Maybe the College Football Playoff Committee really likes the Mountain West? Yes, really, and let me explain. Everyone knows that no Group of Five teams were ranked in the most recent College Football Playoff poll, and that Marshall has a very bad schedule this year.
We also know that conference titles are also very important to the committee and just maybe the group of 12 who is responsible for picking the playoff, and they are also responsible for the one automatic spot given to the non-power five teams.
Ever since the Playoff Committee announced that they would be releasing weekly rankings -- a terrible idea to begin with -- there was, and is, the actual fear of a team ranked say eighth to 10th but since they win their conference they jump up into the fourth spot. That could be reserved for maybe UCLA who is ninth and still has a shot at winning the Pac-12, and then by miracles of miracles are in the top four because of winning its league.
This does relate to the non-power five schools, because just maybe the committee likes the Mountain West champion, assuming it comes from the Mountain side, much more than Marshall. It would look quite odd to see Marshall at No. 22 or so and no Mountain West team ranked, but then all of a sudden see Boise State win the conference and leap frog an undefeated Marshall. People would cry foul.
Again, this is just speculation, but maybe the committee is waiting for Marshall to lose and then rank a team from the Mountain West, but if the Thundering Herd don't lose they get the spot in a New Year's Day bowl game.
The committee did say Marshall was close to being ranked, but that is all they would say. It would be nice to know who the top rated non-power team is.
Below is a chart (and commentary from SB Nation's Jason Kirk) using the committee rules use to evaluate the best non-power five teams, and power five teams which are ranked at the end of the poll.
Team vs. ranked teams vs. unranked teams vs. FBS vs. .500+ FBS* vs. power-conference Playoff ranking Boise State 0-1 8-1 8-2 5-2 0-1 NR Clemson 1-3 6-0 6-3 4-3 6-3 22 Colorado State 0-0 9-1 8-1 3-1 2-0 NR Louisville 0-2 7-1 6-3 3-2, plus Virginia loss 5-3 24 Marshall 0-0 10-0 9-0 3-0** 0-0 NR Minnesota 0-2 7-1 6-3 3-2, plus Illinois loss 4-3 25 Missouri 0-1 8-1 7-2 5-1, plus Indiana loss 5-2 20 Nebraska 0-2 8-0 7-2 2-2 5-2 23 Oklahoma 0-3 7-0 7-3 4-3 5-3 21 USC 1-2 6-1 7-3 4-3 6-3 19
* Remember, the committee uses pure win-loss records to calculate strength of schedule.
** Marshall beat Ohio, which was .500 until losing post-rankings.
- CSU and Marshall haven't played ranked teams. But Boise State gave No. 8 Ole Miss 45 tough minutes in SEC country and a much better challenge than, say, No. 20 Missouri gave No. 10 Georgia at home or No. 23 Nebraska gave No. 16 Wisconsin.
- Boise State and Marshall haven't beaten powers (the Broncos pounded BYU, but the Cougars are closer to a non-power under the current setup). But CSU won at ACC bowl-bound Boston College, which beat No. 19 USC, and beat the Pac-12's Colorado, which took No. 9 UCLA to double overtime. And Boise State beat CSU by two scores.
- Marshall hasn't beaten decent teams. But Boise State plays zero FCS teams and has beaten more .500 or better FBS teams than Nebraska's played.
- Boise State lost to 8-2 Air Force on the road in a seven-turnovers catastrophe. But, like, No. 20 Missouri lost to 3-7 Indiana at home while losing the ball only once.
Going off the metrics that the committee uses, especially wins against teams over .500, Boise State should be ranked in the college football playoff poll. The Broncos have no bad loses as Air Force is sitting at 8-2, but looking at Minnesota who lose to Illinois or even Missouri who fell victim to Indiana are still ranked.
The Broncos have the most wins against teams with winning records -- and again that is a specific tool that the committee uses -- than any of these teams that are at the tail end of the rankings and unranked teams.
Then look at Colorado State as they have a 3-1 record against teams with a winning record, and that is better than Louisville, Minnesota and Nebraska.
Minnesota's best win comes against an Iowa team that is No. 54 in the F/+ rankings, so it is not like they have amazing wins against really good teams.
Teams at the bottom of this rankings have flaws and they do not really have an affect on the playoff but it just would be nice to be given an inkling of what non-power five team is the best in its very important opinion.
Looking at the metrics the committee uses, Boise State should be the front runner.