Grading the performance of the Group of Five Conferences (including independents) is always challenging. Given the backdrop of unbalanced schedules and reduced number of cross-conference showdowns due to COVID-19 makes grading even more difficult.
We focused our grades for 2020 on four factors:
(1) National Rankings and providing exposure for the G5
(2) Performance in bowl games (again looking at exposure for the G5)
(3) Non-conference performance (against the P5 and against other G5 conferences)
(4) For 2020 only – the ability of the conference to get in their schedule
Three of the five Independent G5 teams (60%) were ranked at some point in 2020, with BYU peaking at number eight. The AAC had five teams ranked at some point (45% of the conference), with Cincinnati achieving the highest ranking for a G5 team in 2020 at number six. The Sunbelt had three teams make the rankings, led by Coastal Carolina which peaked at number nine. The Mountain West had two teams reach the rankings, with San Jose State peaking at 19. Conference USA and the MAC each placed one team in the rankings during 2020.
Bowl season, as was the regular season, was abbreviated with 19 bowl games cancelled. For a complete list of bowl results, please reference the Bowl Performance Table below.
Non-conference performance was difficult to grade with the fluctuating schedules. While the MAC was 2-0, it is hard to evaluate two games against other conferences. However, the Independents again stepped forward with an impressive 30-9 record that includes four losses from UMass. The Sunbelt finished 20-15, including a 3-0 record against the Big 12. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Conference USA finished 16-27 with a negative 7 average point differential.
Instead of rating schedule strength for 2020, we chose to look at which conferences got in most of their games. The clear winner here was the Sunbelt as the conference averaged over 11 games played per team, an amazing accomplishment in the face of COVID-19. The AAC and Independents all were able to get nearly ten games per team and Conference USA was just under nine games per team.
Our final grades are provided in the table below. A banner year for the G5 Independents with BYU, Liberty, and Army providing plenty of national exposure. Cincinnati and Coastal Carolina’s seasons ended in close losses in their respective bowl games, but both had magical rides that flirted very closely with perfection.
|G5 Conference||Rankings||Bowl||Non-Conf Perf||Schedule||Final Grade|
|Mid American (MAC)||2||2||0||100%|
|Sun Belt (SBC)||5||4||1||80%|
|Mountain West (MWC)||3||2||1||67%|
|American Athletic (AAC)||6||1||5||17%|
|Conference USA (CUSA)||6||0||6||0%|
|ACC||Big 12||PAC 12||SEC||FCS||AAC||CUSA||MAC||MWC||SBC||IND G5||ALL||Other G5 Only|
|G5 Conference||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Avg. Scr||Record||Pct||Record||Pct|
|American Athletic (AAC)||1-1||25-37||0-1||7-16||0-2||24-26||4-0||47-12||3-0||52-23||0-3||16-35||3-1||31-30||2-4||19-31||13-12||52%||8-8||50%|
|Conference USA (CUSA)||0-3||18-40||0-2||7-56||9-1||34-18||0-3||23-52||5-9||23-29||2-8||23-32||16-27||37%||7-21||25%|
|Mid American (MAC)||1-0||17-10||1-0||34-13||2-0||100%||2-0||100%|
|Mountain West (MWC)||0-1||10-20||3-0||35-16||0-1||13-34||0-3||13-30||3-5||38%||3-4||43%|
|Sun Belt (SBC)||0-1||21-24||3-0||35-23||5-0||41-25||1-3||30-31||9-5||29-23||2-6||20-33||20-15||57%||12-14||46%|
|Independent G5 (INDG5)||2-1||30-24||0-1||21-24||6-0||45-12||4-2||31-19||8-2||32-23||3-0||30-13||6-2||33-20||30-9||77%||21-6||78%|
A quick note on how to read the G5 Conference Performance Table. The summary totals show how the G5 Teams fared against the specified conference. For example, the G5 Teams finished 3-6 against the ACC, with an average score of 24-32 (in favor of the ACC).