Can a Group of 5 Team Win the College Football Playoff?

Can a Group of 5 Team Win the College Football Playoff? article feature image

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Pictured: Boise Broncos head coach Bryan Harsin

The Highlights

  • A look at the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook’s 2019 College Football Playoff props inspired an impromptu conversation regarding whether a Group of 5 team can win a national championship.
  • The Action Network’s Ken Barkley, Collin Wilson, Steve Petrella and Stuckey each weighed in with their thoughts, including Willson’s Group of 5 candidates for the upcoming season.

Earlier this week, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook posted odds for 78 teams to make the 2019 College Football Playoff. While the start of the upcoming college football season is still more than two months away, Westgate’s release catalyzed a healthy discussion in The Action Network’s college football Slack channel regarding whether a Group of 5 (American Athletic, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference and Sun Belt) team can realistically win a national championship.


Here’s how it went down:

Ken Barkley (@LockyLockerson): “Didn’t UCF actually just prove it was impossible for a Group of 5 team to win?”

Steve Petrella (@Steve_Petrella): “I think there was a chance Houston could have made it in 2016 if they’d run the table coming off a monster year and beating No. 3 Oklahoma in the opener. But they lost before the first CFP rankings came out.”

Barkley: “You’re right, I guess it was always sort of a ‘what if this happened’ and UCF was the one that got the farthest down the line.”

Stuckey (@Stuckey2): “UCF played nobody for the entire regular season so they could never get close.”

Barkley: “I’m not sure one great non-conference win tips the scales, considering the power conference contenders last year were as weak as they’re ever going to be.”

Stuckey: “Still damn near impossible but UCF’s schedule was sooooo bad.”

Barkley: “I still think you need some kind of crazy two-loss conference champion situations though.”

Stuckey: “For sure. Need chaos and early momentum and a big Power 5 win early. And that big Power 5 team then goes on to have a huge year.”

Collin Wilson (@_Collin1): “You guys are all right, it takes a combination of multiple two-loss Power 5 champions and a Group of 5 undefeated team with strength of schedule that’s high.

Candidates this year are Boise [State] (at Oklahoma State) and FAU (at Oklahoma). But still the committee put a stake in the ground last year letting a one-loss Power 5 non-champion (Alabama) in over UCF. I don’t think we get a Group of 5 team in until we go to eight teams in the playoff.

I’ll write about this over and over … but I think an 11-1 non-conference champion comes out of the Big East and makes the playoff this year IF Washington loses two games.”

Barkley: “Wow, interesting take at the end there.”

Wilson: “It just happened with Alabama.”

Barkley: “Yeah, absolutely, I think I’m just not all the way there yet to agree.”