On the field, it is hard not to notice the speed and sheer size of the players who compete at the highest level of the college game.
Such a scenario is what the players on the University of Maine football team will experience during their first two games of the 2015 season. Twice.
It began Saturday with a respectable 24-3 loss at Boston College, where some of the aforementioned dynamics were in play — although not to the extent of previous matchups against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents such as Mississippi State, Nebraska, Pittsburgh and Northwestern.
On Sept. 19, coach Jack Cosgrove and company will be in New Orleans for a matchup against Tulane of the American Athletic Conference.
This marks the second time in three seasons the Black Bears will play two FBS opponents. It is a practice UMaine athletics director Karlton Creech has said he plans to continue.
All the excitement and pageantry notwithstanding, the most important role of the FBS games is to bolster UMaine’s athletics budget. This year, the department will gain $725,000 in guarantees for playing BC and Tulane.
The games provide a significant influx of revenue around which UMaine can budget — not only for football, but for all of its programs.
Fans might fear the Black Bears are thus staring at two losses before the season even starts. And history would indicate that is likely to be the case as UMaine has won only two of 15 games against FBS opponents — Mississippi State in 2004 and Massachusetts in 2013 — dating back to 1990.
The reality is, it will be the Black Bears’ performance against Football Championship Subdivision teams, including their Colonial Athletic Association foes, that will determine their preseason hopes. While an FBS loss is not unexpected, an occasional victory can bolster postseason consideration.
And UMaine players, who have a perpetual chip on their collective shoulders, excitedly look forward to the challenge of taking on a big-time team — regardless of how the Vegas odds might view the matchup.
Next season, UMaine is scheduled to take on Toledo of the Mid-American Conference and Connecticut of the American Athletic Conference, while visits to UMass are planned for 2017 and 2019.
Carefully selecting FBS opponents that maximize financial rewards and at the same time enhance the experience of UMaine’s student-athletes is a necessary step that benefits not only the football program but the entire athletics department.