Editor's Note: This is part three of a four-post series on the politics of college football.
Recently, I wrote a little ditty about the Georgia State Panthers having scheduled the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers as consecutive non-conference opponents five years from now.
Make no mistake about it, this - as well as the Panthers' games this season against Oregon and next season against Wisconsin - are the very definition of a "body bag" game. You are the small school, traveling far and wide so you can play a team that will dominate you, hand you a check and send you on your merry way (sounds an awful lot like another unsavory transaction I know of from Hollywood movies and not from personal experience).
It would take a drastic improvement in the quality of players on the Georgia State roster and a drastic drop in the quality of these opponents' players just for these games to be competitive. Therefore, those games are body bag games now, and probably still will be in five years when they actually are played.
These games are everywhere. Any time the best teams from the best conferences (the Alabamas, Oregons and Ohio States of college football) face off against the worst of the weaker conferences (North Texas, Charlotte or Georgia State) or all but the absolutely elite FCS teams, it is a mismatch made in heaven and an easy win for the superior team.
Haisten brought up an interesting point recently when we discussed this, saying that "[some people] worry the bodybag game will become a thing of the past as the playoffs put more pressure on strength of schedule. Conversely, if you're a competitive [Group of Five team] it could mean more money as big teams want to etch a quality win and get the extra home game. Personally, I hate bodybag games and hope they go away forever. "
Todd Monken at Southern Miss, while a bit testy, made a good point about this situation a couple of years ago:
"I would propose to [the power conferences] this: If you want to split off, let's just do it that way, but you play each other, and you don't get to play us then. Go ahead. See how you like that. See how you like the NFL rule and play each other every week. Coaches will be like 'Whoa, hold on, wait a second now... Then when you fire up a nice 7-5, and you're at a pretty good place and they fire you, they won't be real excited about it, because you won't have those games that they've been able to win. Plain and simple."
To answer all of these points; first off, the body bag game will never really go away. There will never be an end to teams needing these type of games on either end, not completely. However, the dynamic will shift. These games will become less frequent as the Power Five conferences get more strict about the quality of non-conference opponents, but the Group of Five teams will still be needed to fill those schedule gaps.
More than likely, this will mean something like one guarantee game against a Power Five school, but no decrease in money since the teams that do get these guarantees will be able to ask for more for the ones they do get. It also means a struggle for the lower teams on the totem pole.
It is most certainly true that many of your power teams post the records they do in some part because of the cream puffs they destroy. Those who want to avoid perpetual 7-5 records, or who want to avoid that 6-9 win annual fluctuation, need to schedule beatable teams as often as possible. There's a trade-off to be had between "scheduling easier teams to add wins" and "scheduling the teams I'm trying to directly beat out for a CFP spot."
Then again, there are teams that schedule games five and ten years into the future, and a lot can change in even one year. So let's revisit this again in a year and see if The Great Divide a) has actually happened and b) really has had any dramatic effect on this kind of problem.