In a week marked by chaos all over the college football landscape, teams from the Group of Five were not immune to upsets. Three more teams fell by the wayside for now in the hunt for the guaranteed berth in one of the College Football Playoff-affiliated bowl games… and that doesn’t include BYU, whose longshot bid for a spot in one of the top-shelf postseason contests took a nosedive on Friday night when quarterback Taysom Hill was lost for the season with a broken leg and the Cougars fell 35-20 to rival Utah State.
Arkansas State stayed alive for a fourth consecutive Sun Belt crown, but eliminated the league’s best chance of claiming the CFP bowl bid by taking out Louisiana-Monroe in a 28-14 home victory. Cincinnati, who opened the year looking like one of the American Athletic Conference’s top teams, is now two losses deep after falling to Memphis 41-14 at home. And in the nightcap, Boise State belatedly gained a measure of vengeance by holding on for a 51-46 defeat of Nevada in Reno.
Six teams still remain in the Group of Five ranks with one or fewer defeats. Other than the Sun Belt, which now needs all the help it can get to climb back into the race, the other four conferences are still ostensibly alive in the pecking order. But some teams have a far better chance than others.
The question now comes down to one of style points versus the win-loss record. This is encapsulated in the battle between East Carolina and Marshall for the top spot in this week’s rankings. The former has a loss to South Carolina on its record, but it also has two statement wins against ACC opponents Virginia Tech and North Carolina to point to as justification for its position.
Marshall, though, represents the opposite side of the equation. The Thundering Herd are one of just 10 undefeated teams remaining in the FBS ranks, and with five of those teams guaranteed to be reduced through head-to-head contests that number will be thinned down further in the coming weeks. Marshall, meanwhile, has had the benefit of a paper-thin schedule to reach 5-0 in the standings. (According to Sagarin, the Herd have played the 165th-toughest schedule so far among all Division I schools — only Duke and Texas State have played weaker competition to this point.)
If East Carolina wins out, they will almost certainly get the benefit of the doubt from the selection committee thanks to the ACC upsets and a close contest against the Gamecocks. But what happens if the Pirates lose another game yet still win the AAC title? What happens if all that is left besides the Herd are a quartet of two-loss champions from the other Group of Five conferences?
We are not yet privy to the way the group tasked with seeding the top teams at the end of the year will structure their decision-making process. We cannot say with certainty what weight will be given to wins and losses and how much strength of schedule will factor into the selections. But with the season quickly reaching its halfway point, the pretenders are rapidly falling by the wayside and leaving a few select teams with a realistic hope of playing in a big-time bowl.
As the carnage of Week 6 proved, every team is capable of suffering an off day. There is still a lot of football left to play before we reach the critical point of the season, yet the picture is increasingly becoming clearer even as the chaos tries to muddle it anew. So let’s dive in and see where each of the half-dozen teams still in contention stand in the pecking order of this week’s CFP Mid-Major Power Rankings…