With the collapse of the BCS and the creation of a four-team playoff, college football begrudgingly decided to throw the Group of Five a bone. It might be a small one, and one that doesn't taste as good as a juicy piece of 16 oz. steak, but for a collection of schools that have struggled to match power-player money and prestige, the guarantee of one New Year's Day bowl game for the highest ranked member is as gracious as allowing Oliver Twist an extra bowl of gruel.
So when ESPN and the selection committee unveiled its very first Top 25 rankings Tuesday night, the affair was met with reasonable, measured dialogue that HAHAHAHA PEOPLE ARE PISSED. Three SEC West teams made up the first four picks, Notre Dame was slotted at a surprising No. 10 and Ole Miss continued to stay above teams like Oregon and Michigan State in the hunt for a national championship despite its loss to LSU last week. But perhaps the most surprising slight of the entire viewer-driven ordeal was the absence of Marshall.
The Thundering Herd, ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press and USA Today's Coaches' Poll, were completely left out of the committee's own Top 25. Chairman Jeff Long explained the group's decision, citing — like everyone else — Marshall's weak schedule as the reason why Doc Holliday's squad was snubbed.
"We had a lot of consideration of Marshall," Long said after the show. "Obviously they are 8-0, but we looked at that, we compared their schedule, who they played to this point and compared against others and we did not think it was worthy of being placed in the Top 25 at this time."
It's true. Marshall hasn't played a team ranked higher than 81st in the F/+ rankings, and its best win at the end of the year will probably be over Rice. But still, like a long-time ex-girlfriend who broke your heart and took the dog, it seems like we're all focusing on why Marshall is flawed and not the reasons why it's so damn good.
The Thundering Herd are mauling all these subpar teams they play at a pace worthy of Top 25 inclusion. Marshall is averaging 571 yards per game — good for third nationally — and its defense is allowing a paltry 16.5 points a game. If style points were still a thing, Marshall would be the belle of the ball.
Perhaps the most telling sign of Marshall's dominance, however, may be in its S&P ratings. The ranking system, which aggregates success rate, explosive plays, drive efficiency and opponent adjustments to form an algorithm I couldn't understand with Stephen Hawking's brain, suggests Marshall is not just Top 25 worthy, but is good enough to be a Top 15 team. Football Outsider's S&P have Marshall at No. 11, above teams like Oregon, TCU, Baylor, Georgia and Florida State.
The schedule is 5-year-old birthday party cupcake status, sure, but Marshall really can't help the downward trend of Conference USA this season or the fact that it is experiencing a one-year lull from playing Power Five conference teams during arguably its most impressive season ever. The evidence is there that Marshall more than deserves a Top 25 ranking by the playoff committee despite its schedule, above one-loss teams like East Carolina and Colorado State.
Marshall gives the Group of Five its most complete team, one whose athletic defense and explosive offense fairs the best chance against a squad like Clemson or Ole Miss.
The Thundering Herd will continue trampling opponents like an eighteen wheeler colliding with a Stratus. If the College Football Playoff Committee has any sense, it will steer that eighteen wheeler in the direction of a Jan. 1 destination.
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