By Aaron Moser
Typically college football is divided between the “power five” conferences and the “group of five” conferences. The “power five”- the Southeastern, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, Pac-12 and Big 12, generally have the larger schools, along with more money and tradition.
Just the name “power five” emanates the belief that the teams in these conferences are better solely based off their conference membership.
However, in recent years, it has become increasingly clear that the best football programs of the “group of five” conferences are as good and even better on the football field than a large amount of the “power five” programs.
The beginning of the 2019 season has presented plenty of evidence that just because “power five” is associated with a football program, it does not mean its inherently better than the an opponent across the line of scrimmage.
Georgia State’s 38-30 upset of Tennessee was not just a fluke upset as they forced three turnovers and ran for 213 rushing yards against the SEC defense. Tennessee was favored by an astounding 25 points.
Missouri coughed up the ball three times and allowed Wyoming to gash their defense for 297 rushing yards in a 31-37 defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. Missouri was favored by 17.5 points.
Boise State came back from an 18 point deficit to defeat Florida State 36-31 in Tallahassee. The Seminoles were favored by almost a touchdown.
Hawaii defeated Arizona 45-38 after stopping Khalil Tate at the 1 yard-line. Arizona was a 10 and a half point favorite and are now 2-4 in their last six meetings against “group of five” opponents.
Cincinnati defeated UCLA 24-14 in their second straight victory over the Bruins. UCLA has now lost four straight games to “group of five” opponents.
Memphis more than doubled Ole Miss’ total yardage in their second straight victory over the Rebels.
Iowa State required three overtimes to defeat FCS opponent Northern Iowa 29-26. The Cyclones were favored by 18.5 points.
Yet Iowa State sits at number 25 in the AP Top 25 rankings with 86 votes and Cincinnati sits outside with 48 votes. Memphis received just six votes.
Nebraska sits at number 24 in the rankings despite going 4-8 last season. They defeated South Alabama in week one by just 14 after being favored by 23 points.
Minnesota received two votes in the latest rankings. They went 7-6 last season, finished fifth in the Big Ten west then began the 2019 season by barely escaping FCS Opponent South Dakota State after being favored by 14 points.
Often many ratings such as strength of schedule and the College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings are based on the amount of Top 25 opponents a team faces. It is difficult for “group of five” teams to receive strong rankings in those fields when they are already held at a disadvantage simply based on the fact they are not a part of the “power five.”
These “power five” teams are being overrated seemingly on the basis of their conference membership or name recognition. This often happens early in the season due to the fact that analysts point to recruiting rankings as rationales for promoting the teams of the “power five.”
Recruiting rankings can often be good general ratings of talent being brought in, however it should not be overly used on an individual team basis.
Tennessee has been in the top 25 of 24/7 Sports’ recruiting rankings for the past four seasons yet has a combined record of 9-15 the last two seasons, and just lost to a team that went 2-10 last year.
Arkansas, Florida State, Ole Miss and UCLA are several other examples of “power five” programs who have been regulars at the top of the recruiting ranks, but have well underperformed the expectations and rankings set upon them.
The rankings, predictions and name recognition of a team do not automatically transition to their excellence on the football field. Top “group of five” teams are often harmed by the benefit of the doubt being given to the teams of the “power five.”
The CFP bias against Central Floirda has been evident the past two seasons, as the Knights were never seriously considered by the committee. After being set at number 12 in the final CFP rankings, the Knights preceded to defeat number seven Auburn in the Fiesta Bowl.
The usual response against any argument in favor of UCF is to rip on their strength of schedule, which in 2018 frankly said more about the ACC Coastal division as the Knights destroyed their division champion Pittsburgh by 31.
The point I am making is that everyone in the college football landscape needs to question and separate what is expected out of a team, and what that team actually accomplishes.
The pedestal of the “power five” needs to be lowered a notch or real credibility needs to be given to the top teams of the “group of five”; teams like Boise State, Cincinnati, Memphis and UCF.
Even better, both should occur and the CFP should be expanded to eight teams as to give more opportunity for competition.
That’s all the UCF’s of the world are asking for, an equal opportunity to prove their mettle. I don’t think that’s too difficult to give them.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org