As we watch week after week of upsets, game winning drives and 129 FBS College football teams put it all on the line, have we ever wondered why there are five full conferences that have never played for a title? That not one of the Group of Five teams, making up 65 of the 129, have ever ran onto a field in early January to fight for a National Title?
Even if this thought has never crossed you, it is a huge question for those 65 teams, small fan bases and entire conferences. The sad truth? Not one of them will ever take a third or fourth seed in the playoff, ever. This being said, there is a way to put the talent, hard work, excellent coaching and the “mid major” style in the spotlight and give them a reason to play hard in Week 13 when an eleven and one record seems as good as a Power Five 7-5 finish.
Group of Five Playoff
What I propose is a mix between the FBS four team playoff, and the FCS sixteen team playoff. In this system, each of the Group of Five conferences will have a representative in their conferences champion, with the remaining three spots decided by a committee of former Group of Five ADs, NCAA officials and former BCS representatives. In this system each conference, no matter the champion’s record, will take their place among the top eight mid major programs.
Why all this trouble for the “cupcakes”? Well, because these “cupcakes” aren’t what many think of them. For example, in 2010 the TCU horned frogs were 12-0, and playing in the Mountain West, yet despite finishing #5 in the polls, this team never sniffed a title game. Even if a playoff had been in place, the Horned Frogs would have been left on the outside looking in. Boise State, Hawaii and Utah all saw similar results over the years. An FBS second tier National Title game would have put these 12-0 or 11-1 squads on a stage to play highly competitive football, and show the college football landscape up.
Many argue that instating a small league playoff will only hurt college football, yet I disagree. A playoff would give many of these small schools a chance to increase recruiting and the nation’s perception of them. For instance, take Appalachian State, a team that just four years ago was competing on the FCS level. This small school has reached the top of the Sunbelt conference in only two seasons; take that success and throw it into a bracket against the likes of Boise State and South Florida. When this happens, App. State’s recruiting will go up, and current talent further exposed to the NFL and other pro leagues.
This surge in talent gives the best team in the worst conference the strength and recognition to climb the ranks, just as TCU and Utah climbed into the Power Five following multiple BCS bowl wins. The advantage here is that instead of the occasional pop up 12-0 Group of Five team climbing into the top eight or so, this is a year in and year out concept that will shake the foundation of college football.
2016 under this proposal
Just as an example, here is what the 2016 FBS Tier 2 College Football Playoff would have looked like:
(1) Western Michigan (MAC) vs (8) Troy (At Large)
(2) San Diego State (MWC) vs (7) South Florida (At Large)
(3) Western Kentucky (C-USA) vs (6) Navy (At Large)
(4) Temple (American) vs (5) App State (Sunbelt)
Though the top team in the playoff was in a New Year’s day bowl, the school could have a choice to play up or fight for a Tier Two National Title. No longer will the powers at be have the ability to deny a chance. This system may even be the jumping board to launch a habitual play off and Tier Two Champion into a 4th Seed of the main playoff.
As this season marches on, watch out for the little teams that can, starting with #16 South Florida out of the American.
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