Our old Sooners friend Bob Stoops was talking about Cincinnati’s big college football season on The Sports Animal recently, when he promoted the notion of the American Athletic Conference and other non-Power Five leagues staging their own playoff.
“I’d be a huge fan of it,” Stoops told “Monsters of the Midday” host Dusty Dvoracek. “I’d watch it and pay attention.”
I’ll bet others would, too. Stage an alternative Group of Five playoff with teams from the American, Sun Belt, Mountain West, Mid-American and Conference-USA, put those games on days the College Football Playoff is dormant, and people will tune in.
This is America. We watch college football more often than we sleep.
There’s just one big problem.
“To say, look, we’re throwing in the towel, we’re giving up, we’re deciding to have our own playoff as a G5... To me that smacks of a separate division of college football,” AAC commissioner Mike Aresco said. “That would be a big mistake.”
It would be a capitulation. That’s sacrilege in a raised-fists sport like football.
It would dishonor Boise State, Houston and UCF, G5 teams who beat P5 opponents in past New Year’s Six bowl games, and Western Michigan and Memphis, G5 teams who showed they belonged in competitive New Year’s Six defeats.
It would dishonor Cincinnati, the AAC champion who just lost to Georgia in the Peach Bowl on a buzzer-beating field goal.
Imagine telling the Bearcats after their AAC Championship victory over Tulsa: “Nice job, fellas. Great season. Now, good luck in College Football Playoff Junior.”
That’s how we’d see it, right? We’d stigmatize it. We’d see a Group of Five playoff as football’s version of college basketball’s NIT.
You say Coastal and Cincy couldn’t hang with Bama anyhow? Spare them the embarrassment by staging a separate playoff?
Would you say that to Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Washington and Michigan State? They got wrecked by Roll Tide in the postseason, and nobody told their conferences to go play their own games.
Anyway, all the G5 wants here is the same shot the P5 gets — the chance to compete with Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State in a College Football Playoff setting.
“If you’re never going to have a G5 team in the playoff as worthy as Cincinnati, or as worthy as UCF (the unbeaten 2017 AAC champion), essentially you’re taking half of college football right now and saying, ‘Forget it, guys,’” Aresco said. “We’re just not going to accept that.”
If you think the answer here is taking half of college football and having it play for a separate second-division championship, for what some would consider participation trophies, that ain’t it.
“In my opinion we’re going to have to expand the playoff and add more teams,” Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. “Guarantee that one of these, and obviously I’m going to be biased, I think it’s going to be our conference, but a team that is not considered a power conference, give them an opportunity to get in there and show what they can do.”
Expand the CFP. Even if Alabama rolls on, make it more interesting with a quarterfinal round.
Make it more possible for what Montgomery is after here: “There just needs to be a path where you’re going to have an opportunity to go compete. I think that’s all anybody is really asking for.”
The Group of Five asking, “Got room for one more?” is reasonable on the grounds of both competition and fairness.
It sure beats admitting: “Didn’t have a reservation. They’re full. Let’s just go eat someplace else. Food’s half as good, but what choice do we have?”
Throwback Tulsa: TU captures school-record 11th victory with win over Ball State in 2009