There is little incentive for teams outside the Power Five conferences — from the so-called Group of Five conferences — to load up on games against each other.
Quite literally, it does not pay enough for these schools to play.
Power Five schools will pay upward of $1 million to get a one-and-done home game with an FBS school from a Group of Five conference. Plus, for flourishing programs from the American Athletic Conference, Mountain West, Conference USA, Mid-American Conference or Sun Belt, going after Power Five trophy victories is the way to gain credibility and recognition.
It’s too bad, though, because it would be fun and useful for the top teams from those conferences to cross paths more often. The best of those champions is guaranteed a spot in the New Year’s Six bowl games and more Group of Five interconference play could help the College Football Playoff selection committee sort out the rankings late in the season.
The games are few, but here are six that should be worth keeping an eye on this season. (Note: For the purpose of this exercise, BYU, which plays a marquee game against Boise State, is not part of the discussion because it is a football independent.)
Navy at FAU, Sept. 1
OK, really this one is mostly about FAU’s new coach. The Lane Kiffin era begins at home in Boca Raton, Florida, against a Navy team that has gone 20-7 in its first two seasons as a member of the American. Conference USA’s other Florida school, FIU, also opens its season with a famous new coach and a game against an American opponent. Former Miami coach Butch Davis debuts for the Panthers at UCF on Sept. 2.
Houston at UTSA, Sept. 2
Another chance for Conference USA to take down an AAC team. Major Applewhite takes over for Tom Herman in Houston and his first game could be tricky. Texas-San Antonio played in a bowl game for the first time last season. Cougars vs. Roadrunners is the first of two state of Texas matchups between the American and C-USA. A week later North Texas is at SMU. The Mean Green squeezed into the postseason last year under new coach Seth Littrell. Mustangs coach Chad Morris is looking for a breakout season in year three at SMU.
Troy at Boise State, Sept. 2
Big opportunity for Troy, one of the Sun Belt favorites, to make an early statement. The Trojans pushed Clemson early last season, but they won’t sneak up on Boise State or find the Broncos complacent. Since 2012, when the Mountain West formed its current membership, Boise State is 6-0 in nonconference games against other Group of Five opponents. The average score: 42-12.
Tulsa at Toledo, Sept. 16
The Golden Hurricane visit the Glass Bowl in an American vs. MAC matchup that features two up-and-coming head coaches with offensive backgrounds. Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery is a former Baylor assistant under Art Briles whose offense has averaged more than 500 yards per game in each of his first two seasons. Toledo’s Jason Candle, 37, led the No. 1 offense in the MAC last season.
Coastal Carolina at UAB, Sept. 16
Not necessarily a big game, but good story lines. UAB, from C-USA, is in its first season of a program reboot. Coastal Carolina is in year one in FBS as a member of the Sun Belt.
Northern Illinois at San Diego State, Sept. 30
Northern Illinois is a couple of seasons removed from a Boise State-type run of five straight double-digit victory seasons in the MAC. The last two seasons the program has slipped. Meanwhile, San Diego State has emerged as a power in the Mountain West with two straight 11-win seasons. It’ll be a difficult trip to the West Coast for the Huskies, but also a chance for a signature victory for the program and the MAC.
Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP
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