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Underdog Dynasty Mailbag: Relegation Edition

Talking AAC grant of rights, UMass and Liberty upside, and forecasting the best teams in C-USA for the 2019 season.

NCAA Football: AAC Championship-Memphis at Central Florida Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Is it time for a separate G5 league? - @jmouat

Relegation in CFB. Good or bad? - @largekfcbucket

UDD: I still wouldn’t go all in on this separate league for the Group of Five until the next round of realignment and playoff expansion is over. After that if it needs to be addressed then it could be taken more seriously. I know it’s difficult to be patient but it could pay off. As far as relegation goes I think it’s a great idea and would definitely balance some of the power scales in college football but would be almost impossible to get the people in charge to agree to. Would be really fun to see though.

AAC

How much do you see the AAC getting for their next TV deal? - @McIntyre2K7

Thoughts on the potential AAC GOR? - @Wvschorn

UDD: The AAC is on the verge of negotiating a new TV deal. To sweeten the pot, Mike Aresco and league members are considering a grant of rights. To be frank, a GOR deal for a G5 conference makes very little sense. Especially when almost half the members of the conference sees themselves worthy of being a P5 school down the road. If I’m UCF, I’m waiting out the Big 12 and seeing if I can capitalize on the recent success. If I’m UConn, I’m either moving down to the FCS to let the basketball teams return to the Big East or if by some chance the football product gets better, I’m jumping at the first chance to go to a P5 school. Signing the GOR would make those options almost impossible.

The only schools who would be eager to sign this (Tulsa or ECU for example) would definitely be unwilling to take a pay-cut should other schools (UCF) want a bigger slice of the pie. Not to mention if the Playoff expands and the G5 gets a guaranteed spot, the AAC is in good position to send a rep every year. As for the TV deal itself, I imagine it’ll be something kind of similar to what they have now with a few more Thursday night games sprinkled in. UCF winning big these last two years couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.

Do we think the bubble will ever burst on the AAC, or is it so packed with coaching and player talent it’s just a matter of who will slide in to lead the conference year by year? - @SportsHeel

UDD: The AAC should be no worse than the second best G5 conference on an annual basis. Despite the constant coaching turnover, their programs just have more upside no matter who the head coach is. You could make the case that 3 of the 5 best jobs in the G5 reside in the AAC.

C-USA

Should LaTech feel good about the state of the program? After three straight 9 win seasons and 2 CUSA west titles, 6-6 and 7-5. Is Skip’s seat a little warm? Hot? Just right? - @notthefakeWDL

UDD: This is tough to gauge. On one hand, Tech fans have come to expect better than what they have gotten the past two seasons. On the other hand, a large part of why they expect better is because Skip Holtz himself set the bar higher in his first four years in Ruston. Keep in mind, however, that Holtz has already tripled the number of bowl wins Tech has all-time. If he gets the Bulldogs into the postseason again next season, he will have also doubled Tech’s bowl appearances. Remember what happened to East Carolina after firing Ruffin McNeil. Firing a good coach because he wasn’t good “enough” often backfires, and Tech fans surely remember the WAC days where just making a bowl game was a good season. If the next few years see more 6-6 or 7-5 seasons, then that seat probably starts heating up. But for now, just call it a down period. Every program has those.

Is UAB positioning itself for next round of realignment? Would love for us to get into the American. - @johncduncan

UDD: I definitely think that’s their goal. How likely is it? I wouldn’t bank on it but it’s not impossible. Continue to be appealing, continue to pay the head coach a lot and let’s see if the new stadium works out. If everything continues to fall in place then they’re positioned well for a bump into the American.

Who is your early top two teams in each division of C-USA going in to next season? -@TheDailyDragon

UDD: In the East division I'm looking at FIU and Marshall. The Panthers return 19 starters (barring transfers) from this year’s team that was a poor outing in the final week away from being in the conference title game. I'm a huge Isaiah Green fan. Pair Green with a healthy Tyler King and now Brenden Knox in the backfield and they'll be dangerous.

For the West, I’m looking at North Texas and UAB. Yes, they're the vanilla pick. However, when you have a quarterback as talented as Mason Fine, that’s going to get you in the discussion. UAB's Spencer Brown has a chance to be the best RB in the conference next year. The Blazers also have Tyler Johnston III, who's looking like he'll be the starter at QB next season.

Best chance for G5 to upset a P5 in bowl season? - @AJthehornplayer

UDD: Probably Boise State over Boston College. Yes, that’s the easy answer and there are others you could point to, as well. But the Broncos have been doing this for a long time, and the Eagles lost their last three games. A BSU squad looking for redemption after losing to Fresno State should be in a position to take on a discouraged BC team.

FCS

Which FCS program is best positioned to join the FBS? - @JaredUTSA

UDD: Most people would likely immediately point to North Dakota State, but their location makes the Bison a hard sell to a conference. Instead, look at James Madison. The Dukes are perennial contenders and just won a national title in 2016. They often draw roughly 25,000 to their stadium, which exceeds several current G5 teams. Virginia is easier to sell to a conference than North Dakota, so JMU might be the best positioned. With that said, don’t expect them to make that move any time soon. The Dukes seem happy where they are.

Which FBS needs to move down the most? - @TailgateSA

UDD: You could make a case that NM State and ULM should probably move down if you’re just talking money but I’m going to give a hot take and say UConn. The football program has cratered in the AAC and their basketball program is an odd fit seeing as how many in the CBB world see them as a powerhouse. It’s no secret that UConn is a basketball school and their brand thrived immensely in New York City as a member of the Big East. A return to the Big East for men’s and women’s hoops would be a huge win in fan support for the athletic program. A move isn’t too far fetched if the football program continues to flounder.

Independents

UMass has been an independent for awhile now and it hasn’t gone well. What steps do they have to take to be competitive in the FBS? Do they hope to get taken by a conference as a football member? - @AVKingJames

What’s the path to success at UMass? - @Dan_Morrison96

UDD: A young, hungry coach is the first step to success. Their new hire, Walt Bell, might just be that guy. They need someone to pound the pavement in recruiting to fill out their roster with a deeper well of talent—not an easy task for an Independent in New England with no recent track record.

In terms of conference alignment, the one and only affiliation that makes sense for UMass is the AAC. An invitation to the AAC would reconnect the Minutemen with some of their classic foes (football and beyond) Temple and UConn. I believe the Minutemen need one or two regular rivals to build upon. It would also give them a bigger cut of TV revenue.

Backing out of their short-lived tryst with the MAC was the right thing for both sides. The AAC would also be at least a parallel step for men’s basketball. There was a perception that if UMass continued with the MAC, joining as a basketball member would be necessary—and a step down.

How high would you rank the facilities of Liberty, and what do you think the Flames can do to be competitive in recruiting? - @NoblesReese

UDD: It’s no secret that Liberty is investing big money into their football program. Just look at their new $29 million indoor practice facility. There’s a ton of established FBS programs who wish they had an indoor practice facility and the Flames have one after just a single season of play as an FBS program. For those who are unaware, Liberty aspires to be the the Notre Dame/BYU for evangelicals.

The facilities are a major boost on the recruiting trail but the biggest factor will be the prestige that comes with new head coach Hugh Freeze, who was rumored to be in line as the next offensive coordinator at Tennessee and Florida State. With an established coach like Freeze, Liberty has the potential to become one of the best G5 teams in the country very quickly.

Sun Belt

Sun Belt/CUSA/MAC who’s better? - @RankAppState

UDD: I’d say Sun Belt is the better of the three, with the MAC and C-USA essentially being a tie.

Will the sun belt/cusa realignment everyone keeps talking about ever actually happen? - @Lucasbloss22

UDD: Yes, our favorite offseason discussion is back. Don’t expect anything to happen on this front for another five years or so as I have a feeling the Big 12 Grant of Rights deal will have a lot of say if the next round of realignment happens.