No major sports book in Las Vegas or elsewhere has the Utah State football team losing by fewer than 41 points when it plays Alabama on Saturday. That’s the type of confidence that is out there for the Aggies to upset the Crimson Tide — unless you’re the two men from New Jersey who bet $2,000 on USU winning the national championship.
So the Aggies are effectively flying all the way to Tuscaloosa with the world expecting a beatdown by the No. 1 team in the country.
But it won’t be all bad. Utah State is receiving a hefty sum of money — $1.91 million to be exact — to play the Crimson Tide.
The practice of large college football programs incentivizing smaller programs to play a non-conference game is common. Aggies coach Blake Anderson said it’s a “necessary evil.”
“I spent most of my career playing in these kinds of games,” Anderson said Monday. “It’s a necessary evil. We’ve got an athletic department that we’ve got to fund, and this is something that we have got to do.”
The sum of money Utah State is receiving from Alabama might be one of the largest in the country, per Forbes. Other examples of large payouts this season include:
• Colorado State receiving $1.8 million to play at Michigan;
• Kent State receiving $1.8 million to play at Washington;
• Ball State receiving $1.5 million to play at Tennessee.
In the Beehive State, Utah is paying Southern Utah $600,000 for their game next week, and $625,000 for a game between them in 2024 — contracts agreed to when Chris Hill was the athletic director.
The Utes are also paying Utah Tech a combined $575,000 for games in 2028 and 2030.
Anderson said the USU athletic department is “not in a place that can do without” a payout game like the one against Alabama, adding that the department needs the money “to function on a daily basis.”
“I understand the need for the game,” Anderson said. “I want our other departments, other programs to be able to operate at full speed and at a high level, and this is the cost of doing that at some point. So we’re going to go make the best of it.”
But even though Anderson knows payout games are very difficult to win, he’s seen it happen. That’s why he’s approaching Saturday’s game against the Crimson Tide trying to put the Aggies’ best cleats forward.
“We also want to take an approach to go in and win it,” Anderson said. “We’re going to put together a game plan that, if [it] works perfectly, puts us in the game. We’ve seen these games in the past get out of hand, we’ve seen these games be competitive. And every once while, this game goes opposite of what everybody thinks it’s going to be. We can only control us, though. We’ve got to go play our best football.”