An Ideal College Football Structure, Part 3: The New Group of 5

In the previous entries of this series, I explained my idea for a complete rebuild of college football. Part one covered the new rules, and part two detailed which teams would comprise the new Power 5 conferences and provided some examples of what schedules would look like under this new system.

Today’s final volume will be very similar to yesterday’s, except this time we are looking in detail at the Group of 5!

As a quick reminder, in this rebuild all 10 conferences have 16 teams divided into four 4 team divisions.

 

The Big East Conference

I resurrected the name of the Big East for the AAC because it’s a classic and it tells us what we need to know geographically. Here are the teams:

The most notable thing you might pick up on is that the entire Ivy League is here. I chose to move the Ivy League up due to three factors:

  1. Prestige – When I listed the requirements for teams to move up, among them were academic prestige. It doesn’t get much better than the Ivy League for that.
  2. History – The very first American football game was played between Princeton and Rutgers. The Ivy League schools were considered an important part of top level football for years. Obviously much has changed since those days long ago, but again, we are talking about a perfect football structure, not a hyper-realistic one.
  3. Geography and Cohesion – The Ivy League fits the bill for a collection of northern schools, and where two or three go, the rest follow. I can’t imagine seperating the Ivies.

A breakdown of the rest:

  • Vermont – Remember, perfect not hyper-realistic. I am well-aware that Vermont hasn’t fielded a team since 1974. I wanted a team in every state.
  • Maine – The Black Bears are a real team, but as I said in part one, they are only here because of the every state rule. Historically they have not excelled in football or academics.
  • Massachusetts – The Minutemen are a much better fit surrounded by New England schools than having to pretend to belong in the MAC, and there are no independents in this rebuild.
  • Buffalo – See above.
  • Connecticut – When I originally started thinking about this model a few years ago, I had actually promoted UConn to play with the big boys. My how things have changed. Their recent exit from the AAC and potential move down to FCS tells me that they don’t need to be an higher than this.
  • Lehigh and Lafayette – The Mountain Hawks play the Lafayette Leopards in college football’s longest running rivalry. There are heaps of tradition at these schools, and Lehigh at least has done pretty well over the years. Like the Ivies, you don’t bring one of these without the other.
  • Villanova – A solid program with extreme success in other sports, good name recognition, and a perennial member in the discussions for teams who should move up.

Fans of this new Big East would probably get pretty snobby at times, which would annoy everybody else, but few would argue against including these historic pillars of the sport and American higher education.

 

The Heartland Conference

The new Group of 5 doesn’t always have obvious analogs to the old group of 5 in the same way that the new Power 5 does to the old.

The Heartland is essentially a replacement for Conference USA, but since CUSA is so spread out in reality, overlapping the Sun Belt and American Athletic conferences, there’s not an exact region we can confine it to.

For the purposes of this rebuild, this new CUSA will cover the midwest from north to south, while the Sun Belt will claim the southeast.

5 teams remain from the current CUSA. The rest have been draw together from several different conferences.

  • North Dakota State – There is no way that the most dominant team in the FCS wasn’t moving up. Their division is kind of far removed from the rest of the conference, but they wouldn’ fit in the Mountain West. At least they will be surrounded by familiar rivals, most of whom have also experienced decent levels of success.
  • North Dakota and South Dakota State – See above.
  • South Dakota – Not historically successful, but they belong with the others.
  • Louisiana, ULMTexas State, & Tulsa – Too far west for the new Sun Belt.
  • Grambling State – Like the Ivies, some of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities have great historical significance to college football. Grambling St. is perhaps the most well-known for their all-time best win-loss record out of all FCS schools, as well as for the high number of future NFL players who played there.
  • Southern – In recent years, Southern has had the most success in the SWAC conference, and they already know national exposure by playing Grambling each year in the Bayou Classic.
  • Northern Illinois – Admittedly, they may seem an odd fit in their divsion which is otherwise all Louisiana. But they have to go somewhere. Think of them as a geographic bridge to the North division.

It’s not the cleanest conference geographically, but it’s way better than the current situation where the AAC, CUSA, and SBC cover much of the same area.

 

The Mid-American Conference

After radically changing the AAC and the CUSA, we arrive at something more familiar. The Mid-American conference remains largely the same, with some additions.

All of the MAC teams that have stayed in the MAC for the last 40+ years stay put, and so does Akron. More recent or less consistent members like Buffalo and Northern Illinois had to be shifted elsewhere. All in all, 6 new members are added to the league:

  • Liberty and Old Dominion – Both of these recent additions to the FBS play in Virginia, which is now considered MAC country.
  • James Madison – Tons of recent success on the field and a perennial candidate in discussions about moving up to the FBS. Also plays in Virginia.
  • William & Mary and Georgetown – These alternate Ivies have a lot of history and fit geographically.
  • Delaware – A school that knows success on the football field, they might seem more at home with the New England schools, but there was no room. Delaware borders Maryland and isn’t all that far from Virginia, so this isn’t really too much of a stretch.

The North division, containing four rival schools within a very short distance in northern Ohio, is the crown jewel here. The other divsions aren’t as clean cut, but if you ignore state lines and go by distance, the groupings are quite reasonable.

 

The Mountain West Conference

Another conference gets to keep its original name. This one also retains a decent amount of familiarity, with 9 schools remianing from the current makeup of the conference.

All of the new members are natural fits geographically, so that’s nice.

  • Alaska – The University of Alaska-Fairbanks does not field a football team, but if they did, I’d have them here per my team-in-every-state requirement because it pleases me.
  • Idaho – With this many teams moving up, why not bring back Idaho?
  • Eastern Washington – One of the best teams in the FCS is a shoe-in for moving up.
  • New Mexico State – These guys have needed a home for awhile, and I love the idea of putting them in a division with their cross-state rivals, who they need to play more often.
  • UC-Davis – A big California school that should be able to handle moving up to the FBS level without too much trouble.
  • Montana – The Grizzlies are a historically strong FCS school in the right geographic location.
  • Montana State – The Bobcats are a historically decent team in the right geograpic location, and most importantly, are the Grizzlies’ big-time rivals. They come as a package.

Like today’s Mountain West, this league covers a huge range of land, and looks like a lot of fun.

The Sun Belt Conference

I let the Sun Belt keep its name too. Fewer than half of the teams below are current Sun Belt members, but several used to be Sun Belt members, so most are familiar with the conference.

This division is mostly a collection of all the remaining FBS teams in the southeast region. The only team that does no fit that description is Florida A&M. The Rattlers are promoted for similar reasons to Grambling and Southern – they are an HBCU with a strong history, enormous success on the field, and they are familiar to a national TV audience. They also might be the HBCU with the most potential to move up in real life.

 

Scheduling

In part two, I used Boise State as an example for what a schedule would look like for a new P5 team. For the G5, I’m going to use my alma mater, the University of North Texas.

Lets briefly review the new scheduling rules:

  • The first 3 games, free scheduling as always.
  • The next 7 games, conference play. Each team will play the other three teams in their division every season. They will rotate between the other divisions in their conference each year for the other four games.
  • The final 2 games are conference semifinals. Only the 4 division champions will compete in these games, which will be played against each other to decide the conference champ.
  • At the end of the year, eight teams are chosen for the National Championship Playoffs: The five Power 5 conference champs, a Group of 5 representative and the next two highest ranked at-large teams.
  • Everyone else can go to bowl games, if they have a 7-5 record or better.

Now let’s look at what that might look like across a 3-year schedule for UNT:

Year One

The first three games are open schedule, so UNT can schedule who they want. I used the opportunity to continue their rivalry with SMU.

1 vs. Ball State

2 @ Baylor

3 @ Southern Methodist

Conference play begins here, with UNT playing their divisional rivals (Tulsa, UTEP, and UTSA) plus all the teams from another division. This year it is the East Division.

4 @ Northern Illinois

5 vs. Grambling State

6 vs. Louisiana Tech

7 vs. Tulsa

8 vs. Louisiana-Monroe

9 @Texas-El Paso

UTSA would be UNT’s annual date for rivalry week.

10 @ Texas-San Antonio

Finally, if and only if North Texas wins their division, they advance to the four-team conference tournament. The winner will receive consideration for the Group of 5 rep in the College Football Playoff.

11 Semi-final (*if necessary)

12 Conference Final (*if necessary)

Here’s a look at the next two years. UNT plays the North Division in year 2 and the South Division in year 3.

Year Two

1 vs. Southern Mississippi

2 @ Virginia

3 vs. Southern Methodist

4 @ Tulsa

5 vs. North Dakota

6 @ South Dakota State

7 @ South Dakota

8 @ North Dakota State

9 vs. Texas-El Paso

10 vs. Texas-San Antonio

11 Semi-final (*if necessary)

12 Conference Final (*if necessary)

 

Year Three

1 vs. Akron

2 @ Georgia Tech

3 @ Southern Methodist

4 vs. Rice

5 vs. Louisiana

6 @ Texas-El Paso

7 vs. Southern

8 vs. Tulsa

9 @ Texas State

10 @ Texas-San Antonio

11 Semi-final (*if necessary)

12 Conference Final (*if necessary)

 

That’s about it for my complete rebuild of college football. I hope that you enjoyed checking out my ideas. If you want to see more sample schedules, click the “read more” button one last time to see schedues for Western Kentucky, Ohio State, Yale, and Nevada.

Remember that none of this is meant to be predictive or suggestive, but rather a Gold Standard which might be emulated. The teams chosen don’t matter nearly as much as the way the conferences are built and the way the schedules work – though the teams are fun to talk about. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!

 

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Sun Belt

 

Year One

1 vs. Eastern Washington

2 vs. Grambling State

3 @ Duke

4 vs. Georgia Southern

5 vs. Florida International

6 vs. Georgia State

7 @ Florida A&M

8 @ Arkansas State

9 @ Florida Atlantic

10 @ Middle Tennessee State

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Two

1 vs. Ohio State

2 @ Rice

3 vs. San Jose State

4 vs. Arkansas State

5 @ Troy

6 @ Georgia State

7 @ Alabama-Birmingham

8 vs. South Alabama

9 @ Southern Mississippi

10 vs. Middle Tennessee State

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Three

1 vs. Wyoming

2 vs. Texas-San Antonio

3 @ Memphis

4 vs. Georgia State

5 @ Appalachian State

6 @ Coastal Carolina

7 vs. East Carolina

8 @ Arkansas State

9 vs. North Carolina-Charlotte

10 @ Middle Tennessee State

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

 

 

Toledo Rockets

Mid-American

 

Year One

1 vs. Alabama-Birmingham

2 @ Utah

3 vs. Villanova

4 vs. James Madison

5 @ Georgetown

6 @ Kent State

7 @ Old Dominion

8 vs. Delaware

9 vs. Akron

10 @ Bowling Green

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Two

1 vs. Lehigh

2 @ Illinois

3 vs. Florida Atlantic

4 vs. Kent State

5 @ Ohio

6 @ Akron

7 vs. Miami (OH)

8 @ Liberty

9 @ William & Mary

10 vs. Bowling Green

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Three

1 vs. Louisiana-Monroe

2 @ Northwestern

3 @ New Mexico State

4 @ Western Michigan

5 vs. Central Michigan

6 vs. Ball State

7 @ Kent State

8 vs. Eastern Michigan

9 vs. Akron

10 @ Bowling Green

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

 

 

Yale Bulldogs

Big East

 

Year One

1 vs. Troy

2 @ Texas Tech

3 @ Texas-El Paso

4 @ Connecticut

5 vs. Lafayette

6 vs. Brown

7 vs. Lehigh

8 @ Villanova

9 @ Pennsylvania

10 vs. Harvard

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Two

1 vs. North Carolina-Charlotte

2 @ Mississippi

3 vs. Rice

4 @ Columbia

5 vs. Cornell

6 vs. Connecticut

7 @ Brown

8 vs. Princeton

9 @ Buffalo

10 @ Harvard

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Three

1 vs. Utah State

2 @ North Carolina State

3 @ North Dakota

4 vs. Brown

5 @ Vermont

6 vs. Dartmouth

7 vs. Maine

8 @ Massachusetts

9 @ Connecticut

10 vs. Harvard

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

 

 

Nevada Wolfpack

Mountain West

 

Year One

1 @ Southern

2 @Vanderbilt

3 vs. Delaware

4 @ Utah State

5 @ New Mexico State

6 @ New Mexico

7 vs. Eastern Washington

8 vs. Alaska

9 vs. Idaho

10 vs. Nevada-Las Vegas

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Two

1 @ Nebraska

2 vs. Maine

3 vs. Louisiana

4 @ Montana

5 @ Montana State

6 vs. Wyoming

7 vs. New Mexico

8 @ Colorado State

9 vs. New Mexico State

10 @ Nevada-Las Vegas

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

Year Three

1 @ Brown

2 @ Rutgers

3 vs. Dartmouth

4 @ New Mexico

5 vs. California-Davis

6 @ New Mexico State

7 vs. California State-Fresno

8 vs. Hawaii

9 @ San Jose State

10 vs. Nevada-Las Vegas

11 Semi-final (IN)

12 Conference Final (IN)

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