road. In 2016, it's Sacramento State and Tulsa at home and Nebraska and Toledo on the road. In 2017, it's Incarnate Word and BYU at home, followed in 2018 by Idaho and Toledo at home and UCLA on the road.

Tally up the home games, and you end up with Utah, BYU, Tulsa, Toledo, Idaho and two FCS teams through 2018. Utah and BYU are solid opponents, but nothing longtime Bulldogs fans haven't seen before.

Tulsa, Toledo and Idaho occupy several rungs below that.

At least there won't be a repeat of this season. Fresno State clearly over-extended itself with USC, Utah and Nebraska and has the 0-3 scar to prove it.

But the pendulum might be swinging too far the other way. The Bulldogs should be more competitive against Tulsa and Toledo than they were against Nebraska, but those games won't generate anywhere near the excitement.

Can Fresno State sell season tickets and anchor marketing campaigns with Tulsa and Toledo?

Not likely.

The big-name opponents like Nebraska and Utah either want the Bulldogs to play two-for-ones (two games at their stadium and one on the road), or still refuse to come here at all.

Take UCLA. Last spring, one month after Fresno State got UCLA to agree to that 2018 game at the Rose Bowl, the Bruins announced a home-and-home series with BYU in 2015-16.

That ought to tell you something about where UCLA views Fresno State in the pecking order.

The Bruins and Bulldogs have played six times since 1987, but UCLA can't be bothered to make the 3½-hour drive to the central San Joaquin Valley. Neither can USC or Stanford. Cal visited once, in 2000, and hasn't been back since.

Of all the Pac-12 schools, Oregon State (six times) and Oregon (twice) have made the most Bulldog Stadium appearances, although it's been eight years for the Ducks and 11 for the Beavers.

It's hard to see that trend changing, especially now that "strength of schedule" has become such a buzzword with the new four-team playoff.

There's even been a push, among some Power 5 Conference coaches and commissioners, to quit scheduling the Bulldogs and their ilk all together.

Where would that leave Fresno State? For starters, with more nonconference games against the likes of Tulsa, Toledo and Idaho.

"Right now, everyone's looking at strength of schedule, and I'd like to think (the college football playoff committee) looks at Fresno State as a quality win," DeRuyter said. "We're going to consistently compete for Mountain West championships. That has to count for something."

It may not count for as much as DeRuyter would hope.

Nebraska fans seemed to enjoy their visit to Bulldog Stadium. (Yes, the final score probably had something to do with that.)

And Bulldogs fans, despite that same final score, seemed to enjoy playing host.

Good thing, because we won't be seeing this again. At least not anytime soon.

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