Which major powers should be embarrassed for these guarantee games?
Everyone likes to win on Homecoming. A quick warm-up game to start the season isn’t bad, either.
The problem is, every program has to pay the bills, too. Guarantee games, in which major programs shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for games against overmatched opponents from the lower levels, are one of the downsides of college football.
Not all of these games are awful. Every year a few FCS teams, despite fewer scholarships and resources, step up to beat a major program (right, Michigan?).
But most don’t have a chance. These are the games both sides should be embarrassed to play.
This season, Miami and Al Golden receive top honors in this category, though it was a tough call. Oregon will fly a Louisiana team all the way up to Eugene just for a warm-up for two non-conference games against AQ opponents. But Miami gets the nod after we saw last season what happens when Savannah State faces a major conference team (or two).
A few things to establish:
• A shameful game is a proven, major conference program hosting a bad FCS team. And a bad FCS team isn’t just a team with a poor record last year. These are teams that have been the worst of the worst in lower Division I for a few seasons.
• Extra shame points go to teams bringing a bad FCS team across state lines and time zones. If a big-time FBS team is going to crush an overmatched opponent, giving an in-state or regional team a brief taste of major college football is the least the big brother can do.
• Lastly — and this is very important — we do not care why this game was scheduled, and we do not care what other games are on the schedule this season. Last year, Florida State picked up Savannah State because West Virginia backed out of a non-conference game last year. Seminoles fans still wasted time and money to watch a 55-0 beatdown.
So take our advice, skip these games. Don’t buy a ticket. Don’t watch on TV. And athletic directors on both sides, have a little dignity and stop scheduling these opponents.
MOST SHAMEFUL GAMES OF 2013
1. Sept. 21: Savannah State (1-10, 0-8 MEAC) at Miami (team preview)
Welcome back, Savannah State. A year ago, Savannah State earned $860,000 just for losing by a combined 139-0 to Oklahoma State and Florida State to start the season. Mike Gundy practically apologized for not being able to stop his team from running up the score, but at least Florida State failed to cover the 69.5-point spread by winning 55-0. Last year, Savannah State was ranked 243rd among 247 Division I teams in the Sagarin ratings, earning its only win over Edward Waters of the NAIA. Miami coaching legend Howard Schnellenberger once said he’d play anyone, anywhere. This was not what he had in mind.
2. Aug. 31: Nicholls State (1-10, 0-8 Southland) at Oregon (team preview)
Generally, Oregon does a good job with its non-conference schedule. In recent years, the Ducks have faced LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Boise State and Fresno State with a handful of those games coming away from Eugene. Offsetting those games have been FCS guarantee games: Tennessee Tech, Missouri State and Portland State in the past three seasons. This year, the Ducks open with Nicholls State before facing Tennessee and Virginia. Oregon will bring the Colonels all the way from Thibodaux, La., to Eugene; a team that has gone 2-20 the past two seasons. And it doesn't look to get much better. After losing to Oregon State 77-3 in the final game of 2012, Nicholls State will face four consecutive FBS teams by visiting Western Michigan and Louisiana-Lafayette after Oregon.
3. Sept. 21: Idaho State (1-10, 0-8 Big Sky) at Washington (team preview)
Like Oregon, Washington isn’t afraid of stepping out of the Pac-12 for a big matchup. The Huskies have faced LSU, Nebraska, BYU, Boise State, Oklahoma and Syracuse in recent seasons. Washington opens with Boise State and Illinois before facing Idaho State, but as we said, that’s no excuse. Idaho State has gone 6-50 in the last five seasons and hasn’t won more than two games in a year since 2007.
4. Nov. 16: Idaho State at BYU (team preview)
Even if finding games is tough for an independent, BYU doesn’t get a free pass for scheduling the Bengals, either.
5. Sept. 14: Lamar (4-8, 1-6 Southland) at Oklahoma State (team preview)
Lamar didn’t play football from 1990-2009, but now the Cardinals find themselves playing in Stillwater four years after resuming the program. A signal of perhaps how this game could go: Lamar lost 54-2 for Hawaii’s only win before Thanksgiving last season.
6. Aug. 31: Austin Peay (2-9, 1-7 OVC) at Tennessee (team preview)
Butch Jones was the coach at Cincinnati in 2011 when the Bearcats defeated Austin Peay 72-10. Now, he gets to do the same as Tennessee’s coach. Austin Peay has had one winning season since 1984 and didn’t return to scholarship football until 2006.
7. Oct. 12: Western Carolina (1-10, 0-8 Southern) at Auburn (team preview)
As bad as Auburn was last season, the Tigers could handle the FCS and the lower levels of FBS. In 2012, Auburn defeated New Mexico State and Alabama A&M by a combined score of 93-14. Meanwhile, Western Carolina has gone 12-66 the last seven seasons which includes shutout losses to Florida, Florida State and Vanderbilt.
8. Aug. 29: Presbyterian (2-9, 0-6 Big South) at Wake Forest (team preview)
What should make this game more shameful for Wake Forest? That Presbyterian won two games last season with one over a Division II team that went 2-9? Or that the Blue Hose lost to Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt by a combined score of 117-3? Presbyterian is 12-44 in the last five seasons and ranked 240th in Sagarin last year.
9. Sept. 7: Tennessee Tech (3-8, 1-7 OVC) at Wisconsin (team preview)
Even with former Tennessee wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers, Tennessee Tech went 3-8 last season, including a 63-14 loss to Oregon. Interesting factoid: Provided Tennessee Tech defeats NAIA Cumberland University in the opener, coach Watson Brown against Wisconsin will “earn” his 191st career loss, passing Amos Alonzo Stagg for the all-time record (tip of the hat to Athlon’s Rob Doster).
10. Sept. 7: South Dakota (1-10, 0-10 MVC) at Kansas (team preview)
Kansas had better win this one, that’s for sure. South Dakota went 1-10 last season in the first season under Joe Glenn, who was fired at Wyoming in 2008 but was successful in the lower divisions at Northern Colorado and Montana.
11. Sept. 21: VMI (2-9, 1-5 Big South) at Virginia (team preview)
Keeping the guarantee money in state is one thing, but this game is egregiously bad. Better to treat this game as a financial transaction than a source of entertainment. VMI is 19-80 since 2004 and was ranked 238th in Sagarin last season.
12. Sept. 7: Southeast Missouri State (3-8, 2-6 OVC) at Ole Miss (team preview)
Ole Miss just signed the nation’s No. 1 recruit, while SEMO is 6-16 the last two seasons with one winning season in the last decade.
13. Nov. 16: Chattanooga (6-5, 5-3 Southern) at Alabama (team preview)
Chattanooga is a mediocre FCS team, but Alabama has been proto-NFL for the last five seasons.
14. Sept. 14: Western Illinois (3-8, 1-7 MVC) at Minnesota (team preview)
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill has made the rounds at Southern Illinois and Northern Illinois. Maybe he’ll show a little compassion for a Western Illinois team that scored 17 points in its final five games last season.
15. Sept. 7: Missouri State (3-8, 3-5 MVC) at Iowa (team preview)
There’s no shame in losing big to Kansas State and Louisville as Missouri State did last season, but the Bears have not won more than six games since 1996.