Cincinnati set itself up to become the first five-man team to make the college football playoffs by winning at Notre Dame.
While the Bearcats achieved their playoff aspirations last year — they had to win every regular season game to even be considered for the four-team CFP — the games that most G5 schools and Football Championship Subdivision play against the Power Five teams concern the paycheck they get to help fund their programs.
“The obvious reason is financial. It’s a good payday,” said Middle Tennessee State coach Rick Stockstill, whose Blue Raiders have played 38 games against current P5 teams over the past 16 seasons, first in the Sun Belt and now in Conference USA.
But with the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten both expected to expand to at least 16 teams over the next few seasons, and the other Power Five leagues going through their own transitions that include adding some current G5 teams, there might be fewer openings for such games.
“I would hate for these to go because I think in order to continue college football and keep it where it is … that level is also important,” said Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi, whose team will face FCS Rhode Island, his alma mater. “It can go away. I think it depends on the number of teams in these conferences. … It’s far down the road, I guess. I don’t know how far the road is.
Of the 60 teams currently in the Group of Five leagues – American, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt – only FIU and North Texas are not scheduled to face a Power Five team this season, while 26 d between them will. play multiple P5 opponents. The MAC Kent State team is the only one with three, making trips to Washington, Oklahoma and defending national champion Georgia.
There are 85 P5 vs. G5 games scheduled this season, five more than last year but still fewer than the 92 played in 2019. The Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC played conference-only schedules in 2020 due of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the ACC and Big 12 limited to one non-league game.
The SEC and Big Ten could go from eight conference games to nine when they get their new teams. Oklahoma and Texas will be in the SEC no later than the 2025 season, with Pac-12 teams UCLA and Southern California set to join the Big Ten in 2024.
Even with two starts, the Big 12 will grow with next summer’s additions of independent BYU, alongside the American’s Cincinnati, Houston and UCF.
The Big 12 played a round-robin schedule as a 10-team league, but could shrink from nine to eight conference games, much like the revised Pac-12, with those extra spots potentially used for other games. P5. The ACC, which among major conferences plays the highest percentage of out-of-league P5 games and the lowest percentage of G5 opponents, plans to maintain its eight-game conference slate through at least 2026.
Middle Tennessee, which has played for up to three SEC teams in the same season, travels to Miami on Sept. 24.
“I didn’t see anyone say he was going to play 12 conference games. … So there are three, there are four slots available that we can still have the opportunity to play at these Power Five schools,” said Stockstill, who always relishes the opportunity for his guys to show they can compete. with the “so-called top players” in these games.
Miami’s opener under new coach Mario Cristobal is against FCS Bethune-Cookman School. The Hurricanes also play on the SEC Texas A&M team between home games against the G5 Southern Misses and Middle Tennessee before the ACC game.
“I also like to show a lot of respect to the Five-Eyes teams because there have been some great ones. Everything is cyclical, right? And you never know when a team is going to hit their stride,” Cristobal said. “So there are a lot of quality football teams that maybe aren’t Power Five teams. And I think those should be taken into account (when planning), as well as an opportunity on a big scene.
An unbeaten record alone wouldn’t be enough for Cincinnati to qualify for the playoffs. But the Bearcats had the opportunity to play Notre Dame for the first time since 1900, and Indiana’s Big Ten team — and beat both on the road.
Only 15 out of 131 FBS teams will not face an FCS team this season. The SEC is the only P5 league with all of its teams playing at least one G5 school and one game against a lower division FCS team.
Bethune-Cookman is one of five SWAC teams that will face a P5 team, but commissioner Charles McClelland said his growing league of historically black colleges and universities doesn’t necessarily have to play those intensive games because of the business and media partners who have improved the league’s financial situation.
“Now there’s a difference between needing to play and wanting to play,” McClelland said. “I’m not worried that they want to play. I just want to make sure that from a revenue point of view, our schools don’t need to play.
AP sportswriters Aaron Beard, Steve Reed and John Zenor contributed to this report.
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