NCAA Football: Boise State at Colorado State

During the first decade of the College Football Playoff, just one Group of Five team reached the four-team field. That was Cincinnati during the 2021 season, and the Bearcats had to stack consecutive unbeaten regular seasons before they were granted a ticket to the party. 

Now, as the CFP expands to 12 teams for the 2024 season, the Group of Five is guaranteed access for the first time in playoff history. Whether that will remain the case long-term is unclear. But in the short-term, the highest-ranked G5 team will have a spot in the field.

Under the new format, Liberty would have represented the Group of Five during the 2023 season as the Flames came in at No. 23 in the final CFP rankings with 13-0 record before getting smacked by Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. The Flames narrowly edged No. 24 SMU as the highest-ranked G5 team.

Moving forward, the conversations and debates around the Group of Five hierarchy will take an increasingly significant place in college football's discourse. A spot in the CFP brings prestige, payout and the chance to compete for a national title.

With spring practices in the rearview mirror, CBS Sports is releasing its first 2024 Group of Five Power Rankings.

Group of Five post-spring power rankings
Boise State won the 2023 Mountain West title after a late-season coaching change. With Spencer Danielson elevated from interim to head coach following the strong finish, the Broncos are going to be in the mix for another league title. Dirk Koetter has returned (again) as offensive coordinator, and former five-star prospect Malachi Nelson enters at quarterback. They also have star Ashton Jeanty in the backfield. He's the type of player who can ensure the Broncos remain a Group of Five power as they've been for a quarter-century.
With star quarterback Kaidon Salter returning after winning C-USA Most Valuable Player in 2023, the Flames have a legitimate chance to repeat as the top-ranked Group of Five team. Salter passed for 2,876 yards and 32 touchdowns while rushing for another 1,089 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The Flames' schedule is noticeably lacking any power conference opposition, which will give Jamey Chadwell a shot to repeat last year's undefeated regular season.
Seth Henigan is back for his fourth season as Memphis ' starting quarterback after enjoying his best season yet while guiding the Tigers to a 10-3 mark. The veteran signal-caller completed 66.8% of his passes for 32 touchdowns as a junior and is one big reason why Memphis sits at No. 2 in the AAC for returning production, per ESPN's Bill Connelly.
The Mountaineers return significant production from a team that played for the Sun Belt title. Meanwhile, recent Sun Belt contenders Troy , James Madison and South Alabama are undergoing coaching changes. Look for Appalachian State to capitalize under fifth-year coach Shawn Clark .
Tulane lost coach Willie Fritz and quarterback Michael Pratt from an 11-win team. But the Green Wave landed a potential star replacement for Fritz in Jon Sumrall from Troy. If Oregon transfer quarterback Ty Thompson hits, the Green Wave may not miss a beat. Workhorse running back Makhi Hughes has returned, and senior linebackers Jesus Machado and Tyler Grubbs will give the defense some continuity after leading the 2023 team in tackling.
UTSA has finally bid farewell to quarterback Frank Harris after he and coach Jeff Taylor helped build the Roadrunners together over the past four seasons. Harris, who was at UTSA for seven years in total, will be hard to replace. But Traylor's program is about more than just a single player and this schedule sets up nicely. UTSA misses Tulane and South Florida and gets Memphis at home.
Miami (Ohio) is bringing back some solid production from an 11-win team that bested Toledo in the MAC Championship Game. Four different teams have won the MAC title over the past four years, but the Redhawks will have a solid chance to be the conference's first repeat title winner since Northern Illinois in 2011 and 2012.
Toledo has a ton to replace from an 11-3 team, but the Rockets always find a way to compete for the MAC crown. Ninth-year coach Jason Candle runs a high-level program and what the Rockets may lack in roster continuity they make up for in coaching staff continuity.
South Florida is poised to take another step after going from 1-11 in 2022 to 7-6 in coach Alex Golesh's first season. The Bulls hung on to quarterback Byrum Brown , 1,000-yard receiver Sean Atkins and lead back Nay'Quan Wright . That's some solid playmaking behind a veteran offensive line to work with for Golesh, who previously helped build Tennessee's high-flying 2022 offense.
The departure of breakout quarterback Jayden Maiava for USC stings, but UNLV could still find itself back in the Mountain West title game after getting there during a strong first season for coach Barry Odom. The Rebels return several all-conference performers, including top receiver Ricky White III and veteran offensive tackle Tiger Shanks . The defensive nucleus is back, too.
Fresno State brings back a proven quarterback in Mikey Keene and an experienced group of offensive linemen. With top rusher Malik Sherrod also back after a breakout season, this is an offense that veteran coach Jeff Tedford can mold into a big winner. There are more questions defensively, but leading tackler Malachi Langley is back.
G.J. Kinne worked wonders in his first season by guiding Texas State to its first-ever bowl game. Don't be surprised if the Bobcats take another step forward and compete for the Sun Belt title after landing former James Madison star quarterback Jordan McCloud .