What's it gonna take?
At this point, it's almost comical. I get the strength of schedule argument. I get Marshall got stuck being a dominant team in the worst year in recent memory for Conference USA. I get even Marshall's FCS patsy this year, Rhode Island, is terrible, sitting at 0-11. Let's just have people look past the fact that that spot on the schedule was for Louisville, before ACC realignment led the Cardinals to reschedule their return date in Huntington to 2016. That very same Louisville team sits ranked at 24 by the committee with 3 losses and their best win over a 4-loss Miami team.
The biggest argument against Marshall has been their strength of schedule. The biggest problem I have with this argument is that scheduling is a two-way street. For C-USA, Marshall had no control over conference realignment. If the conference was the same as it was two years ago, Marshall would have a much improved Memphis team, a more competitive Tulane, and a still competitive East Carolina team. Now, those schools are replaced with some average Sun Belt teams.
The people most against Marshall being ranked are mostly against Marshall's non-conference schedule, which consists of three MAC teams and a winless Rhode Island. People seem to forget that Marshall can't just call up teams and say "Hey, we're playing you guys." Anytime in the past, you can look at teams who have talented 4 year players at the "Group of 5" level, and you'll see that a lot of bigger teams don't go out and schedule them.
In the past 5 years, Marshall has had games against West Virginia, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Louisville, and Ohio State. In the coming years, Marshall has return games with Purdue and Louisville, plus home and homes against NC State and Pitt. Marshall obviously isn't trying to avoid power 5 teams, they've just gotten stuck in a bad situation this year.
"The Eye Test"
This committee was seemingly set up to give a human element that the BCS didn't have. When it was first mentioned, you had a committee of 13 people who would be watching games and give a set of rankings on a weekly basis. Now, after they have met, it is pretty clear that they are really just making this up as they go along. Scoring matters, but it doesn't. Common opponents matter, but not as much as head-to-head, unless head-to-head doesn't matter at a certain level. It can confuse even the most loyal and devoted college football fan.
When the first rankings came out, ECU was the only Group of 5 school in the top 25. The Pirates had only 1 loss at the time with wins over Virginia Tech and UNC, but losses to Temple and Cincinnati, combined with very average performances by VT and UNC knocked ECU from the rankings. Since them, Marshall seemed to be the best hope for a Group of 5 team. Herd fans waited for weeks that, surely the Herd will make it this week. It didn't happen. A couple teams would lose, surely it would be this week. After last week's results, LSU, Notre Dame, Duke, and Texas A&M dropped out of the top 25. SURELY, this would be the week. Nope.
There aren't many common opponents between ranked teams and the Herd. The closest comparisons Marshall can pull are the fact that their margin of victory is similar to those of ranked teams. #25 Minnesota and Marshall's only common opponent is Middle Tennessee State. Minnesota hosted the Blue Raiders and defeated Middle by 11, whereas the Herd defeated the same MTSU team by 25. #24 Louisville and Marshall share a common opponent in FIU, both in visiting Miami. The Cardinals beat FIU 34-3, while Marshall beat them 45-13.
Marshall, Mississippi State, and Alabama share an opponent in Southern Miss, and all beat them by at least 40 points. In their most recent game, Marshall beat Rice by 27 points, a similar margin to Rice's early season losses to Texas A&M and Notre Dame. If you are to believe the adage, Marshall might not be playing great teams, but they are doing what a top 25 team is supposed to do.
The committee has made this similar to March Madness, where it becomes a question of not only wins and losses, but of good wins and bad losses. Minnesota has a loss to Illinois and their best win is over Iowa. Louisville has a loss to Virginia and their best win is over a 4-loss Miami. Clemson's 3 losses are all top 25 teams, but their best win is Louisville. Mizzou has a loss to a hapless Indiana and their best win is over South Carolina or Texas A&M.
I'm not saying Marshall should be towards the top of rankings. I understand their best wins are Rice and Akron, but the AP says they are a top 20 team. The coaches (or their secretaries at least) say they are a top 20 team. They are top five in points scored and points allowed. They are highly rated in many computer metrics. This team has lined up against the teams across from them and taken a flamethrower to them. Maybe I'm a homer, but Marshall should be a top 25 team in the committee rankings, plain and simple.