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The College Football Playoff will debut its 12-team format in the 2024 season, providing greater opportunity and access for teams to have a more meaningful postseason. No one benefits more from the change than the Group Five conferences, which now have an automatic bid into the playoff after years of largely being cast aside. 

In the CFP's almost decade of existence, Cincinnati is the only Group Five program to ever make the four-team field -- and it now competes in the Big 12. Not that the Group Five has lacked contenders; an undefeated UCF was notoriously barred from entry in 2017, and several other teams from non-power conferences have climbed inside the top 10 of various polls. 

Now, thanks to the recent 5+7 model approved by the College Football Playoff Management Committee, the Group Five is guaranteed at least one of the five automatic bids. It is still just one spot for five conferences, but it's more representation at a high level than most of those leagues are used to, plus Group Five teams could also compete for one of the seven at-large spots. 

But with effectively one automatic bid up for grabs, which of the 70-plus schools occupying the Group Five are in the best spot to make a CFP run? Here are a few candidates that stick out from the rest.

Group of Five teams poised to make 2024 CFP run

Boise State: There's reason to believe in first-year coach Spencer Danielson. The 35-year-old took over as interim in 2023 after Andy Avalos' midseason firing. Danielson guided the Broncos to two straight wins to close the regular season as they secured a spot in the Mountain West Championship Game where they defeated UNLV by 24 points to win their first conference title in four years. Danielson had the interim tag removed one day later amid overwhelming support from his players. 

To offset his relative inexperience as a first-time head coach, Danielson went out and added former Boise State and Arizona State head coach Dirk Koetter to his staff as offensive coordinator. Koetter will work with former five-star prospect and USC transfer Malachi Nelson, who has massive upside as one of the Mountain West's best quarterbacks. Danielson should get plenty of veteran leadership from his team, as well; Boise State returns 18 starters on both sides of the football, including electric running back/return man/all-around weapon Ashton Jeanty. An early season road game against Oregon might be too much for Boise State to handle, but the rest of the schedule is perfectly winnable so long as Danielson can acclimate to the increased pressures of running a program from the ground up. 

Liberty: The Flames might just be the odds-on favorite to represent the Group Five in the College Football Playoff. They have a good shot at running the table in Conference USA once again and, if at least 10 wins is the benchmark for playoff consideration, Jamey Chadwell is the man to get the job done as he's reached that mark in three out of his five seasons as a head coach at the FBS level. 

Liberty, which went 13-1 and made an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl in its first year under Chadwell, would have made the CFP in its current format. Returning from that team is star quarterback Kaidon Salter, who has a chance to emerge as one of the nation's top offensive playmakers, two prolific running backs (Billy Lucas and Quinton Cooley) from the nation's top rushing offense and several key players from a defense that finished top three in Conference USA in both yards allowed and scoring. Bolstered by an out-of-conference schedule that doesn't feature any Power Four opponents, an undefeated regular season might be the expectation for a Liberty team with its sights set on postseason glory. 

Tulane: The program lost coach Willie Fritz and his 23-4 record from the past two years to Houston this offseason. For most Group Five programs, that would be a huge red flag when projecting continued success. That's not the case for the Green Wave, however, as they went out and replaced him with one of college football's brightest young coaches: Jon Sumrall. The ex-Troy coach won two conference titles and went 3-0 overall in the postseason with the Trojans. 

Most assumed he was on the fast track to a power-conference job, and that might still be the case, but Tulane will get at least one year from a proven winner. Even if Tulane has to replace a veteran quarterback like Michael Pratt, it's still poised to fill the AAC power vacuum left by SMU's departure to the ACC. It helps Tulane's odds that the AAC has a reputation as king among Group Five conferences, so an AAC title could be a golden ticket to the playoff's first round. 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 10 Coastal Carolina at Appalachian State
App State QB Joey Aguilar returns after winner Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year in the 2023 season.  Getty Images

Appalachian State: The Sun Belt has seen its profile as a conference steadily rise in recent years, and the Mountaineers are in line to benefit from that increased notoriety. They were one of three teams to win at least nine games last season. The other two -- James Madison and Troy -- both lost their head coaches during this chaotic coaching carousel period, while App State's Shawn Clark is set to return for his fifth season as coach. 

Furthering its almost unparalleled consistency, Appalachian State also returns both coordinators and starting quarterback Joey Aguilar, who was named the Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year last season after throwing for almost 3,800 yards and accounting for 36 total touchdowns. The Mountaineers have a great chance to make an early impression on the road against Clemson, a former perennial playoff contender that has taken a bit of a tumble (relatively speaking) in recent years.

Memphis: Want a dark horse to make a run through the Group Five ranks? Look no further than Memphis, which has slowly built back into an AAC powerhouse under coach Ryan Silverfield after a few lackluster years. The Tigers won 10 games last season for the first time since 2019 and capped it all with a 10-point win against Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. Among the AAC's upper echelon from 2023, Memphis has the most stability because: SMU is gone, Tulane is breaking in a new coach and lost its four-year starting quarterback and UTSA is seeking to replace its dynamic ex-quarterback Frank Harris

Of the four teams that had a winning record in conference play last season, Memphis is the only one that's returning both its head coach and its starting quarterback. Seth Henigan happens to be one of the Group Five's best signal callers. He just had his third straight 3,000-yard passing season and broke 30 passing touchdowns in a single season for the first time in his career. All three of his top wide receivers are back, and Memphis shored up the loss of star running back Blake Watson with the addition of South Carolina's Mario Anderson via the transfer portal. The Tigers should have one of the AAC's most prolific offenses, and that could be enough to propel them to a playoff debut.