BYE WEEK ACCESS BOWL TALK

I know not too many Navy fans are dialed in to the minutiae of our future conference yet. As long as we have a bye week, though, we might start guessing which Group of Five conference champion will go to the Fiesta, Peach, or Cotton Bowl. As we’ve discussed, the exposure and more importantly the money will be a springboard to staying with the haves in the next tectonic shift of the college football landscape.

At the moment, the highest ranked G5 member is our future conference-mate East Carolina. Why  have they climbed to #18 in the AP poll and #16 in the Coaches Poll? They went 2-1 against South Carolina, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina, and looked pretty good doing so.  The Pirates have the inside track, but still have the hardest part of their campaign in the American ahead: at Cincinnati, UCF, and even at 4-1 Temple will be tests.

Also creeping into the top 25 is Marshall, from Conference USA. Marshall? Yes, Marshall. They were Phil Steele’s pre-season pick  for the access bowl nod. Reason number one is their talented QB Rakeem Cato. Reason number two is their relatively soft schedule. ESPN’s Football Power Index calculates Marshall’s chance of winning out as 45% – that is ridiculous and the best mark of any of the 128 teams. The schedule doesn’t offer any big wins to increase the possibility that the Herd will thunder ahead of the Pirates, but if they remain undefeated they could also have a 13th win to point to in the MAC championship.

How will the College Football Playoff Committee rank these two? Great question. There has been a lot of coverage on how they’ll look at the playoff contenders, but I haven’t seen a specific rundown for identifying the highest ranked G5 team.  Speculating with Massey’s composite of 75 rankings doesn’t clarify things for me. Undefeated Marshall is actually comfortably ahead of East Carolina in the comparison, and ranks as high as #4 in two systems!

That composite also doesn’t give me much insight beyond the two front runners. Boise State was probably on a lot of minds when this format was identified. With two losses, they are lumped with one-loss Colorado State and two-loss Utah State at #44, #46 & #47. Those Mountain West contenders are still ahead of Marshall’s or East Carolina’s conference challengers. The MAC and Sun Belt are even farther back.

When the first College Football Playoff Committee rankings are released in two weeks, there will still be a lot of football to be played. But there may be as much or more insight into how the committee ranks the Group of Five champions as there is into the top four selection.

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4 Responses

  1. Massey’s composite updated while that was processing through — now includes a motivating 91 rankings. The numbers are different, including the MWC cluster, but still applies big-hand-small-map.

  2. “…The schedule doesn’t offer any big wins to increase the possibility that the Herd will thunder ahead of the Pirates, but if they remain undefeated they could also have a 13th win to point to in the MAC championship…”

    Typo. Marshall hasn’t played in the MAC since 2005.

    • Good catch. Glad I already had it right earlier so it is “typo” and not “ignorance.”

  3. One more run at this before we see the first official committee output in 24 hours or so. I suspect that it will look like the polls. ECU maintains an edge on undefeated Marshall, despite being leapfrogged by P5 teams with big wins. However if several committee members have mad statisticians in a secret basement lab, it could be different: Massey’ s composite ranking has the Pirates behind the Herd AND the two MWC trailers. Colorado State (in both) and Boise State (in one) are among others receiving votes in the two main polls. That does allow us to depart with one promise of tantalizing schadenfreude — if CSU and BSU both win out, one-loss CSU could be the highest ranked G5 team and miss out on conference championship game and therefore access bowl!

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