Why Can't Marshall Get A Chance In The College Football Playoff?
The top three teams in the College Football Playoff seem pretty well locked in, so long as they take care of business down the stretch. Those teams would be Alabama, Oregon and Florida State. Right now, Mississippi State has a hold of the 4-spot, with TCU, Baylor and Ohio State giving chase. But why can’t undefeated Marshall get the opportunity for this final berth in the College Football Playoff?
Marshall is 11-0, and joins Florida State as the only unbeaten teams at the FBS level. I understand that the Thundering Herd have not played a good schedule. I understand that any of Mississippi State, TCU, Baylor and Ohio State would likely beat them on the field. But I don’t know that for sure, and I also thought in 2006 that Oklahoma would crush this no-name Boise State team in the Fiesta Bowl. That’s why I fail to see the harm in giving Marshall a fair chance to test their perfect record on the field.
What I find annoying about this situation is that I thought one of the purposes in expanding the playoffs from a single championship game to a four-team format, was to be able to give opportunities to teams in Marshall’s situation. I understood that you couldn’t give an undefeated team from a midmajor conference an easy pass into the national title game and let them possibly win it all, by having one magical night. But if they beat two good teams in succession, within a two-week span, that would be something different.
The advocates of a playoff certainly exploited situations like Boise State, or Utah back in 2008, whenever they wanted to point out the flaws of the old system. And now we’re already hearing that four teams isn’t enough, and we need to go to an eight-team or even a 16-team bracket. Undoubtedly we’ll again hear that giving the little guy a chance is one of the reasons.
But the College Football Playoff Selection Committee won’t even rank Marshall in the Top 25. If that’s the case, why do we need eight teams in the field—so four from the SEC West can advance? Or a 16-team playoff that would probably have six SEC teams in the bracket? What exactly is the point of the SEC playing an eight-game conference schedule plus a championship game if everyone’s just going to advance anyway?
The problem with the old system wasn’t that you had to argue over which one-loss team should play for the national championship. The problem with the old system is that when it came to a team like Marshall, there were no good solutions. You either told an undefeated team that nothing they could ever do on the field was going to get them a shot at the national championship. Or you allowed them into the actual title game itself without being properly tested.
Changing to a four-team format should have fixed that problem, not just shifted our arguing over which one-loss team from the power conferences down a couple spots in the rankings. Put Marshall in the field and if they win two straight against the likes of Florida State, Alabama and Oregon, they’re national champions. If they lose, then the Big Three that no one disputes are championship-worthy, can settle it. I ask again—what’s wrong with that?