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Will Group of 5 schools ever get a chance at a national title?

Will Group of 5 schools ever get a chance at a national title?

Will Group of 5 schools ever get a chance at a national title?
October 13
17:18 2018

The College Football Playoff was implemented to let the highest ranked football teams battle for a National Championship, but the question that remains is “are the highest ranked teams actually the best?”

The North Texas football team was dealt a heartbreaking loss against Louisiana Tech two weekends ago and just barely escaped El Paso last weekend with a 27-24 win. A chance remains that the Mean Green could finish this regular season 11-1 and play a quality opponent in a nationally recognized bowl game.

When North Texas was undefeated, questions such as, “If UNT goes undefeated, wins conference and finishes 13-0, can they be selected into the Playoff?” bounced around campus.

The answer is absolutely not. During the three previous College Football Playoffs, the only schools chosen to compete are Power Five schools. Those Power Five schools are from the Big 10, Big 12, SEC, ACC and PAC 12 conferences.

The Group of Five conferences, which consist of the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, Mid-Atlantic Conference, Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt, are still considered Division 1 FBS programs and can “compete” for a national championship every season. However, last year proved that a Group of Five team may not ever have the opportunity to truly compete for a national title.

The University of Central Florida Knights, the 2017 American Athletic Conference champions, finished a perfect 13-0 and dominated their schedule just two years after they finished with an abysmal record of 0-12.

Central Florida beat a Power Five team in Maryland and probably would have taken down Georgia Tech if their game had not been canceled. They also beat No. 21 South Florida and then managed to beat No. 25 Memphis twice.

Whenever the time came to select which bowl games each school would attend, Central Flordia was ranked No. 6 and two spots out of the College Football Playoff.  The Knights instead went to the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl and upset a powerhouse SEC program in the Auburn Tigers by a score of 34-27.

The argument was that Central Florida’s schedule was not difficult enough. If an undefeated record, winning a conference championship and beating top 25 programs is not sufficient, then what is enough? What else does a football team have to accomplish?

The football world says that Group of Five teams don’t play in top-tier conferences. After hearing this, people then started to wonder how these mid-major teams would be able to bolster their strength of schedule.

The only way to strengthen the schedule for the playoff committee’s preference would be for a team to leave a Group of Five conference and enter a Power 5 conference.

An example of this is a school not too far down the road – Texas Christian University. In 2012, TCU decided to jump from the Mountain West Conference to the Big 12.

TCU was the only team in the nation to finish in the top 10 of the season-ending AP poll three seasons in a row and not get a chance to compete for a national championship. After going 47-5 in four years with notable wins against Top 25 teams, the Horned Frogs moved up.

In response to my question at the beginning, North Texas, or any other Group of Five team, will only be able to contend for a national championship in two distinct situations.

First, the Mean Green would need to switch to a different conference. This would give North Texas the opportunity to play a tougher schedule and earn more national attention in a bigger conference.

The second scenario would be for the committee to expand the playoff to eight teams. If a Group of Five team was to go undefeated, have signature wins against top 25 teams and win a conference championship, the committee would not have a choice than to rank them higher than No. 8.

Let’s be honest. Everybody loves an underdog and is tired of seeing Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State play for the title every year. Who wouldn’t want to see North Texas or another mid-major program have the chance to knock off one of those successful and notorious programs?

One team from a Group of Five school is guaranteed a New Year’s Six bowl, so if the Mean Green can finish the season undefeated with a conference championship, North Texas might get to suit up on national television come New Year’s.

Featured Image: North Texas junior quarterback Mason Fine is tackled in a conference game against LA Tech on Sept. 29 at Apogee Stadium. Sara Carpenter

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Bronte Hermesmeyer

Bronte Hermesmeyer

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