Sully's Big Blog! Commentary on College Football, Weekly Games, And Strange Statistics!

Who are the real Power 5 Teams?

As you may know, the terms Power 5/Group of 5 are not NCAA verbiage, the Association describes these 10 conferences and 7 independents as the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). That said, the FBS is often referred to as 2 constructs, used fluently by ESPN & others, as the Power 5 (P5) or the Group of 5 (G5).

The language P5 & G5 is used by the College Football Playoff (CFP) Committee and the P5 includes 5 conferences & 1 independent, ACC, B-12, Big Ten, Pac 10, SEC, & Notre Dame! ND is a full member of the ACC in every other sport, save football & Hockey. The ACC does not play Hockey & the Irish joined the B-10 as an affiliate in that sport!

While not a member of a so-called P5 Conference, no one disputes (or should dispute) that ND play’s a Power 5 schedule. In 2018, the Irish took on 10 Power 5 opponents (Navy & Ball State being the exceptions), in 2019, ND battled 9 P5’s, & in 2020, Notre Dame ‘kicked it off’ against 10 P5’s in the regular season and beat them all.

Further, it should be noted that Irish do not play a FCS opponent. While the SEC & ACC together, played a 63 scholarship program (FCS scholarship limit), 28 times in each of these years, 2018, 2019, & 2021, meaning every team in these respective leagues played, at least, 1 FCS team (Florida played 2 in 2018 & 2019 & Virginia 2 in 2019) in each of the 3 years identified (the SEC & ACC played 87 games vs the FCS in those 3 years)!

Finally, the CFP committee uses these five criteria as metrics as to who gets into the playoffs.

  1. Strength of schedule: ND fits, since 2000, they have averaged out as having the 16th best schedule in the country & 6 times in the top 10!
  2. P5 Conference Bias: While not in a P5 Conference, as mentioned, the Irish, clearly, play a Power 5 slate!
  3. Number of P5 programs on a CFP Candidates Schedule: As mentioned, ND will play 9 or 10 P5’s every year. The SEC & ACC play 8 conference games & usually 1 non-conference (NC) game vs a P5 opponent, for a total of 9. The B-10, P-12 & B-12 play 9 conference games & usually 1 NC P5 opponent for 10 games vs power 5 opponents, rarely will a P5 team play 11 Power 5 teams in the regular season!
  4. Conference Championship: 2 teams made the CFP before ND, who did not win their respective conference title, in fact, they did not win their division! Ohio State in 2016 & Alabama in 2017. ND made its first appearance in 2018!
  5. Benchmarks of Teams who made the 1st 4 CFP’s: a. Average Win total of FBS opponents; 6.7 wins; b. Average win total vs Selection Sunday’s Top 25’s; 3 wins! c. Average win total vs teams with 500 or better records; 7.8 wins. d. Average # of FBS opponents played in that year: 12 FBS teams * ND hit every benchmark in their 2 appearances (2018 & 2020)

The real fuss should not be about the Irish, but rather about teams like Cincinnati, Central Florida (2017 & 18), Memphis (2019), Boise State (2014), Houston (2015), & Western Michigan (2016)! These teams were the highest ranked G5 teams in the years’ from 2014 through 2020 and while awarded a seat at the table of ‘The New Year 6′ bowl games’, they were never seriously considered for a spot in the CFP!

So the first question one should want answered is; “how did they (G5) do in their New Year 6 appearance, against the big, bad, Power 5 programs? Well, here are the results of those 7 games:

  1. 2014: Boise State (11-2) 38 Arizona (10-3) 30 (W)
  2. 2015: Houston (12-1) 38 Florida State (10-2) 24 (W)
  3. 2016: Wisconsin (10-3) 24 Western Michigan (13-0) 16 (L)
  4. 2017: UCF (13-0) 34 Auburn (10-3) 27 (W)
  5. 2018: LSU (9-3) 40 UCF (12-0) 32 (L)
  6. 2019: Penn State (10-2) 53 Memphis (12-1) 39 (L)
  7. 2020: Georgia (7-2) 24 Cincinnati (9-0) 21 (L)

Unlike many of the 1st round CFP semi-final’s (Oregon 55 Florida State 20, Alabama 38 Michigan State 0, or Clemson 31 Ohio State 0), these P5 vs G5 games were all competitive; 5 of the 7 games were decided by a single score and in the other 2 games, the loser scored 24 & 39 points! All 7 games have been highly entertaining!

So if we were to take a hard look at the P5 and use the #65 as a guide (number of teams in the 5 conferences, SEC, ACC. & B-10 have 14 each, PAC 12 has 12 teams, B-12 has 10 members, plus Notre Dame = 65 teams). Then rank the 130 FBS teams, 1 to 130 and use 65 as our cut off, above we place in the Group of 5 and lower than 65, we place in the Power 5. An attempt to place teams where their actual talent & skill suggest they should be ranked, as opposed to the arbitrary (ok, at least more arbitrary) simple membership in a P5 conference!

Lindy Sports College Football Preview does exactly that, the magazine ranks all 130 teams without deference to which conference they play. So I’ve created a list of P5 teams who have fallen out of the Power 5 (not in Lindy’s Top 65) and Group of 5 teams, whose skill & talent levels say they are among the 65 best in the country!

Power 5 Teams Ranked Out of the Top 65    

#110 Kansas; #96, Vanderbilt; #91 Syracuse; #80 Duke; #79 Michigan State; # 78 Georgia Tech; #76 Illinois; #75 South Carolina; #74 Louisville; #73 Washington State; #72 Maryland; #70 Texas tech; & #69 Oregon State.

Of the 65 teams considered to be Power 5 squads simply by conference affiliation, 13 have have dropped out via Lindy’s Sports ranking & SCFP interpretation of the data! So whose in our P5 from the Group of 5?

Group of 5 Teams ranked in the Top 65

#8 Cincinnati; #23 Coastal Carolina; #29 Liberty; #31 Nevada; #32 Boise State; #33 Central Florida; # 36 Louisiana; # 38 Ball State; #49 SMU; #56 San Jose State; #61 Toledo; #62 Appalachian State; and #63 Memphis.

These 13 programs, according Lindy’s team evaluations, are among the 65 best for the 2021 season & according to SCFP interpretation of that data, are de facto Power 5 teams in 2021!

One last thought; what about strength of schedule? Cincinnati is the highest ranked G5 team and the Bearcats do play two (2) Preseason Top 25 teams, @ Indiana & @ Notre Dame! How about teams ranked above them vs Lindy’s T 25, Alabama plays 5 Top 25, Georgia 3, Clemson 1 (NC Georgia), Oklahoma 3, Ohio State 3, Texas A&M 3, & Iowa State 4! If Cincy can beat IU & ND, on the road, and they (IU & ND) win 9 or 10 games , can Cincinnati be the 1st G of 5 team to make the CFP?

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