My holiday wish list includes just one item: More bowl games between the Group of Five and the Power Five.
There are 43 bowl games this year. That’s not a typo. There are 43 (!) bowl games. Despite an absurd number of games, I’m still struggling to find 10 matchups I love.
Make no mistake, I’m still going to watch a lot of college football during the next few weeks, but I feel like bowl season could use some spicing up. The current bowl tie-ins frustrate me, with most games each postseason pairing Power Five teams against Power Five teams and Group of Five teams against Group of Five teams.
I realize I may be in the minority with this take, with most Power Five fans plenty happy to see their favorite team face other big-name programs. Even Group of Five fans might be happy with the current setup, which pairs their favorite teams against peers. UTSA-Troy might be a top-5 matchup of the bowl season, as the two ranked conference champs should play an exciting game on Dec. 16. That’s a fun Group of Five game!
Regardless, I desperately want more Power Five-Group of Five bowl games.
More Power Five-Group of Five needed
There are five P5 vs. G5 games this bowl season. USC-Tulane in the Cotton Bowl headlines the list, with Cincinnati-Louisville, Fresno State-Washington State, Air Force-Baylor, and Duke-UCF being the other four contests.
I love those matchups! They’re going to be enjoyable, even if every game doesn’t feature massive college football brands. Tulane put together a special season to earn the Group of Five spot in the Cotton Bowl, and it can give the Trojans a game. It’s not a sexy matchup, but it has potential to be interesting. We could use more interesting games in college football – offense intended to Mississippi State-Illinois.
Cincinnati-Louisville features tremendous drama, with Scott Satterfield leaving Louisville days ago to be Cincinnati’s head coach next season. That’s also a past rivalry game, gaining a new chapter in its solid history.
What if UTSA’s Frank Harris, who is coming back for another season as the Roadrunners’ quarterback, could get one more shot at a Power Five team after facing Texas earlier this year? He’d be a blast against a team like North Carolina, which can score in bunches but struggles defensively.
The games could be highly entertaining, and the matchups would help build up the Group of Five. I know that’s not the goal of bowl matchups, but maybe it should be more of a consideration. Giving Group of Five teams a chance against Power Five teams would make for exciting postseason TV, rather than a game pairing … *checks notes* … Minnesota and Syracuse.
I’m not saying every bowl game needs to pair Group of Five teams against Power Five teams, but only 5 of this year’s 43 bowl games (11.6%) are between teams at the Group of Five and teams at the Power Five. That feels too low.
College football is changing
The Big Ten and SEC are trending toward becoming “super conferences” with well over a dozen teams, including the biggest names in the sport. It can be easy to want to separate the biggest programs from the smallest. It’s going to happen increasingly during the regular season, as conferences play 9+ conference games and focus turns to which Big Ten and SEC teams will make the expanded College Football Playoff.
I hope the sport doesn’t lose sight of what makes it great, which are often the storylines outside the top few teams. Earlier this season, it was incredible when Virginia Tech visited Old Dominion and when N.C. State traveled to East Carolina. Neither ACC team was a legitimate playoff contender, but it was a joy to watch them play tight games against Group of Five teams with engaged fans. It was exciting for fans, players, and alumni in those states.
College football should lean into postseason matchups – at least a few more – between Group of Five teams and Power Five teams. Mid-major schools pulling upsets is a huge part of what makes March Madness so popular. It’s time for bowl season to embrace the non-Power Five programs.