It's not easy getting quality nonconference opponents to visit Corvallis. As such, the anticipation is building for Oregon State's season-opening battle on Saturday against Wisconsin.
The No. 13 Badgers will be the highest-ranked nonconference team to ever play at Reser Stadium.
Scheduling high-caliber foes has been difficult for the Beavers football program.
Major conference teams are mostly situated in the East, South and Midwest. The lone major West Coast conference is the Pacific-12, which is where the Beavers reside.
Regular nonconference home games come from the Football Championship Subdivision, Mountain West Conference or Western Athletic Conference.
OSU's nonconference schedule next year includes home games with Eastern Washington and Hawaii, and a road trip to San Diego State.
"It's awesome to get them (Wisconsin) to play here, but the problem with scheduling those people back there in the South, Midwest and East is they have so many teams so close to them to play in a nonleague game," coach Mike Riley said.
Teams from the Big Ten, such as Wisconsin, the Southeastern, Big East or Atlantic Coast conferences can easily stay at home and bring in mid-major teams or FCS foes.
When it comes to home-and-home series with major teams, they are just up the road from many to avoid the traveling hassles.
Coaches also use these road games as recruiting tools. They like to showcase their programs in areas they recruit so athletes can come see them in a live game.
So major conference teams traveling out of the usual recruiting area doesn't make sense. Since Oregon is not a recruiting hotbed, OSU invitations to play in Reser Stadium are commonly turned down.
"There's just not a lot of draw to come out here and play," Riley said. "They don't recruit out here. That's a factor." OSU players, however, enjoy playing major conference teams on the road or at home.
Scheduling these games is one of the reasons athletes consider the Beavers.
"It's huge for recruiting and stuff like that; guys want to play against those big schools, those big-time names and that will help with that," senior receiver Markus Wheaton said. "Playing a good team like that, winning here would be huge for us. We're so excited. It's all we can ask for." Riley likes playing major conference teams early in the season to help prepare his players for the conference grind. However, the Beavers are usually forced to go on the road for a one-time deal such as the 2004 LSU trip and 2008 game at Penn State.
"We've traveled to play these games at lot," Riley said. "We've been around the block. It's nice to have one here." Athletic director Bob De Carolis schedules the nonconference games with the approval of Riley. It's an ongoing task to schedule so the Beavers are competitive.
Balancing the needs of potential wins and money vary year-to-year, and De Carolis must project the ability of the team long-term before signing for one of the one-time trips.
"Most of our programs in the Pac-12 try to schedule, in a perfect world, one 'A' game with a 50-50 (chance of winning), one 'B' game at 60-40 and one 'C' game 90-10 you should win," De Carolis said. "But it all depends on availability." Those one-time trips are financial gains, such as the $1.1 million received for Penn State. ESPN kicked in a large sum before the recent inflated TV contracts conferences signed.
Penn State and ESPN paid the Beavers handsomely for the appearance because the Nittany Lions received a home game that excited the fan base to fill the stadium and ESPN showed two major conference teams going at it on TV to what the network hoped would be strong ratings.
The Wisconsin game is part of a home-and-home contract, so it's an equal swap of money without TV involved. This series was originally scheduled back in the 1990s for the 2005 and 2006 seasons.
De Carolis asked to move the series back because OSU was in the middle of a stadium expansion at the time.
Other Big Ten Conference games are on the future schedule. There's a one-time trip to Michigan in 2015 and a home-and-home with Minnesota, on the road in 2017 and at home in 2018.
The Minnesota series came about from a good relationship between the athletic directors. Both felt the programs would be competitive.
"We'd love to have them more," Riley said of big home games. "The more home-and-home contacts we get, the better. If we can get a game like this every once in a while, it's awesome. The residuals are the fans love to come to a game like this."