The new automatic bid for teams from the Group of Five conferences into one of the New Year’s Day bowl games under the auspices of the College Football Playoff, on face value, affords greater access to the system than mid-major leagues have ever received in the past. Truly great teams like Tulane in 1998, Marshall in 1999, TCU in 2000, Miami of Ohio in 2003, and Boise State in 2011 would not have been left out in the cold had this opportunity for access been in place during the BCS era. But it is still 60 teams fighting for one guaranteed berth in the new postseason structure, compared to the other 11 spots available to the 65 members of the Power Five conferences.
Ultimately the new berth, which will be determined by the same 13 selectors sitting in the room parsing out the four finalists for the national championship bracket and the other seven bowl participants, will come down to a beauty contest. Losses aren’t automatically damning for a team, but too many of them will naturally downgrade a team’s potential to pass the eyeball test of this baker’s dozen of movers and shakers in the sport. So now that September has given us a better feel for the teams left in the hunt, the general logic would contend that a team with one loss right now still has an imminent chance of getting into the VIP section.
27 of the 60 teams in the AAC, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West, and Sun Belt entered week four of the season with just one loss. Nearly half of all teams still held hope that this could be their magical season.
Only 16 emerged unscathed on the other side. Some were winnowed out against Power Five competition, others in head-to-head showdowns that served as play-in contests for the committee. The battle of attrition has wreaked havoc across the board before we’ve even entered conference play for many teams, and unless somebody emerges impressively undefeated on the other side (and only two teams remain that have that option available) the selection committee is going to have to look at which team acquitted itself best in defeat.
Two-loss teams aren’t completely out of the running in what could still become a crazy season. But for the moment, our focus should remain at the two unbeaten and 14 one-loss teams. Let’s look at each of the 16 teams in greater depth and sort them out based on the strength of both their victories and their defeats in this week’s CFP Mid-Major Power Rankings…