As was widely reported yesterday, Kent State bought out the contract for next season's football opener on September 3rd against us. The Golden Flashes paid us $425,000 so they could go get crushed by Alabama instead. This is a shocking development, as I can't remember a MAC team ever stiffing us like this.
Something similar happened before the start of the 2004 season. After going to Cincinnati in 2001, the Bearcats were scheduled to come to Ross-Ade to start the 2004 season. When their move to the Big East went through, however, they preferred to play a future conference foe instead of us. We worked out a deal where Syracuse took their place, and we played a rare Sunday game on Labor Day weekend at home. Purdue crushed the Orange 51-0, and Cincinnati is now back on the schedule for four games (two home, two road) from 2013-16.
So what now? Currently, the non-conference schedule is as follows for next season:
Sept. 3 - Open Date
Sept. 10 - at Rice
Sept. 17 - SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE
Sept. 24 - Open Date
Oct. 1 - NOTRE DAME
We need one more game, and it likely needs to be a home game. The only seasons recently in which we have played two non-conference road games were 2006 (at Notre Dame and Hawaii) and 1998 (at USC and Notre Dame). Both of those were special cases. The Hawaii trip was a 13thgame and we still had seven home games. The game at USC was a last minute "pre-season bowl game" back before the 12 game schedule was regular. We're already going to Rice, and we have pushed that game back 13 years now since the home portion of the contract was fulfilled in 1998. That leaves us with few options:
Find another 1-AA opponent - This is the easiest option, as that would definitely be a home game, unfortunately it would be the worst option as well. Regardless of when we played them, a second 1-AA game would not count as a win towards bowl eligibility. We would prove nothing by playing them, and only open ourselves to meaningless injuries (hello, Keith Smith). This needs to be our last resort, though I could see us dropping Southeast Missouri State and picking someone else up if we needed to move dates around.
Push the Rice game back further or buy them out - It's a pretty shitty thing to do, but if we have an opportunity to move in a better home and home series (say with a Florida school for recruiting purposes) the game with the Owls is the most likely target to move. Imagine if we had the balls to approach Florida State and play them on September 10th instead of their game against Charleston Southern? Supposed we went to Central Florida against to start the season (as we did in 1999) and push away their Charleston Southern game that is TBA? South Florida has an open date on September 24th as well, and Tampa would be awfully nice that time of year. Since we're making big recruiting inroads in the state this could be the opportunity give the kids a game down there.
Find another MAC team - This is probably what will end up happening. With the brutal conference schedule of next season, I doubt the University is going to risk a possible loss outside of Notre Dame in the non-conference season. Considering what we have done in crapping the bed against Toledo and Northern Illinois, it may even be wise to look towards the Sun Belt or Conference USA. Doing so would give us the first season without a MAC opponent since 1998 when we played Central Florida (Independent), Notre Dame (Independent), USC (Pac-10) and Rice (WAC).
Play at home, but set up a future road game with a BCS school - I'm not sure how this would work since we don't have an open non-conference, non-Notre Dame game until 2019 under our current schedule practices, but it would give us a lot more flexibility. Maybe this can revive the cancelled Oklahoma State series. Maybe we can get another Pac-10 team like California to come our way.
Move another series down the road - In my view, Cincinnati owes us a home game, so maybe we can move one of those four games to next year. We could also possibly move the home Marshall game to next season in a pinch.
Bite the bullet and play two road non-conference games - I don't see us doing this, but we may not have much of a choice. It gives us a lot of flexibility in who we schedule and likely adds a quality opponent, but I think next year is a year we absolutely must win at least three non-conference games.