Saturday, the Charleston Southern football program experienced what it’s like to play against the Florida State Seminoles on Bobby Bowden Field at Doak Campbell Stadium in front of 75,831 fans.
Tragically, those Buccaneers were without 14 of their teammates next to them because of CSU’s decision to suspend the players in “violation.” 32 players will serve suspensions, in total.
College is all about having an experience.
Athlete or not, ages 18-21 are reserved for doing dumb (hopefully harmless) things and coming away mostly unscathed, with the best stories possible.
Going into a big-time program’s backyard and expecting to compete, let alone pull out a victory can often be classified as a dumb move.
Still, these games serve many purposes. Power 5 teams get a “week off,” or so they think. Small schools that struggle to support all their sports teams get their bills paid.
Best of all, the players on these underdog teams have a chance to show a national TV audience what they can do.
There were so many of these matchups in last Saturday, some dubbed it “Weak 2.” Instead, it turned out to be quite an exhilarating day of college football.
I love the small school show out games.
Nicholls State took #9 Georgia to the brink “between the hedges,” as if that means anything anymore. The Colonels out-scored the Dawgs 10-0 in the fourth quarter, time expiring on them still trailing, 26-24.
Controversially or not, Central Michigan upset #22 Oklahoma State, on the road, 30-27. Look, that’s a rough way to lose a game but when you trail for extended periods and repeatedly fail to put a team away, I don’t have much sympathy.
Wyoming hung around with Nebraska until the Huskers exploded for a 28-point fourth quarter.
Ohio hit the road and thrashed a Power 5 team, even if it was pitiful Kansas.
FCS Illinois State kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired in its game at Northwestern.
Troy gave #2 Clemson much more than it bargained for. Eventually, the Trojans ran out of gas and lost, 30-24.
Arkansas, though certainly not a small school, was not given much chance by too many at #15 TCU. This was an absolutely unreal game, by the way.
So, yes, while mandating that Power 5 schools play only each other in early season non-conference games would create more of a buzz similar to what we saw in Week 1, it would also take away most of the David vs. Goliath magic that makes college sports far superior to the professional ranks.
Eliminating cupcake matchups denies student-athletes a unique experience that goes beyond wins and losses.
They’re not sexy, they don’t draw the same audiences, and more times than not they’re effectively over by halftime, but these games have their place.
I love watching guys with something to prove raise their game and have fun while doing it. I enjoy seeing guys who won’t play on Sundays have career days against teams that never would’ve recruited them. That doesn’t happen nearly as much if you take away these show out games.
I say, continue to schedule these matchups and enjoy watching smaller schools go up against the bluebloods. Give these kids who weren’t highly recruited a taste of what it’s like playing top-tier college football.
As we saw in “Weak 2,” there’s a decent chance they’ll take advantage of their opportunity.