Cupcake games. Almost every Power-5 team plays them each season, usually one at the beginning and one at the end.
They’re often snoozefests. The big-time host school, even if occasionally sleepwalking through a quarter or two, shows its superiority and builds multi-touchdown leads before sending in the reserves. Non-Power-5 teams and FCS teams are outmatched.
It’s like “going into a gunfight with a dart,” said Jamey Chadwell, current assistant coach at Coastal Carolina and former head coach at FCS Charleston Southern, who traveled to Alabama to face the Crimson Tide in 2015.
Caldwell and a variety of other coaches from small football programs discussed the ups and downs of facing Alabama for a feature by Al Blanton of Saturday Down South, which can be read in full here.
These coaches know a blowout is close to a certainty. But they don’t care.
“It’s a win everywhere except in the win column,” Chadwell told Saturday Down South. “Those games are necessary to operate and survive in today’s football market. In the four years at CSU we got a new weight room, field turf, and upgrade in the stadium, and an upgrade in graphics on buildings. And all that was based on those guarantee games.”
It’s an attitude that the coaches and athletic directors at these schools have to embrace. In a profession judged by what-have-you-done-for-me-lately wins and losses, taking your lumps in order to benefit the future of your program goes a long way and can lead to more of those wins.
“Every time I saw Coach Saban, I thanked him,” said Russ Huesman, the former coach at Chattanooga. “I said, ‘Thank you so much for playing us, I really appreciate it.’ We need it to keep our programs alive and do the things we need to do to be successful.”
In 2017, no team is taking on this David vs. Goliath more head on than Mercer, from Macon, Ga. The Bears are entering their fifth season of Division I football. So, naturally, they’re going to play at both Alabama and Auburn in 2017. No big deal.
“You’re crazy,” said the wife of Mercer head coach Bobby Lamb when he told her of his team’s plans for this season.
And maybe he is crazy, given that Saban approaches every game with the same intensity.
“They were beating us handily, and he was coaching the third and fourth team just as hard as the starters,” Chadwell said. “He was coaching those guys like it’s the last play of the national championship. I’d take another L. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I’d ask for more money, next time though.”
Lamb is fully committed to the cause as well.
“The reason we did it is because it’s Alabama,” he said. “If it were somebody else calling, no. But it’s Alabama, the greatest program in the history of college football. With the greatest coach in the history of college football. So why not put yourself on that stage.