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Boston College Vs. UConn: Huskies Present More Stable, Credible Opponent For Eagles

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Scheduling UConn will wind up being good for BC because it gives them a program that's spent 15 years building for a chance to compete on elite gridirons.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

A couple of years ago, I posted an article discussing the UMass football team and its FBS misstep. I discussed their inflated expenditures, lack of a true conference affiliation, and flimsy prediction machine. Muddling through the icky discussion points, UMass fans treated me like I was a criminal, but it generated some solid conversation about the state of New England college football.

Since Boston College is now going to play Connecticut, I revisited some of what I wrote about the Minutemen and realized the Huskies are a much more stable and credible opponent for the Eagles. While UMass was in its FBS infancy and therefore not yet cut out to challenge a P5 team like BC, the Huskies present an obstacle of sorts, a credible, stable FBS team with enough tradition to make this game compelling as a legitimate New England college football contest.

The UConn commitment to I-A/FBS football was the result of a decade-long process. In 1999, they applied to join the Big East and spent 2000 and 2001 as a transitional program. By 2003, they had a new home at Rentschler Field and finished 9-3.

The process of joining the Big East accelerated with the departure of Miami and Virginia Tech, and the Huskies joined in 2004 instead of 2005. When Boston College left the following year, UConn positioned itself as a stable centerpiece member of the fluctuating conference, qualifying for four straight bowl games between 2007-2010. It culminated in the 2011 Fiesta Bowl, where they were blown out by Oklahoma, 48-20.

Of all the schools impacted by the rotating of conference affiliations, UConn is perhaps Exhibit A of who was lost in the shuffle. The Huskies are perhaps the oldest guard school from the former basketball conference, even as they invested in football. At first, they stuck true to the Big East, owing to their basketball rivalries with Georgetown, Providence, St. John's, Syracuse, and Seton Hall. They did so while they invested in football, the only traditional "basketball school" to do so. When they had a chance to build, they spend years constructing.

Realignment marooned the Huskies because they fought to keep their basketball league intact. They sued Boston College for leaving the Big East, arguably preventing the Huskies from ever getting into the ACC during the most volatile time of realignment. They attempted to rebuild the Big East by enticing teams with football, but it only served to alienate the basketball schools that much more.

The resulting split left UConn in this weird American Athletic Conference. They're a basketball school in a rebuilt football conference. Stuck in the middle, they lost out on opportunity because football drove Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia out of the Big East (though ND was always an independent anyway). On the other hand, the burning desire to be a football power drove away Georgetown, PC, St. John's, Villanova, and Seton Hall into the "New Big East."

Despite this, the lonely Huskies remain a stable team. The investment in the sport has never been an issue, and their success makes them attractive enough of a team to build a non-power conference around. Football teams like SMU, ECU, Temple, Tulsa, and Central Florida all wanted a more attractive conference affiliation, and they found it in the AAC. The league is something of an island of misfit toys—a bunch of football schools who are all flawed in that they can't be one of the big boys but, at some point, outgrew their former leagues in Conference USA or the WAC.

That's where we're at with UConn. Boston College is the one power football school around Boston and in Massachusetts. UConn fills the void of being a college football program who is pretty good but not elite. That "pretty good," though, makes them attractive enough to generate some buzz.

For that reason, this gives Boston College an opportunity to schedule a good but not great opponent. UConn fans are passionate about their school because it's had success. Since they had a small taste of the big time, they view their team as capable of competing with the Eagles. The Eagles, in the big time, can look at that small area and schedule it since it provides them a stable yet beatable (and potentially challenging) opponent. While UMass is out hunting for a league for solid FBS footing, UConn has 15 years of I-A experience with bowl berths in their back pocket.

On the local radar, that helps the profile. Boston is the bigger brother to Hartford, Connecticut, and Western Mass. Connecticut is the underdog looking for a shot. While UMass is rudderless, heading for an independent schedule, UConn is the team that's sustained success in some capacity. They were always the national powerhouse basketball school that really wants to be an elite football school. They were treated like a basketball school by the football schools, and they were treated like a football school by the basketball schools. They've had an identity, but they've never been able to punch up at someone like this. For that reason, records of recent seasons aside, it gives a fresh local storyline for the Eagles, something they've lacked as of late when scheduling games against Howard and Buffalo.