As Harding students stress over the final day of Club Week, some universities are also working to get their teams into the club of college football elites.
The induction process for these Group of Five (G5) conference universities began more than 10 years ago, when upstart program Boise State University (BSU) shocked the college football universe by upsetting perennial powerhouse University of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
The game served almost like a first-round mixer, allowing the long-standing members their first chance to meet the up-and-coming class. That game felt like a fluke at the time; Boise State needed numerous trick plays, including a hook and lateral play on a long fourth down and a statue of liberty play to win it. Little did the traditional powerhouses know, this was only the beginning of the G5 induction process.
The next few mixers occurred over the next few years. More G5 teams joined Boise State by pulling shocking Bowl Championship Series (BCS) upsets at the expense of powerhouses. Utah beat Alabama in the 2009 Sugar Bowl. Texas Christian University (TCU) beat Wisconsin in the 2011 Rose Bowl, and the University of Central Florida (UCF) beat Baylor in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl.
During conference realignment in 2011 and 2012, some G5 schools received bids to join the ranks of the elite conferences. TCU joined the Big XII conference, and Utah joined the Pac-12 conference. Several others, like BSU and UCF were left on the outside looking in.
Since then, college football has changed to a new playoff system, which promised to put the best four teams in the country against each other. This new-look, fourth-round mixer hoped to get rid of the hazing the club hopefuls had experienced. However, in the process, it simply allowed for the potential new members to be looked down on in a new way. Rather than being hurt by computers, they are now being hurt by the selection committee.
When a team can defeat all of its opponents handily and still be turned away in favor of a team that did not even qualify for its conference championship game, that team is being hazed by the system. As a result, they have been forced to start a club of their own, hoping to one day be considered one of the powerhouses of the sport. They chant “power six,” knowing full well their time in the spotlight may never come. Now, they are even proclaiming themselves champions.
Sure, UCF ’s schedule a season ago was not as difficult as Alabama’s, but what can they do about that? Teams like UCF are at a major scheduling disadvantage. Powerhouses will not schedule them because if UCF wins, then it is a major upset; if the powerhouse wins, UCF is characterized as overrated, and the win becomes meaningless.
It is time to stop cowering behind the wall of strength of schedule. Are Tennessee, Arkansas, or Ole Miss any better than Memphis this year? I would argue not.
As this new class of G5 teams continues to prove itself time and again in the mixer process of college football, it is time to welcome them into the club. Throw a jersey over their head and call them official members of the college football elite.