Any Given Saturday, Week 14: The Marshall Plan

If undefeated Marshall wins one more game, they may find themselves outside of the Top 25. That isn’t a typo.

Eleven games into their undefeated campaign, the Playoff Selection Committee is throwing fades at the only undefeated team from the Group of 5 Conference.

Marshall’s schedule has been ridiculed for reasons beyond their control.

A non-conference matchup with Louisville was delayed until 2016 because of scheduling conflicts related to their new ACC membership and West Virginia discontinued their series in 2012.

Following a scrappy win over a UAB program fighting for its life, the committee punished Marshall by dropping them in the rankings from 18th to 24th. As if that message wasn’t clear enough, they left a horse’s head underneath the sheets by sticking them in between Boise State and Utah, the two programs who helped jumpstart the playoff push.

Their entire body of work was neglected and a team averaging 44.9 points per game, third-best in the country and just 16.5 allowed defensively, which is sixth in the nation waspunished for not blasting the Blazers back to the Stone Ages. A weak spot in the armor was all that was needed for the committee to yank the football further from Charlie Brown.

Marshall may despise the committee more than UAB does the Alabama Board of Trustees.

The College Football Playoff is the Augusta National of postseasons. It’s an exclusive club that essentially bars half of its population from participating in and that the NCAA has a lower opinion of Group of 5 programs than Mitt Romney does of “the 47 percent”

There’s a delicate balance between choosing the four most worthy teams and the four best teams. Marshall is worthy, but the committee’s steadfast belief that they are not one of the best trumps any other discussion about the Thunderin’ Herd’s merits.

The same could have been said for Boise State in 2006, 2009, 2010 or 2011.

Then, there’s the hopelessness associated with the preordained knowledge that the season’s ceiling is a spot on the playoff bowl undercard. Monetarily speaking, Marshall could benefit from a New Year’s bowl game, but for the actual-student athletes, the incentive isn’t there.

The only solution is for the Group of 5 to save the money they'd otherwise spend onf on PR firms and simply stage their own football NIT or sub-championship format.

This season, Colorado State, Boise State, Marshall and either Georgia Southern, East Carolina or whomever wins the FCS championship as a Wild Card would make a compelling BCS Classic Final Four.

For far too long, the have-nots have been stepped on and waited passively for the major conferences’ tractor beams to pluck ripe programs from their roots once they hit their peak and relying on a selection committee devoid of coaches or athletic directors from Group of 5 conferences.

The SWAC has already set an example for annexation and formation of a sub-playoff classic.

The SWAC surrendered its automatic bid in 1999. Since then, the timing of the SWAC championship and various conference Classics prevents conference teams from participating in FCS ' postseason.

A proactive revolution is the only answer for college football’s lower class.



Throw that box score out the door.  This ain’t your father’s Heisman list. Our equal opportunity Heisman list is headed for Ellis Island. Women, children and quarterbacks are usually first, but defensive players and offensive linemen are also welcome.

Melvin Gordon (RB, Wisconsin) – In the wake of rushing records getting smashed like Donkey Kong in a room full of barrels, we can all forget the names of those who had history snatched from them.

The new record holder becomes a trivia answer. In the blink of an eye, the previous flamebearer gets parked in the black hole of our memory banks and becomes a future trivia question. Flash Gordon ran for a measly 200 yards after his 407 yard outing last weekend. However, he did become the fastest back to 2,000 yards using carries as the metric He won’t touch Sanders’ 2,850 yards and 44 touchdowns, but does a non-quarterback have to shatter records like Donkey Kong in a room full of barrels to win a Heisman Trophy these days?

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) – He’s been great this season and his team is on pace to earn a spot in the playoff, but Gordon’s been historic. Mariota’s rarely had exert himself too much or had an out of body experience like most Heisman winners of the past. Consistency should be commended, but with a Davey O’Brien award.

Amari Cooper (WR, Alabama)- It’s been a month since Cooper eclipsed 100 yards, which m which means he’s fallen off of historic pace. Yet, his 16 catches plus touchdowns against Mississippi State and LSU were differences in the final scores.

JT Barrett (QB, Ohio State)- Look how far we’ve come. In Week 2, Barrett was a character of ignominy keeping Braxton Miller’s spot warm. Twelve weeks later, he’s a magnet for the end zone. Barrett has now tallied 42 total touchdowns and in one afternoon against Indiana, he shattered Troy Smith's single-season record for passing touchdowns in addition to Braxton Miller's total offense mark.

Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State) – Remember Dak? Prescott’s season has earned a few asterisk beside it following the collapses of LSU, Auburn and Texas A&M. However, getting downtrodden Hail State one spot closer to the national football playoff would earn him a well-deserved spot in FBS firmament.



Rivalry week is the beginning of the end of the college football season. The stitches keeping college football’s Top 25 in place have nearly dissolved in preparation for this moment.

However, rivals are familiar enough to puncture holes in even the simplest sutures.

In 2007, Arkansas overthrew LSU in a triple overtime thriller. Arkansas lost the Golden Boot and LSU appeared to have lost their shot at a national championship.

Fortunately, they earned redemption the next week during the most watched game in the history of ESPN2, when Pittsburgh upset West Virginia in the Backyard Brawl.

Unfortunately, the aftershock of FBS realignment forced West Virginia and Pitt to put the Backyard Brawl down like Old Yeller.

There are still appealing matchups on the Week 14 docket.

The Egg Bowl and Iron Bowl are fairly evenly matched tilts with playoff spots hanging in the balance.

However, there are also the unbalanced matchups such as Florida at Florida State, Ohio State hosting Michigan or Oregon at Oregon State which set the stage for a surprise.

The odds favor the highly-ranked Top 10 playoff hopefuls.  The emotions in this matchups usually favor the underdogs, who have the weight of the world on their shoulders.

Florida is seeking revenge for the’94 Choke at Doak against the most vulnerable, undefeated defending national champion in the annals of college football. Brady Hoke’s choked the season and possibly his greatest head coaching job away. Last season, Oregon didn’t pull ahead of their in-state rivals until the final 29 seconds of regulation.

Nothing is given and everything is earned during the season’s penultimate week. Now’s not the time to get caught sleeping or your squad may wake up slushing around in a tub of ice and water clutching the L-shaped stitches on your abdomen.