With the exception of next Monday’s National Championship game, the 2020-21 college football season is over, and the Liberty Flames finished with a 10-1 mark and will remain ranked in all of the major top 25 polls following the team’s Cure Bowl win over No. 12 Coastal Carolina.
There was a lot of discussion nationally this season about Group of Five teams, or perhaps more correct with the Independents, non-Power Five teams, should be included among serious contenders for a College Football Playoff spot. In the current system, it’s virtually impossible for a non-P5 team to get one of those four spots. So, perhaps we should crown a non-P5 national champion?
Here are the top competitors and their resumes for this theoretical championship:
The Cougars finished the season with an impressive 11-1 record following their 49-23 win over Central Florida in the Boca Raton Bowl. BYU entered bowl season ranked No. 16 in the CFP, No. 13 in the AP, and No. 15 in the Coaches Top 25 polls. Unfortunately for the Cougs, they lost to one of the top contenders on this list in Coastal Carolina on Dec. 5 in Conway, South Carolina, 22-17. If they win that game, they are likely crowned the best non-P5 team this season. Their best wins came against Boise State, who finished 5-2 and lost to San Jose State in the MWC Championship Game, and UCF, who finished 6-4. They did not face a P5 team. Ultimately, their loss at Coastal costs them here.
The Bearcats had the biggest argument to be included in the CFP Playoff this season following their 9-0 regular season record, before falling to No. 9 Georgia, 24-21, in the Peach Bowl, as they finished 9-1. Cincinnati entered bowl season ranked No. 8 in the CFP and No. 6 in both the AP and Coaches Top 25 polls. The Bulldogs were the only P5 team they faced all season. Their best wins came against Army and Tulsa. Cincinnati makes a very compelling case to be the non-P5 national champs.
COASTAL CAROLINA (11-1)
The Chanticleers finish the season 11-1 following their 37-34 loss in overtime to Liberty in the Cure Bowl. They entered bowl season ranked No. 12 in the CFP, No. 9 in the AP, and No. 11 in the Coaches Top 25 polls. They defeated Kansas, 38-23, in their only game against a P5 opponent. The Jayhawks finished the season winless. Coastal also had wins over Louisiana, 30-27, BYU, and Appalachian State. Their loss to the Flames all but removes them from consideration for this honor.
The Flames finished the 2020 season 10-1 with the win over Coastal Carolina in the Cure Bowl. Liberty had a 2-1 mark against P5 teams this season, the only team on the list with multiple games against Power Five opponents. LU defeated Syracuse and Virginia Tech and their only blemish is a 15-14 loss at NC State on a last second blocked field goal. The win over Coastal could push the Flames over the hump to be named the non-P5 National Champion.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished the season 10-1 thanks to their 31-24 win over UTSA in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl. UL entered bowl season ranked No. 19 in the CFP, No. 16 in the AP, and No. 17 in the Coaches Top 25 polls. Their lone loss came at home to Coastal Carolina, 30-27. They were unable to revenge that game in the Sun Belt Championship Game as it was canceled due to COVID issues with the Chanticleers. Louisiana defeated Iowa State, 31-14, to begin the season, perhaps the best win of any team on this list as the Cyclones finished the year 9-3 and ranked in the top 15. Their next best win came against Appalachian State, 24-21.
SAN JOSE STATE (7-1)
San Jose State finished the year at 7-1 following their 34-13 loss to Ball State in the Arizona Bowl. That loss pretty much takes them out of consideration. All their wins came against Mountain West teams with the best win coming over Boise State in the Championship Game. They entered bowl season ranked No. 22 in the CFP, No. 19 in the AP, and No. 20 in the Coaches Top 25 polls.
Cincinnati, Liberty, and Louisiana are the top three challengers for this hypothetical award. The Flames and Bearcats did not lose to a non-Power Five team where Louisiana loss to a team that Liberty defeated. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns win over Iowa State keeps them in consideration. Who would you choose to be the non-P5 National Champ? Our vote goes to Liberty with the two wins over P5 opponents and the top 15 win over Coastal Carolina.