The College Football Playoffs fixed a major glitch in the system by adding a national championship game. It also caused some serious issues with the less than transparent criteria used each week to determine the Top 25. The new system has seemingly separated college football into the ‘Power 5' and ‘Group of 5' divisions, while claiming an equal playing field across the board.
As we all saw last year, this was hardly the case.
Marshall and Boise State were the primary examples of last season. It was week 14 before either cracked the Top 25. This coming after both was left out in favor of seven three-loss teams the week before.
However, the G5 finally had a seat at the table—two to be exact—with Marshall and Boise representing the little guy as No. 23 and 24 in a system that included the term ‘good loss' and everything pointed toward strength of schedule.
By the final week of the regular season, it appeared the committee was going to have to pick between a two-loss Boise or undefeated Marshall to represent the G5 schools.
The committee was bailed out of having to make one what may have been of the toughest decisions the entire season after Marshall fell to Western Kentucky in the regular season finale. The Herd's loss paved an unobstructed path for the Broncos straight to the New Year's Six Access Bowl and a matchup with No. 10 Arizona in the Vizio Fiesta Bowl.
Boise represented all the little guys, aka the G5 schools, with a 38-30 over PAC-12 member Arizona, sending a message to the nation that the little guy can play too.
Marshall had to settle for a bowl game in Boca Raton with Northern Illinois, although the Herd had a game like no other—its opponent was a conference champion as well. Marshall thrashed Northern Illinois 52-23 leaving many asking the famous what-if question. Who would win if Marshall and Boise State had played last season?
Thanks to whatifsports.com, I have an answer. That is if games were played on paper.
The game format was simple, play at a neutral site with no weather to factor in the game. My findings were astonishing even to me.
Marshall wasted little time jumping on Boise and took a commanding 31-7 lead to the locker room. Boise surmounted a valiant second-half rally only to fall short, losing 37-28. Rakeem Cato left his final mark on college football with a 425-yard, three-touchdown performance in the win. He was also named player-of-the-game. Cato's former Miami-Central teammate Tommy Shuler led the Herd with seven receptions for 112 yards and Davonte Allen hauled in four balls for 96 yards.
Boise State's Grant Hedrick threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns in the losing effort.
While both teams had stellar running backs in the backfield, neither was either to surpass 100 yards on the ground. Marshall's Devon Johnson finished with 68 yards on 22 carries while Boise's Devan Demas tallied 68 yards—50 coming on a touchdown scamper—on five carries. Standout back Jay Ajayi had 25 carries for 59 yards. He led the team in receiving with 77 yards on four catches.
I was not shocked at the outcome—with the exception of the running games being snuffed much of the game—but could not make a judgment based off one game. In hopes of gathering a better sample, I ran the simulation 10 times.
Marshall won all 10, and some were rather convincing.
Two games finished in overtime, 66-62 (double) and 43-40 (triple). The closest margin in regulation was five points (44-39).
Dare I say Group of 5 National Championship game?
In fairness to my discussion, I ran Marshall and Arizona in a similar matchup. The Herd won 45-37 as Johnson gashed the Wildcats defense for three touchdowns and 205 yards on 24 carries.
Ajayi ran for 134 yards and three scores in the actual game with the Wildcats.
The question remains, what have we learned after one season under the new system? Is it full proof with no room for improvement? Not a chance, but it certainly brought some good qualities to college football. It also brought out the ugly side of the game, which is the power that the Power 5 schools hold.
Unfortunately for schools like Marshall and Boise State, they must play against a stacked deck and be happy to be included in any discussions with the big boys. Committee chair Jeff Long proved last season how little the committee takes notice of the G5 schools when he forgot how many undefeated schools there were.
Don't worry Mr. Long; little brother can hold its own any day of the week.