6 and 7 Game Seasons? Pac is Back? What Is Going On In College Football?

Barely over a month ago, the hopes for a college football season seemed dismal at best, and completely dead at worst. The Pac-12 and Big 10 had cancelled, as had the Mountain West and MAC, leaving just six of ten FBS conferences ready to play in the fall. Rumors were that the ACC were close to folding, but the resolve of Notre Dame to both play and join the ACC temporarily gave that desire new life to start playing. The FBS season kicked off on September 3rd, with Miami taking on UAB, and we’ve since seen three weekends of college football. There have been hiccups – Baylor has seen four different games called off due to coronavirus concerns, and certainly the season has not gone off without any problems, but the return of college football is real, and it’s feasible that everyone else will be back soon as well.

Yesterday, there we’re several announcements regarding the Pac-12 and Mountain West, which are intending to return to the fall football scene, albeit with shortened schedules. That followed up the Big 10’s announcement that they hope to resume play in late October, and overall, it’s been an absolute whirlwind in college football. Here’s a brief rundown of what’s going on:

The Pac-12 is back, playing a 7-game schedule

As of now, the plan is that the Pac-12 will return on November 6, and they’ll play a 7-game schedule that includes the conference championship. Teams play the five teams within their division, and one crossover game. On December 19, there will be a title game played, with the non-qualifiers playing an additional crossover game to round out their schedule. The full schedule will be released in a couple of days.

To this point, there is no indication of whether they are ineligible for the College Football Playoff, which could lead to some interesting debates if Oregon, or perhaps USC, goes 7-0, but they have to compare there resume with a mix of SEC, ACC, and Big 12 teams that have played 10 or 11 games. Simply being eligible will be key for the Pac-12, as that at least entitles them to the Power-5 payout, which last year was 66 million per conference.

The Mountain West and Big 10 pick up the same timeline

The Mountain West conference elected to take the same schedule format as the Big 10, beginning an 8-game slate on October 24, with their conference championship on December 19. With two 6-team divisions, it’s unclear what the specifics of the schedule will look like, but ultimately, the biggest factor here is Boise State. The Broncos are the only consistently good team in this conference, and they are a yearly challenger for the Group of 5’s spot in the New Year’s 6.

A notable exception at this point is the Air Force academy. Despite the Mountain West’s cancellation the Falcons had gone ahead with their plans to compete in their two-game series with Army and Navy. While their clash with Navy is scheduled for October 3rd, their game with the Black Knights is slated for November 7, which would be the third week of the Mountain West season. That potential dilemma was not mentioned by the Mountain West in their announcement today.

What about the MAC?

The MAC remains the only FBS conference to not have a fall season in place, but this could change soon as well. They were the earliest conference to postpone their season, doing so on August 8, but sources say they are planning on holding a presidents’ meeting, where the plan is to vote on a season. As of now, the rumors are circulating around a potential 6-game season in the MAC, which would officially get all FBS conferences into play. The MAC doesn’t have a nationally relevant team, with their best overall record last season coming from Buffalo, who finished 8-5. Regardless, at this point, it would be very strange for the conference to attempt to go solo and play a spring season by themselves, so expect some shortened season announcement to be coming soon.

Ranking Group Of Five College Football Conferences

Yesterday, we ranked the Power-5 football conferences (in basketball, football, and baseball), so today, it’s time to look at rankings for the Group of 5 conferences – who is a joke, and who is a legit threat to Power-5 teams.

MWC/AAC/SB/CUSA/MAC

AAC/MWC/SB/CUSA/MAC

MWC/AAC/CUSA/MAC/SB

AAC/SB/MAC/MWC/CUSA

MWC/AAC/MAC/SB/CUSA

MAC -20, CUSA- 21, SB – 17, AAC – 8, MWC – 9

#5. Conference USA

Last season, it was 20th time is the charm for Conference USA, which lost it’s first 19 games against Power-5 opponents before scraping out November wins against cellar-dwelling Arkansas and a floundering Miami squad. They weren’t great outside of the Power-5 either, going just 9-12 against fellow Group-of-5 programs, and, thanks to Western Kentucky, they had the sole FCS loss among Group of 5 teams (Independent UMass and the ACC’s Georgia Tech had the other two FBS-FCS losses). Florida Atlantic (11-3) nearly cracked the top 25 at the end of the season, which would have provided the conference with a bit of pride, but they didn’t, and C-USA finds the basement in these rankings.

#4. Mid-Atlantic Conference

The MAC was a strong contender for the cellar in these rankings, but ultimately they got the nod to stay just above C-USA. Just with Akron (0-12), this conference has probably the worst team in the FBS, and they were even worse against Power-5 competition, going 2-21, although their wins over Illinois and BYU represented victories over at least semi-capable programs. The MAC loses to Conference USA in star power, with no teams collecting more than eight wins, but, outside of Akron, they also can’t match C-USA in truly atrocious teams. It’s a lot of mediocrity, in the MAC, but a decent bowl season (3-4) – and Conference USA’s FCS loss – kept them out of the basement.

#3. Sun Belt

Unlike the prior conferences in these rankings, every team in the Sun Belt had at least two wins, and outside of South Alabama (2-10) and Texas State (3-9), everyone came within a game of bowl eligibility. Appalachian State was one of the best Group-of-5 programs in the country, just missing out on a 14-0 season and winning the conference. The Sun Belt saw some strong performances against the Power-5, despite a relatively dismal 4-9 overall record. Georgia State toppled Tennessee, while App State upended both South and North Carolina, and Coastal Carolina snatched a road victory at Kansas, and Louisiana-Monroe took Florida State to overtime in Tallahassee. There’s things not to like – only five teams qualified for bowl games – but the Sun Belt, with a couple of very good teams, and cellar-dwelllers that don’t quite match the atrocity of those in the MAC and C-USA, belongs third on this list.

#2. Mountain West

It was nearly a toss-up between the clear top-2 conference in the Group of 5. The Mountain West had the best success of any conference against Power-5 programs, nearly breaking .500 with a 10-12 mark, including Boise State’s comeback against Florida State, along with road victories at Vanderbilt, Arkansas, UCLA, and Colorado. They struggled at times against other Group of 5 programs, however – after posting a 2-0 record against Conference USA, they went 1-5 against the AAC, Sun Belt, and Mac, ultimately relegating them to 2nd on this list. Boise State got smacked in the conference’s lone bowl game against a Power-5 team (38-7 loss vs. Washington), but they went 4-3 overall in bowl season. Boise State was the class of the conference, but Air Force, Hawaii, and San Diego State all reached at least 10 wins.

#1. American Athletic Conference

The AAC got the nod for the #1 Group of 5 conference. In a two-man competition with the Mountain West, the AAC won out with a 3-0 head-to-head record with the MWC, and they placed four teams into the AP Top 25 at the end of the season, to the Mountain West’s two. Their cherry on top is the New Year’s 6 bowl, where the AAC leads with four appearances – no other Group of 5 has more than two, and the Mountain West has just one. The American also went a stunning 16-1 against all other non Power-5 programs, with a 7-13 mark against Power-5 schools, punctuated with a ranked victory over #25 TCU. With Memphis, Navy, Cincinnati and UCF, the conference has four truly great teams, and SMU is pushing to make it five. The conference went 4-3 in 2019 bowl game appearances, led by Memphis’s stiff fight in the Cotton Bowl and Navy’s strong Liberty Bowl victory.

Daily Headlines: Bowling Green Baseball Saved By Alumni Donations

Many universities across the country have been facing financial hardships in their athletic department, with the lack of a spring sports season, and potential cancellation or delay of the fall sports season, threatening budgets and forcing college to make tough decisions. One such tough decision came from Bowling Green, who had announced that they, in response to a 2-million dollar shortfall in their budget, would be cutting the baseball program, whcih, by their estimates cost $750,000 a year to run. However, the Falcons were saved by an impressive donation campaign by their alumni and fanbase, which committed about 1.5 million dollars over the next three years, giving Bowling Green a temporary respite to their crisis. The Bowling Green athletic department officially reinstated the baseball team, and they’ve said they are currently pursuing potential long-term funding solutions, working with a select group of baseball alumni. The Falcons last made the NCAA Tournament in 2013, as they’ve struggled in their past few years in the MEAC. 

ND-Navy Dublin game moved to Annapolis

For the first time in the lengthy history of the Notre Dame vs. Navy football rivalry, their annual clash on the gridiron will take place at Navy’s home stadium. Although the game has been played in Maryland on several occasions, it has always taken place at various naval bases. The 2020 match-up was originally scheduled to be their second ever meeting in Dublin, but the COVID-19 concerns caused those plans to be scratched. Long assumed to be moving stateside, it was announced on Tuesday that the Irish and Midshipmen will play in Annapolis for the first time ever. This makes the most sense as programs, and the NCAA as a whole, scramble to try and set up a feasible way for the season to proceed as scheduled. 

Mountain West cuts several postseason tournaments

As part of an 18% reduction in their operating budget, the Mountain West Conference announced that they would be eliminating the postseason tournaments for baseball, men’s and women’s tennis, and women’s soccer, meaning that the regular season champions for those sports will represent the school in the NCAA Tournament. Swimming, Diving, Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field, and Golf were among the other postseason tournaments modified or shortened. Other cost-cutting methods included shortening baseball and softball series to two days, with a doubleheader, while the volleyball conference slate was reduced by two games.