Group of Five teams should be taken seriouslyBy Elliott Propes | 09/07/2016 10:35pm
“It’s off the upright, and it’s no good! South Alabama will escape for a victory!”
That was the call from the SEC Network when the Jaguars “upset” Mississippi State on Saturday, but was it actually an upset? Well in the simplest terms, yes. Mississippi State was a 28-point favorite heading into the game, but recent history has told us that maybe those point spreads need to change.
Since conference realignment and the establishment of the College Football Playoff in 2014, the 10 conferences that make up the FBS system have been categorized into two groups, The Power Five and the Group of Five. The Power Five is made up of what is supposed to be the best conferences in the sport – the ACC, the Big Ten, the Big 12, the PAC-12 and the SEC. The Group of Five includes the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, the Mid-American Conference, the Mountain-West Conference and the Sun Belt Conference. The Power Five used to receive automatic bids to BCS bowls in the old system, but now there is a new system. The College Football Playoff does not play favorites. It doesn’t cater to the Power Five, but rather it represents the best of the sport.
So maybe it's time to recognize the Group of Five for what it is. It is equal. Sure maybe these schools don’t have the same history as some schools from the Power Five, but hey what does that matter in 2016.
Last Saturday, South Alabama was not the only team to “upset” a Power Five school. Western Michigan defeated Northwestern 22-21. Southern Miss beat Kentucky 44-35. Iowa State and Washington State both lost to FCS programs, and then maybe the most significant win was No. 15 Houston’s 33-23 win over a No. 4 Oklahoma team that made the playoff a season ago. That’s six Power Five losses to conferences “below” them in just week one. I didn’t even mention the close games. App State took No. 9 Tennessee to overtime and Arkansas defeated Louisiana Tech by one point. Then No. 12 Michigan State and No. 13 TCU defeated there FCS opponents by just two scores. Should we expect more of the same during the rest of the season? Why not? Thirty-one schools from the Group of Five have made a BCS or CFP bowl game since 1999, yet still no one gives the programs the benefit of doubt.
I think it is time to throw away these silly titles. All 10 conferences have a chance at the Playoff, so just call it what it is. It’s a FBS school versus a FBS school. When these “upsets” are now a regular occurrence, I don’t think they should be called an upset anymore. The now ranked No. 6 Houston Cougars may make history this season as the first Group of Five team to make the College Football Playoff. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that in only year three a Group of Five team has a shot. Ask the 2007 undefeated Boise State Broncos if they wanted a playoff system. No one saw that win over Oklahoma coming, but should they have?
It’s time to take the Group of Five seriously. The amount of talent in the sport has grown, and scouting has taken a huge leap. The schools that were once small in the Group of Five now have 15,000 to 50,000 students. They have the amenities and same 85 scholarships as most historical programs do. Parity is becoming real, and those who don’t see that is coming are not looking too hard.