Does a G5 power emerge?
I can’t have advocated for watching G5 football in my last piece and then not bring it up at all in an article about storylines for the season. While the bulk of the attention understandably goes to the P5, there are plenty of great teams to watch at the G5 level.
But an interesting talking point is that right now, there isn’t an obvious power atop the G5. The most recent programs to reach that status – UCF and Cincinnati – have both moved up the Big 12 in the same way that 2000s G5 powers TCU and Utah ascended to the P5.
Of course there’s a very notable G5 power of the 2000s, in fact the most notable, that hasn’t gotten that level-up opportunity. Boise State still finds itself in the Mountain West, which theoretically makes them a candidate to act as the G5’s standard-bearer.
But Boise isn’t nearly as dominant as they once were. Their last New Year’s Six bowl appearance was in 2014. And though they’ve had several double-digit win seasons and multiple conference championships since then, they haven’t lived up to their reputation of being a P5 killer.
Memphis briefly flirted with this status, reaching the Cotton Bowl in 2019. But since Mike Norvell left for Florida State, the Tigers have fallen off considerably. The Sun Belt has seen a regular shifting of power, and neither the MAC nor Conference USA are strong enough to have any team consistently threaten for NY6 status, though I’d love nothing more than for Western Kentucky aka “Air Raid U” to change that.
I’m sure someone is screaming “how on Earth have you not mentioned Tulane?!” The Green Wave are absolutely towards the top of the discussion after a 12-win season that saw them defeat Big 12 champ Kansas State, win the AAC, and upset Caleb Williams-led USC in the Cotton Bowl for a top-10 finish.
Willie Fritz is an outstanding coach, and Tulane does have back star QB Michael Pratt. But they also lose their best player in RB Tyjae Spears, their top two receivers, and their top five tacklers on defense. And this a Tulane program that has finished with more than seven wins just three times since 1980.
I certainly expect them to top that mark this season and once again contend for the AAC, which gives them a great shot at another NY6 bowl appearance. But are we sure the program is now headed for regular G5 dominance?
Maybe a new face in the AAC can be that team. UTSA has sky-rocketed under HC Jeff Traylor. They’ve gone 12-2 and 11-3 the last two seasons with a pair of CUSA titles and are starting to capitalize on the benefits that being a college football program in a major Texas city has to offer.
Frank Harris is a superstar at QB, and though their competition level increases in the AAC, their team talent is on par with the league’s best. They just signed the AAC’s best recruiting class for 2023.
The wide-open nature of the G5 is great for those fanbases as plenty of programs have a shot at NY6 contention. But from the standpoint of gaining more notoriety, few things will attract the average CFB fan to following the G5 more than a program that can legitimately compete with the big boys.
We’ll see if one such program emerges in 2023.