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Photo: Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The pandemic eliminated most Power 5 vs. Group of 5 games this season, costing the smaller Group of 5 schools millions of dollars in game contracts.

Yes, but: Conference-only play, postponed start dates and canceled games have given those schools a chance to climb up the polls and make a name for themselves nationally — an opportunity that a handful have seized.

Where it stands: The number of G5 teams in the final AP poll has increased in each of the past four seasons, from three in 2016 to seven in 2019.

  • The current poll has seven: No. 7 Cincinnati, No. 8 BYU, No. 15 Marshall, No. 15 Coastal Carolina, No. 21 Liberty, No. 24 Louisiana, No. 25 Tulsa.

This weekend is the biggest G5 slate of the year, with two undefeated teams facing their biggest tests of the season.

  • American: Cincinnati (7-0) has won its past four games by a 184-50 margin, but the Bearcats will be tested by UCF (5-2) and its No. 1 ranked offense (619.1 yards per game). A win would boost their College Football Playoff hopes.
  • Sun Belt: Coastal Carolina (7-0) hosts four-time defending conference champion Appalachian State (6-1), with the winner likely to face Louisiana (7-1) in the Sun Belt title game.

The backdrop ... To date, 78 college football games have been either canceled or postponed, including 16 this weekend (nine canceled, seven postponed).

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Dec 22, 2020 - Sports

NBA steps out of the bubble and into the world

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The Disney World bubble kept the NBA safe from COVID-19 this summer. Now comes an even greater challenge: staging a 72-game season in the real world.

Why it matters: In the bubble, the NBA made and enforced the rules, set up a complex testing program and operated three arenas. In the real world, teams will be responsible for doing everything themselves.

2 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.