Preseason games in college football

Anyone who has paid to attend the opening game of a college football team has probably had the same thought I always have; Why are there no preseason college football games?

Usually, the first game for a football team is their sloppiest.  Football is all about timing, and it seems that teams need work outside of preseason practices to get their timing more polished.  It makes sense then to have at least one preseason game so that when the season actually starts, the product on the field doesn’t resemble a pick-up game at the park.   

Preseason practices would still be where the primary preparation for a football season occurs, but having one preseason game would help the players work through issues in ways that practice can’t accomplish.  This would enable them to better represent what their team is capable of on opening day, while providing for a better viewing experince to the fans who paid to get through the gate. 

The arguments against doing something like this are numerous.  One argument is that adding an additional game to the schedule could possibly be hazardous to the student athletes.  I guess the idea here is that an extra game just adds more chances for the players to get hurt.  If this is the case, then why has the length of the college football season slowly increased over the years?  Most recently in 2006, the schedule was increased from 11 to 12 games.  If player’s health was the main concern, then we would still be playing 10 games  a year, or fewer.  Additionally, during preseason games players play very limited minutes, usually just enough to get a feel for playing real games again.  The amount of time on the field is spread out generously among the players so that everyone gets a chance to get some experience.  This further decreases the chances of anyone getting injured.

Another argument against preseason games is the effect these games could have on the opinion polls that help determine who plays in the BCS games.  In theory, preseason games are not supposed to count for anything, but if the voters for the AP and Coaches poll see a team play poorly in a preseason game, then it is possible that future voting could be affected.  For me, this argument is null from the start because it serves to protect the integrity of the BCS system, a system based heavily on people’s opinions of who should play for a championship rather then letting those matters be settled on the field.  Can we just scrap the BCS and start over, seriously. 

Lastly, I’ve heard that scheduling lesser opponents early on in a schedule serves as a preseason for most teams.  The idea being that teams work out their kinks on bad teams, making it less likely that they’ll lose.  While it is currently beneficial to schedule bad teams early on, wouldn’t it be better to have the confidence to schedule anyone you wanted?  Maybe playing a preseason game would give schools the confidence to schedule more interesting games at the beginning of the season.  This could be beneficial for both the fans and the schools.  For the fans, we would be less likely to have to watch the Hogs play Missouri State in the season opener.  As excited as I get for football season, playing a team like Missouri State to start the season is kind of a let down.  For the schools, they could make more money by providing fans with more interesting games.

College football is the odd man out when it comes to preseason games.  All other sports at all levels have some sort of preseason.  If everyone else finds it beneficial, then it seems that college football would feel the same.

Photo by VoxEfx via Flickr and Creative Commons 2.0