When Ed Sweeney, after transforming Division III Dickinson College into a consistent winner (56-22-3), was named head coach at Colgate this year, he inherited a brutal schedule that included three Division I schools -- Rutgers, Army and Navy.
Sweeney tried to turn the schedule into a motivational tool, believing the experience of playing better competition for his youthful team, which had a new quarterback and three new defensive linemen, would toughen the Red Raiders.
"My approach is that we play the toughest schedule in Division I-AA," said Sweeney, who was recommended for the job by former Redskins general manager Bob Beathard and current GM Charley Casserly.
"For me, the games were already in place, so let's make it a positive thing. Having to line up against Army, Rutgers and Navy is a real challenge for us."
It is difficult, however, for his players to find something positive after being humbled by Rutgers, 68-6, and Army, 30-0.
Back a quarter of a century, the Red Raiders produced gritty running backs Marv Hubbard and Mark van Eeghen for the NFL draft, and some lesser-known players followed in their wake. But since Colgate joined the Patriot League in 1986, a reduction in scholarships and higher academic standards have made it harder to entice blue-chip prospects to the upstate New York campus.
But Sweeney elicits little sympathy from Navy coach George Chaump, who faces similar problems at the academy.
"All I've been hearing is that we were 1-10 the last two seasons," said Chaump, whose Midshipmen are 3-2.
"When we were losing, no one said anything about injury problems or having to play teams that have a great physical advantage over us. You can't start grabbing crying towels. You just do the best you can."
A postseason invitation is a definite longshot for the Mids, but a dramatic turnabout this season possibly could lead to a Liberty Bowl bid, which would mark Navy's first postseason appearance since 1979, when it played Brigham Young in the Holiday Bowl.
But this appears a Herculean job for the Mids, who will need to win four more Division I-A games, plus the Commander-in-Chief Trophy, symbolic of supremacy in the inter-service rivalry.
Looking past Colgate, Navy still has games remaining against Top 25 powers Notre Dame and Louisville, plus Vanderbilt, SMU and Army. The Mids will have to beat the last three teams and score a major upset over either the Irish or Cardinals to extend their season.
"Four more wins over Division I-A teams is a full day's work," Chaump said. "I think the bowl committee should consider the weight of your schedule, but I don't think that will happen this year."
One thing that has to encourage Chaump is the explosive quality of his offense.
After missing almost all of last season with an injury, junior quarterback Jim Kubiak now provides Navy with the ability to strike from any point on the field.
Kubiak has completed 64 percent of his 181 passes for 1,293 yards and six touchdowns. In five games, he has eclipsed last year's passing total of 1,247 yards.
Even more impressive is that Kubiak has found 10 receivers, with five already boasting more than 10 catches.