In the wake of drastic, compelling, and sometimes confusing college football conference realignment, several Group of Five teams have chosen to move on to Power Five leagues.
And even though the Pac-12 has been nearly dismantled, these moves might not even be over. As the power conferences continue to expand, G5 teams might be a part of those efforts.
Here’s a ranking of the Group of Five programs which are most likely to transition to a Power Five conference. Five of the seven teams on this list are from the Mountain West.
Group of Five Teams Most Likely To Join Conference Realignment, Ranked
|1||San Diego State|
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7. Fresno State
Fresno State has a lot going for it.
The Bulldogs were 12th among G5 teams in terms of total revenue and outside of the top 12 in total expenses. Though it’s not the most impressive media market, the Fresno area is not a bad place for a conference to have a footprint in.
Also, the Bulldogs have been successful of late. They won the Mountain West Championship last season and are 8-4 with two Power Five wins in 2023. Fresno State would absolutely be capable of fitting in with a power league from a talent and recruiting perspective.
6. Colorado State
Colorado State wouldn’t be the first program that jumps into someone’s mind for a ranking like this, but the Rams would absolutely be a program for a Power Five league like the Big 12 to consider.
The media market and footprint should be appealing because of CSU’s proximity to Denver, even though CSU might have to compete with Colorado in terms of recruits and viewership. CSU also had the eighth-highest total revenue among G5 programs last year, so the money is there for the team to prepare itself for a jump to a P5 conference.
South Florida is another school which many wouldn’t immediately think of as a Power Five-worthy team. But there would be some benefits for a league like the ACC or Big 12 (now that UCF is a part of it) to add the Bulls.
USF hasn’t been extremely successful recently, though it did give Alabama some issues this year and went on to earn bowl-eligibility at 6-6 overall. But because of those struggles in recent years, the energy around the program hasn’t been great.
But maybe that all would change with a Power Five move. With Tampa, USF is part of a substantial market. The team also plays in Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, so it has the capacity for a move up.
4. Boise State
Many have been clamoring for Boise State to move on to the Power Five, and the Broncos have been the subject of many conference realignment rumors the past few years.
In Boise, Idaho, the market isn’t huge and the national viewership is middle of the road. But Boise State was 14th among G5 teams in total revenue, so it would be a logical school to pick. The program also has an energetic and loyal following, as the team has seen some great success and pulled off some memorable wins in bowl games the past couple decades. With that alone, Boise State deserves to be a Power Five program, but there would be much more to consider.
Memphis has won a fair number of games the past few years, and the Tigers are having a good season in 2023 at 9-3 overall. Maybe that could help springboard them into Power Five consideration.
Memphis has much more going for it as well, including being a good basketball school. The football program was seventh among G5 teams in terms of total revenue last year and is in a good spot geographically as well. Of the teams in the AAC, I think Memphis is the most likely to make a move like this.
Yes, UNLV hasn’t exactly thrived on the football field in the past few years. However, the team is 9-4 overall in 2023 and reached the Mountain West Championship. Plus, wins are not all conferences consider when thinking of teams to add.
Pro sports leagues have moved or expanded to Las Vegas because it’s a good market. The Rebels were also sixth among Group of Five teams in total revenue last year and play at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders, so they are in a good position to make a power-conference transition.
1. San Diego State
To me, San Diego State is the most clear-cut answer for this. As recently as this year, the Aztecs tried leaving the Mountain West—likely in hopes of being picked up by the Pac-12—before SDSU decided to not make that move and the Pac-12 drastically changed.
But San Diego State is the most ready to make a jump from the G5 to the Power Five. SDSU was fifth among Group of Five programs in total revenue last year, behind only UCF, Cincinnati, Houston, and Air Force, and those first three schools are now in the Big 12.
The market would also benefit a Power Five league being in a large city in California that has no NFL presence. Snapdragon Stadium could also be the home of a P5 team. And don’t forget the Aztecs made a run to the Final Four in basketball as recently as last season, so that kind of move could make sense for multiple SDSU programs.
If San Diego State doesn’t stick around for a potential Pac-12/Mountain West merger, Power Five conferences would probably be smart to consider SDSU.