You hear the same few arguments from traditionalists when it comes to college football - every team should employ a full back, three-yards and a cloud of dust is the way the sport was meant to be played, flashy uniforms aren’t what college football is about, coaches get paid too much, blah blah blah.
They remember football from the 50s and 60s, and think the sport should never ever change.
They’re wrong about all of those things, and they’re wrong about one other thing: the late season cupcake game.
Most Power 5 teams play their entire non-conference slate in August and September. If you’re lucky, you see another Power 5 team, perhaps a solid MAC opponent, and then almost always a cupcake. You should be no worse than 2-1 after your first three weeks, most season anyway.
But some conferences - chiefly the SEC - have shuffled their non-conference schedules a bit. Now they play their big P5 team, and perhaps a Sun Belt foe, before getting into conference play a week before everyone else. Then, late in the season, usually during the penultimate week, they play their cupcake.
“This is wrong!” shout the old heads. “Mercer was meant to be demolished by Alabama in September, not November!” they scream into the blustery November wind. But let’s examine the facts.
College football is a slog. Every team deals with injuries; it’s a violent sport. By the time mid-November rolls around, many teams are 6 or more weeks separated from their bye. Many teams have a huge rivalry game to close out the season. Having a little break late in the season can let the starters do their thing, then rest for a quarter or more. A mini bye week, so to speak.
Early in the season, when everyone else is playing Akron and FAU, the SEC is showing off LSU-Auburn and Alabama-Ole Miss. A bit of early-season prestige for one of the premier conferences in the land. The networks gobble those games up, rather than watch Clemson torch Georgia Southern, or Penn State destroy Kent State.
So go on, traditionalists. Tell me how a late season cupcake game is a bad idea. While you’re at it, go ahead and lament the invention of the forward pass, and whine about sending a running back in motion late in a game that is all but over.
I’ll be sitting here, drinking my tea, and enjoying the last batch of mini-bye weeks before rivalry week kicks off in full gear.