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The Alabama Crimson Tide are in the College Football Playoffs, but Nick Saban and co. barely made it.

Ranked as the No. 4 team in the Playoff, the big knock against Alabama was that the Crimson Tide had a relatively easy schedule. The Tide didn’t even win their conference, that honor was reserved for No. 3 Georgia, which made things even more sketchy for Alabama. Still, somehow — likely based on how good Alabama did look in most of its wins — the Tide sneaked into the Playoff despite a schedule that featured three wins against not just out of conference foes, but foes that were frankly out of Alabama’s league.

The Tide “boast” wins against Fresno State, Colorado State, and Mercer. Alabama is no stranger to playing cupcakes on a yearly basis, but those three games almost cost Saban another consecutive trip to the College Football Playoff.

All that being said, it makes it a tad bit surprising to hear that Alabama is reportedly shelling out a ton of money to the Arkansas State Red Wolves and the Louisiana-Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns for their games at Bryant-Denny Stadium next season.

This is according to Chandler Rome of The Anniston Star, who is reporting that Alabama is paying nearly $3 million to its two cupcake opponents next season. SEC Country passes on more info:

Alabama’s game against Arkansas State on Sept. 8 will cost $1.7 million, while the Sept. 29 meeting with Louisiana costs $1.25 million.

For comparison, two of Alabama’s nonconference opponents this season also netted about $3 million as the school reportedly paid Colorado State $1.5 million and Fresno State $1.4 million. Mercer of the FCS got $900,000.

It’s worth pointing out that this is not an uncommon practice in college football. In fact, it’s standard operating procedure.

Big programs like Alabama look for tune-up games against lesser opponents in a way to ensure a hot start to the season, give the fans something to cheer about and work out the kinks of a new team. In return for likely getting spanked, the “cupcake” school gets a nice handful of money to put back into its football program.

The first few games of the college football season are basically like the NFL’s preseason, except the wins and losses do actually matter. Made for television early season games are thankfully killing this practice a bit, but still, this just proves that schools like Alabama are plenty happy to shell out a ton of money just to pad the win-loss column a bit.

Alabama will reportedly pay almost $3 million for two cupcake games next season Scott Cunningham/Getty Images
Andrew has been a sports writer since 2010, featured on Bleacher Report, 247Sports, Fansided and elsewhere. His work has also been seen on MSN, Forbes and in the LA Times. Andrew coached high school football for five years and writes about football, and just about anything, for Fanbuzz.
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