This week, Sporting News will analyze the outlook for the Group of 5 conferences in the new college football landscape. That includes the odds for reaching the four-team playoff, strength of schedule, financial benefits and exposure. We'll even take a crack at what the FBS might look like if the Power 5 and Group of 5 ever split.
Let's settle it on the field, everyone says.
Wyoming coach Craig Bohl, former coach at three-time reigning FCS champion North Dakota State, still sees that as the best option. Bohl led the Bison to a 24-21 upset against defending Big XII co-champion Kansas State in the 2013 season opener.
That might have been a shock to everybody else except Bohl.
PART I: Say hello to the Group of 5
PART II: Running the table
PART IV: The green carrot
PART V: Split decision
"The lines between different levels of college football are much grayer than people who are on the outside might perceive," Bohl said. "Our victory was against a Kansas State team that proved to be a very good football team. Until you get on the football field, you never know. ... That wasn’t a fluke."
FCS schools like North Dakota State had success against the FBS in 2013. Eight FCS teams beat FBS teams on opening weekend, and Georgia Southern later beat Florida.
Looking at the Group of 5 against the Power 5 in 2013, however, reveals a much different statistical narrative.
— Current schools in the Group of 5 conferences finished 15-102 — a .128 winning percentage — against Power 5 schools in 2013. By conference: AAC (5-17), C-USA (3-22), Mountain West (2-20), Sun Belt (2-21), MAC (3-22). UCF, Northern Illinois and East Carolina were the only Group of 5 schools with multiple wins against the Power 5.
— Current Group of 5 schools accounted for just eight BCS bowl appearances since 1998. Boise State (2-0) and UCF (1-0) were the big winners, but Cincinnati (0-2), Connecticut (0-1), Northern Illinois (0-1) and Hawaii (0-1) all lost.
There were a few notable upsets last season: UCF won at Penn State, East Carolina beat North Carolina and North Carolina State and Northern Illinois knocked off Iowa and Purdue. But none of those Power 5 schools were ranked at the time.
On the other side, North Carolina beat Old Dominion 80-20. The Monarchs moved up to Conference-USA this season. Appalachian State and Georgia Southern are moving from the FCS to the Sun Belt Conference.
More schools are looking to make the jump from the FCS to the FBS — even if it might not be the right thing to do.
"There's always that pressure to take the next step, sometimes to the detriment of the school," former SEC commissioner and BCS architect Roy Kramer said. "Naturally, it comes from the perception that brings to a school. There will always be a desire to be in (the FBS) instead of having your own championship."
That's led to the increased talk of strength of schedule because Power 5 schools are looking to increase their profile for the playoff selection committee. It's yet another reason a break could be coming.
"They're fixing to be left out," ACC Network analyst Tommy Bowden said of the Group of 5 conferences. "There's always going to be a separation in talent and facilities. ... A lot of those conferences have super coaches, and I always enjoy watching the football players. They just don't have the exposure."