This past weekend was not the best for college football. There were not many great matchups. There was no Alabama-Texas A&M game to get our full attention, or even many thrilling endings like the one last week with Wisconsin and Arizona State.
It happens every season, when the schedule just doesn’t provide great games compared to other weekends in the year.
This was the ‘cash for clunker’ weekend -- when teams pay big money to smaller schools, often FCS opponents or smaller FBS conference teams, to fill out the schedule.
Georgia beat North Texas. Alabama got by Colorado State. Ohio State embarrassed Florida A&M. Louisville blasted Florida International. Florida State blew out Bethune-Cookman. Five of the top-10 teams had games against inferior opponents.
These games need to end. They are truly worthless. Oh, they’re not worthless to the opponents, who get paid tremendous money to get beat. North Texas, for example, got a nice check for $975,000 for coming to Athens. But for the teams that write the check, they’re really not very worthwhile.
The only way these games would be significant would be if they were played in Week 1. College football does not have a preseason, so unlike the NFL college programs have to start off without truly knowing what kind of team they might have. Some seasons, like this year for Georgia with all the new defensive players, it might not be bad to start off a season against a North Texas instead of playing against a tougher opponent like Clemson.
This philosophy is not an excuse for why Georgia played uninspired Saturday. They didn’t blow North Texas out, while many believed they would. Remember, Georgia didn’t play particularly well last year against Buffalo and Florida Atlantic, its two similar games at home. They won, and the scores weren’t close, but like Saturday it wasn’t the best of college football.
The fans don’t seem to care as much either about these games. It’s not easy to go to every home game for a college team. There are only six games each year, but people do have other things to do. They might have things to do with their kids, like go to their games, or there might be a wedding they’re stuck going to. But if they can, guess which game they’d rather try and skip? It won’t be LSU, but North Texas. That’s why there were empty seats at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.
And honestly, how can the players get up for these games compared to what they’ll feel about a big conference game? After Georgia played just well enough to win Saturday, some players were asked if they were looking ahead to LSU this week. It was an honest and logical question, considering how big the LSU game will be compared to how insignificant the North Texas game was.
The players said all the right things. They gave credit to North Texas for playing hard and for taking advantage of two huge special teams mistakes that made the score closer than it should have been. But it was human nature to not take that game as serious as they will this weekend.
Now, they did take it seriously once the game was tied at 21 in the third quarter. Those Georgia players knew they needed to kick it in gear. But if you’re asking why it takes this team a few quarters to get going in these type games, it’s because they are going through the motions.
Not every team did. A few of those games this past weekend were embarrassing blowouts. Why do some teams have blowouts while others (even including Alabama) have closer scores? Who knows. But either way, they’re not good football games. Is it really fun to watch a team win 76-0, especially when you know the opponent is just awful?
This will hopefully change once the new postseason format goes into effect next year. Once a team gets penalized and is left out of the final four playoff because of a weak schedule, other programs will realize the importance of having a tougher schedule.
Wouldn’t it have been a bit more enjoyable if Georgia had beaten a team like Iowa or Kansas State, mediocre programs from bigger conferences, compared to a North Texas? Sure. And it would have been even better if they had beaten a Michigan or Oklahoma State in Athens. It might have been a tougher challenge, but when the selection committee considers how good a team you really are, that might matter more than a cheap win against a team like North Texas.
And, more than anything, it would get our complete attention. We’re going to see a matchup this weekend in Athens that will remind us why we love college football. It can’t happen every week, but it sure is better than just having a game on the schedule that is there to fill it out.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.