The Reality of the G5 and the College Football Playoff

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Author: Edward Benningfield – @eddieb1256 

In March 2011, some friends and I stumbled into a bar in the Quarry for lunch.  UTSA, two days prior, had just beaten the Alabama State Hornets 70-61 in the “First Four” round of the NCAA Tournament. Not bad. This was their first win ever in four trips to The Dance, and there was excitement in the city and on campus…at least a peripheral “gee-wiz” of UTSA competing in and winning in the tournament.

That day in the bar, UTSA was playing #1 seed Ohio State, who frankly outclassed the Roadrunners and soundly defeated them in the actual “First Round” 75-46.  I distinctly remember the Roadrunners struggling to leave half court as the Buckeyes completely dominated UTSA. It was a great showcase of Big Ten talent vs Southland talent…but Hey! The Roadrunners were in the tournament!  There was at least an opportunity of a miracle happening!

Fast forward to today, the world of 2021.  UTSA’s women’s soccer team enjoyed their most successful season in school history, and had a shot of winning the NCAA Division I title. In NCAA soccer there is a path for any Division I team to win a championship.  However, the football team, in the midst of its most historic and successful season in their 11 year history, has zero opportunity to compete for a national title. As a member of the Group of 5, UTSA is at the losing end of the most disproportionate and unfair system in college athletics, and arguably any modern sports league, in the College Football Playoff.

Like many of you, I tuned in Tuesday evening to see if the Runners would crack the Top 25 for the first week of the CFP Rankings.  Initially, I wasn’t too surprised to see UTSA get snubbed, but then looking at the teams who were ranked instead of us frustrated me…seven SEC teams made the cut, including a 5-3 Mississippi State at #17–a Mississippi State team who lost to Memphis and beat Louisiana Tech by a point at home in Starkville, both G5 teams that UTSA beat.

The cherry on top for me wasn’t where we weren’t, but that Cincinnati, the undefeated darling of the G5 with a quality road win against #10 Notre Dame, was left out of the Top 4 and ranked at #6 despite being ranked #2 in both the AP and Coaches poll. It appears the lower than expected ranking was due to close wins against Navy (2-6) and Tulane (1-7). Sure, Cincinnati’s performances in those games may have left a bit to be desired, but they won those matchups, and it still wasn’t enough.

Twitter of course, has been full of comments such as “Well Cincinnati doesn’t have quality wins besides Notre Dame”,  “The SEC plays such a harder schedule”,  “The G5 just doesn’t have the talent to compete with P5 schools at the highest level”…and being an honest broker, all of those are things that can’t be refuted on paper.  Per, Alabama, ranked #2 by the Committee–with one loss to the Committee’s #14 Texas A&M–is ranked 15th by strength of schedule  (SOS). 5-3 Mississippi State is 18th for SOS and boasts 3 wins over ranked teams including Texas A&M.

Cincinnati is ranked 94th, and although on paper plays a weaker schedule, is winning against teams they should beat.  For what it’s worth, the Roadrunners are ranked #125 by SOS and the highest ranked G5 is 1-7 Tulane at #17. So sure, based on SOS, The Committee sees the Group of 5 for what it is:  a group of conferences with less money, lower recruiting rankings, and less historical success than the P5.  Even the Roadrunners 8-0 season, as historic as it is for UTSA, doesn’t look as impressive with #125 tied to its schedule.  A mirror shows all flaws, but it’s unfair that P5 fans can sleep soundly at night knowing their team controls their own fate in postseason play, a privilege which G5 fans simply can’t enjoy.

What does this matter to UTSA?  This snubbing of the G5 is a trend by The Committee seen year after year.  Look at UCF, Houston, and Eastern Michigan for historical examples, and Cincinnati at present. The common thread, save for Eastern Michigan is they’re all AAC teams, a conference which the Roadrunners will be a member of starting in 2023. Frankly, that’s a problem, and it shows that in this current system, if UTSA ever wants to have a chance at title contention, the AAC cannot be the final destination. UTSA has to make sure its next steps in the AAC propel the university forward, not only for football, but for the entire athletic department.

Coach Traylor’s new contract, the investment into practice facilities, and plans to get the basketball and volleyball programs out of the Convocation Center are steps in the right direction. UTSA is in great hands with Dr. Eighmy and Dr. Campos, but their end state must be taking advantage of a P5 conference looking to expand, and time is not on our side as rumors abound of a permanent split of the P5 into its own division.  Such a split turns the G5 into the FCS, which is not only a step back for UTSA, but every G5 program that has transitioned out of the I-AA and the current FCS over the last few decades.

We will never be Alabama.  We will never be Ohio State, or Oklahoma, or any other of your favorite perennial title contenders. And that’s fine. However, G5 programs, whether it’s our Roadrunners, Cincinnati, Marshall, or Boise State, must be afforded a shot to compete at the highest level.  If UTSA’s basketball team can get steamrolled by Ohio State for a shot at the title, then our football team absolutely should be afforded the opportunity to get steamrolled by Alabama for a shot at the title…I mean it’s only fair, right? Who knows, maybe we could beat Alabama…there’s only one way to find out…

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