No doubt about it, 2015 is going much better than 2014 did for the Group of Five's top performers. Last season's story was the complete lack of respect shown Marshall by the College Football Playoff committee and how the Brave New World meant G5s would have an even tougher go of things.
It's not exactly a sea change but the initial rankings released tonight show much more respect for the autonomy challenged.
A full four G5ers cracked the Top 25 this time around, including one who lost last weekend. Memphis tops the charts at No. 13, followed by Temple at 22, Toledo at 24 and Houston at 25. Okay, so the G5 takes up three of the bottom four slots. It's progress.
Of course no college football rankings -- be they "legitimate" polls like this or a 2 a.m. argument with a stranger at Waffle House -- would be complete without insane overvaluing of the SEC.
Alabama's loss to eventual champion Ohio State last year taught us nothing, and neither did their loss to Ole Miss this year. The Tide hit the top four with a loss, ahead of no less than seven undefeated teams. Strength of schedule? The Red Elephants boast just one win over a top 25 program.
Read this tidbit from USA Today:
Selection committee chair Jeff Long said there was great discussion within his 12-person group of ranking a one-loss team ahead of seven of those unbeatens. Long said the committee put the Crimson Tide well ahead of another one-loss SEC team, No. 10 Florida, because Alabama has one more win against a .500-plus team than the Gators.
Another major problem with this logic is Alabama's loss came to No. 18 Ole Miss, who has lost to both Florida and Memphis. That's not a valid excuse for ranking them ahead of those teams, much less six other schools sporting spotless records.
Hear Me Out, Oh Lovers of the Underdogs
Alabama's uber-high ranking could well be a blessing in disguise, a potential Trojan Horse of playoff proportions. If you're a fan of the G5, or even better, a fan of chaos, pull for Alabama, Ole Miss and Memphis to keep winning.
If either 'Bama or the Rebels run the table in The Greatest Conference, and Memphis holds up its end of the deal, the powers that be will have quite a time explaining why one of those teams gets in but the Tigers don't. Remember, the ranking of Houston and Temple means an unbeaten Memphis gets at least two more top 25 victories under its belt before season's end.
The same holds true to lesser extent with an unbeaten Houston, though if every G5 loses a game and/or if LSU wins out it's off the table. Let's get behind this Bama in the top four thing.
The message is clear from the committee -- we care about strength of schedule now y'all. They're conveniently ignoring the fact that most power league schools still play weak teams three out of four non-con games, leaving only the part of the schedule they don't control to be judged.
Nonetheless there's still a silver lining for the smaller conferences. Temple narrowly lost to Notre Dame in a thrilling contest Saturday night. They're still in the Top 25. Not only that, they rank ahead of a thoroughly impressive Houston team and old money UCLA. This sets up for strong G5s to take on heavyweights fearlessly, and gives heavyweights the okay to schedule a Boise State, Marshall, Memphis or Georgia Southern without backlash.