More and more teams are finalizing their 2015 college football schedules—the latest Tennessee replacing UAB with Bowling Green to open the season in Nashville—which makes me wonder what Boston College's fallback plan is should the New Mexico State Aggies back out of its 2015 return trip to the Heights.
If you'll recall, when the WAC eliminated football as a sponsored sport at the end of the 2012 season, New Mexico State was left without a conference, forced to cobble together an independent schedule for the following season on very short notice. The Aggies got power conference programs Minnesota and Boston College to travel to Las Cruces, while traveling to Texas and UCLA as part of the program's first (and as it turns out, only) FBS independent schedule.
Amidst another wave of conference realignment, primarily involving the Group of Five conferences, New Mexico State and Idaho found safe harbor in the Sun Belt Conference starting this season. As quickly as the Aggies had to cobble together an FBS independent schedule, they were forced to unwind many of the non-conference scheduling obligations they inked as an independent to make way for an eight-game Sun Belt Conference schedule.
In 2015, New Mexico State is scheduled to face @ Florida (9/5), UTEP (9/19), @ New Mexico (10/3), @ Ole Miss (10/10) and @ Boston College (10/17). That's five non-conference opponents for just four slots. With both the guaranteed payouts and the buyouts on the Florida and Ole Miss games making canceling on either more or less cost prohibitive, and New Mexico and New Mexico State having faced one another in 69 consecutive seasons (and 105 in total), this will likely come down to canceling on UTEP or BC.
New Mexico State's buyout for the return trip is significantly larger than the buyout on the UTEP game. The cash-strapped school—athletics runs at an annual deficit larger than the one that just shuttered UAB football—might just make the return trip to the Heights after all if it means saving themselves from writing Boston College a six-figure check. But the program could also do just that, if it means having at least one non-conference home game in 2015 (vs. UTEP on September 19).
Should the Aggies cancel with BC, that would leave the program in a scheduling bind with not a whole lot of available options. The good news, if there is any, is that with UAB shuttering its football program, three Sun Belt schools will be looking for replacement games: Georgia State (9/12), South Alabama (9/19) and Troy (9/26). Georgia State and South Alabama were set to play at UAB so probably wouldn't be too torn up about taking on another non-conference road game.
The bad news? FBS scheduling pickings are predictably slim.
Here are the remaining programs looking for a game in 2015, broken down by conference:
ACC (1) -- Miami (1)
American (3) -- SMU (1), Tulane (1), UCF (1)
Conference USA (3) -- FIU (1), Louisiana Tech (1), Rice (1), Southern Miss (1)
MAC (1) -- Western Michigan (1)
Mountain West (5) -- San Diego State (up to 3), Air Force (up to 2), Fresno State (up to 1), New Mexico (1), San Jose State (up to 1)
Sun Belt (3) -- Georgia State (1), South Alabama (1), Troy (1), Texas State (1), Louisiana (1), ULM (up to 1)
Broken down by openings remaining:
3 -- San Diego State*
2 -- Air Force*
1 -- Miami, SMU, Tulane, UCF, FIU, Louisiana Tech, Rice, Southern Miss, Western Michigan, Fresno State*, New Mexico, San Jose State*, Georgia State, South Alabama, Troy, Texas State, Louisiana, ULM*
And teams that have already scheduled an FCS opponent:
San Diego State* (up to 2)
Fresno State* (up to 1)
San Jose State* (up to 1)
Air Force* (up to 1)
Georgia State (1)
South Alabama (1)
So...Sun Belt then?
* Hawaii rule