Though it may not be a fan favorite, big powerhouse schools playing “cupcake games” against smaller schools is something that each team does, and according to Kirby Smart, for good reason.
Georgia will take on Middle Tennessee State University this Saturday in Sanford Stadium at noon on ESPN News.
MTSU of the Conference USA is coming off a 61-37 win over UT Martin, and the week before, a 35-7 loss at Vanderbilt.
Georgia will pay MTSU $1.7m to come to Athens to face the third ranked Bulldogs. In week one, Georgia dished out $500,000 to Clarksville, Tennessee’s Austin Peay, a game UGA won 45-0.
On November 17, UMASS will venture to Athens, Georgia to play the Dawgs. Georgia is paying the Minutemen $1.5m for that game, which also includes a home-and-home basketball series.
In total, Georgia is paying $3.7m this season to fill three open slates in its schedule.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for these programs,” Smart said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for student-athletes that play at these programs.”
Former Georgia coach Mark Richt gave a similar answer a few years ago when asked about playing smaller schools. Most coaches began their career coaching for a lesser-known program, so they usually understand the importance of these games for them.
“I think games like these, a lot of times, are an opportunity for their programs to survive and stay alive and financially they’re important to some of these programs.”
Smart knows fans want their teams to schedule more prominent opponents to fill an open slot; teams like Clemson, Oregon, UCLA, UNC, Notre Dame, Boise State and Oklahoma State – all teams Georgia has scheduled to play in the last 10 years or in the future.
“I think it’s good for the fan base to have better games, the home-and-home. I think those things are good for college football,” said Smart.
Smart, who got his first real coaching job with Will Muschamp at Valdosta State in the early 2000s, is familiar with the need for these games, noting that paying schools to play is what keeps some programs alive.
“But you have to look at it through two people’s perspective and sometimes these programs wouldn’t survive. I’m a big advocate for football in general and I think that they need these games to survive financially. Without them, some of these programs may not be able to survive.”
After a week one loss to Vandy, Georgia is MTSU’s second SEC opponent in three weeks. The Blue Raiders will also travel to Kentucky to take on the Wildcats later in the season.