Where Did Respect for Mid-Majors Go?
The 2000s saw numerous Group of 5 schools rise to the upper echelon of programs, notably Boise State and TCU. Why has the AP and CFB Playoff Committee lost respect for these teams in the last decade and can they ever gain it back?
#2 Boise State 2010
Have you been missing the days of rooting for an underdog to claim the first Group of 5 national title since BYU in 1984? I know I have! Here is a list of all Non-Power Conference team that cracked the AP Top 10 in the last 20 years. Also included in this list are the rump Big East teams left over after the Miami, Virginia Tech, Boston College exodus in 2004/05. Teams that were once dominant Mid-Majors like Utah, Louisville, and TCU have all moved on to greener pastures in the Power Five since their BCS busting days. Pay attention to the trend in recent years; we have a severe lack of representation of Mid-Majors that is detracting from College Football landscape.
2020: Cincinnati #8
2018: UCF #7
2017: UCF #6
2016: Houston #6
2015: Houston #8
2013: Louisville #7, UCF #10
2012: Louisville #10
2011: Boise State #4, Houston #7
2010: Boise State #2, TCU #2. Utah #6
2009: TCU #3, Boise State #4, Cincinnati #4, BYU #7, Pitt #8
2008: Utah #2, TCU #7, West Virginia #8, BYU #8, Boise State #9, South Florida #10
2007: South Florida #2, West Virginia #2, Louisville #9, Rutgers #10, Hawaii #10
2006: West Virginia #3, Louisville #3, Rutgers #7, Boise State #9
2005: Boise State #5, Louisville #9
2004: Utah #4, Louisville #6, Boise State #10
2003: TCU #10, Miami Ohio #10
2001: Fresno State #8, BYU #8
2000: TCU #9
You will notice the massive spike in Mid-Major success during the mid to late 2000s that slowly tapered off as the premier Group of 5 programs were poached by the Power 5 during conference realignment. The AP has slowly lost faith in the Group of 5's competitiveness as evidenced by their refusal to rank single loss or even undefeated Mid-Majors. Classic teams such as Jordan Lynch's Northern Illinois, Rakeem Cato's Marshall, Keenan Reynold's Navy, Colin Kaepernick's Nevada, and PJ Fleck's Western Michigan have all performed extremely well only to be shunned by the ranking committees.
Since 2011, only AAC teams have been able to break into the top 10 as their conference is head and shoulders above the others, but still looked down upon by the Power 5 elitists. It hasn't just been the AP's fault though, there has been a concerted effort amongst the Power 5 to avoid playing those season wrecking games against foes like Boise State. The Playoff committee has exacerbated this issue as a win over an AAC team is okay but a loss can derail any playoff dreams, regardless of how good the AAC is. Why is it an AAC team that runs the table in a very competitive conference doesn't get consideration for the playoff but a Clemson squad who plays a pitiful conference slate gets into the playoff with a loss to lowly Pitt or Syracuse?
The parity of the game has been lacking ever since the aforementioned conference realignment a decade ago. Having Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State, and Oklahoma play each other every single year in the playoff is getting boring. We need more Cinderellas in the game! A two tiered system of evaluation, P5 vs G5, has created a massive imbalance where Mid-Majors can no longer look a recruit in the eyes and tell them they have an opportunity to compete for a national championship. Granted this was always an improbable scenario considering the BCS' bias, but Boise State was #2 and probably should have played in the BCS Championship. and West Virginia & Louisville were ONE late season loss away from making it happen.
I hope that we can eventually return to a CFB world where teams from all conferences are given a fair shake. A COVID world has created an ideal situation for the Group of 5 where a shortened season for the PAC 12 and Big 10 may result in their disqualification for the playoff. Could this be the Group of 5's big break through? Time will tell, but with Cincinnati inside the top 10 this early in the season and BYU not far behind, if they can win out, they stand the best chance of any G5 teams thus far. Our hopes are riding on you Cincy and BYU, Go Bearcats! Go Cougs!