At this very moment, Jason Kirk has Colorado State penciled in as the G5 representative playing in a New Year's Day bowl. The Fiesta against the Buckeyes to be precise. ECU is headed to Miami Beach to play BYU. And Marshall? The Bahamas Bowl. No disrespect to the Rams, but that is incredibly unsatisfying.
In defense of Jason, and ultimately the Fiesta Bowl should they choose Colorado State, the Group of Five elite have done little to make a case for themselves.
Marshall has played and continues to play precisely no one, a point West Virginia fans were kind enough to repeatedly point out on Gameday through the written word.
ECU forgot they had a game yesterday, which really threw that bandwagon off the road.
Georgia Southern, despite being excellent, is new to FBS and can't play in the postseason.
Colorado State, thanks to its loss to Boise State, still doesn't control its own destiny to win the MWC Mountain division, which complicates their legitimacy.
And Toledo - are the Rockets the best team in the MAC? Is there such thing as a best team in the MAC? Because Toledo's defense is 103rd in the country. But they are 4-0 in conference play with NIU and the BeeGees left on their mid-week #MACtion schedule (2 games I literally cannot wait to watch).
The point I'm making is that despite all of our efforts to brand anyone and everyone This Year's Boise State, no one has emerged as a real threat to the establishment. Which is how we get Colorado State penciled in to play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl despite exactly 0% of their games being broadcast on an ESPN affiliate to date. It's hard for a nation to get excited about an underdog when the underdog is a team they don't watch.
The process seems somewhat flawed though, doesn't it? Picking one or two "best" teams from across five different conferences with contrasting schedules, styles, and abilities can be somewhat of a challenge, right? Hey! This problem sounds awfully familiar...
The people want their champions crowned on the field. They demand it. They need it. Give the people what they want: the Group of 5 needs its own playoff.
"A playoff for what, exactly?" you might ask. For a bid to the Fiesta Bowl (or non-playoff hosting January bowl game).
There's no need to get overly complicated with the format. In fact, we can just mirror Big Brother's. Gather a group of smart, objective experts (Underdog Dynasty staff perhaps?) to select the four best G5 teams and then let 'em go to battle.
Logistically, the semifinal round would follow Conference Championship weekend. The G5 Championship Game would then proceed the next weekend. Playing into December shouldn't be a challenge - FCS programs do it all the time for their playoff. By crowning the champ by the third week of December, the winner still has ample time to lick its wounds and prepare for its Power 5 opponent on January 1.
The "Pros" to a G5 playoff are several.
More games = more revenue. This is fairly straightforward. One or two more home games is a proposition any athletic department would be quick to sign up for. ESPN would be more than willing to fill the down weeks in December with meaningful football, particularly if it's getting dynamic, interesting match-ups.
The buzz and headlines generated by the playoff help Group of Five programs gain exposure. As the only game in town during mid December, College Gameday would be forced to make its way to Statesboro or Huntington. The primetime ESPN Saturday night game becomes East Carolina and Fresno State. The positive impact this will have on recruiting, donor activity, etc. would be exponential.
And culturally, this gives the nation a chance to get behind its underdog. In years such as the present, when no team emerges as a Cinderella darling, the four team playoff sets the spotlight squarely on the G5's best. In turn, the winner will emerge a household name, a team anyone and everyone could get behind when they look to upset the Ohio States of the CFB world.
So, theoretically, what would this look like in 2014? How about:
|#4 Georgia Southern||@ #1 Marshall|
|#3 MAC Champ||@ #2 Colorado State|
Full disclosure, my rankings are completely rooted in my desire to see Georgia Southern and Marshall play one another. BUT THAT'S THE POINT. What an excellent game would that be?! And the winner of such a playoff would be more than deserving of the chance to take on a Power 5 at-large team.