Any Given Saturday, Week 9: Ranking Regular Season Losses And The Undefeated Marshall Matters LP 

There will be at least two one-loss teams planted in the four-team college football playoff field.

However, the method for picking the four participants is ambiguous so far.

Without access to the playoff committee’s discussions and criteria all we can do is speculate. Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida State are the current undefeated perched safely above the other 21 teams with blemishes on their records.

Judging their worthiness is extremely difficult because of the multitude of factors that must be processed into the equation. The BCS formula used to be a more quantitative approach to business of selecting a championship game. The human touch will incorporate a qualitative method.

If the college football playoff is weighing these one loss teams against one another, not only should the margin of victory be considered, but so should the circumstances of the lone losses on their respective schedules.

1. Notre Dame's loss @ Florida State

If a one-loss team deserves consideration from outside the SEC, Notre Dame has earned an opportunity. The Golden Domers marched into Tallahassee and gave Florida State all they could handle. Technically, Corey Robinson caught the game-winning touchdown pass. Whether or not offensive pass interference should have been called is a question that will rage on weeks, months, years and decades in the annals of Notre Dame football history.

2. Alabama's loss @ Ole Miss

Another rode game, this one in The Grove, was tight throughout. The juice provided by Ole Miss’ home crowd provided the Rebels the spark they needed to win. On a neutral field, it could have gone either way.

3. TCU's loss @ Baylor

It was a valiant effort for the first 50 minutes in Waco. However, Baylor’s sails found a second wind and a cautious TCU watching the clock instead of the scoreboard suddenly found itself without a paddle in the middle of the ocean when Baylor stormed back and then took the lead. If a Big 12 team deserves entry, it should probably be the loser of this matchup instead of Baylor.

4. UGA's loss @ South Carolina

Watching UGA get its secondary amputated by Dylan Thompson’s scalpel was an awful scene to witness. Despite their numerous coverage gaps, UGA still had multiple opportunities to win and tie. Marshall Morgan, who'd missed a kick earlier, then shanked a 28-yard chip shot wide right.

5. Auburn's loss @ Mississippi State

Scouts loved Marshall’s performance against Mississippi State, but the Tigers required perfection against a Mississippi State defense that was marching up and down the field like a drum major. There’s no shame on losing your path against the largest crowd in Mississippi State history.

6. Nebraska's loss @ Michigan State

The Huskers No. 2 ranked rushing attack was held 308 yards below their season average, Tommy Armstrong threw two picks and it took a three touchdown fourth quarter to even make this competitive.

7. Baylor's loss @ West Virginia

This is one of the most inexcusable losses in school history. After digging themselves out from a hole against TCU, Baylor may have been gassed physically and emotionally.

8. Oregon's home loss to Arizona

Rich Rodriguez created the formula that Chip Kelly used as the basis for his Oregon offenses and in consecutive years at Arizona, he’s upended one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. The Zona defense forced two Mariota fumbles. It doesn’t matter if Heisman finalist Jake Fisher was  unavailable, they should have had the horsepower to defeat Arizona at home.

9. Arizona's loss @ USC

Arizona is another one-loss team that lost because of kicker hijinks. After trailing the Trojans two touchdowns, Anu Solomon helped deliver the Wildcats offense into the endzone on consecutive drives, but failed to score on the two-point conversion with just over minute remaining.

Kicker Casey Skowron must have felt some type of way about not being given an opportunity to kick his traditional extra point because after a successful onside kick, and a few quick strikes from Solomon, Skowron shanked the game-winning field goal 40 yards right.


LIES, DAMN LIES, AND HEISMAN STATISTICS – 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.

Dak Prescott (QB, Mississippi State)- A rested Prescott gets an opportunity to pad his stats for one half against Kentucky. If he’s out there once the fourth quarter’s begun, something has gone horribly wrong.

Jake Fisher (OT, Oregon) – Just apply the Duck test here. If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. You can’t have it both ways Oregon. Marcus Mariota can’t be the most outstanding player in the country and dependent on the presence of a single left tackle whose presence uplifts the entire offense. With Fisher in the lineup during the first two weeks of the season, Mariota was sackedfour times and the Ducks averaged 52 points per game. With Fisher out of the lineup, Mariota was sacked 12 times in three games and the Ducks didn't rush for a sngle touchdown against Washington State or Arizona.

Against UCLA in Fisher's return, Mariota was never sacked and the Ducks sank the Bruins with 42 points and the Ducks rushed for a touchdown quartet. Against Washington last weekend, Mariota was sacked three times against the Pac-12's most fomidable front four.

The O on the side of the Oregon helmets should stand for offensive linemen. The five blockers up front are the building blocks of Oregon's offense. It's time they start  getting the respect they deserve.

Marcus Mariota (QB, Oregon) – Mariota still hasn’t thrown an interception this season. However, he’ll have to make up ground to his own lineman.  

Senquez Golson (DB, Ole Miss) – Chicks and Heisman voters love quarterbacks, but as above his head as Bo Wallace is playing, this team’s Most Valuable Player lies on the defense. Someone has to represent the nation’s No. 1 defense. Golson ranks second nationally in interceptions, reeled in the pick that beat Alabama and caught two more against Tennessee last weekend.


MARSHALL MATTERS: Thundering Herd Making Noise

Marshall’s history has been a rich one for the last two decades. Most fans know the football program for their response to Southern Airways Flight 932.

However, Marshall football has been flourishing outside of the BCS limelight since winning its second FCS national championship with Randy Moss during its farewell Division I-AA tour in 1997.

Minus Moss, the Thundering Herd adjusted quickly to the next level of college football and flowed through the 99 season without a blemish on their record.

The fulcrum of those teams was quarterback Chad Pennington.

Pennington's 11,446 yards, 107:30 touchdown to interception ratio was the benchmark by which all quarterbacks have been measured.

The Marshall Plan involves Rakeem Cato lighting up the sky with his right arm.

Last weekend, Cato eclipsed Pennington’s touchdown mark in the third quarter of their win over Florida International.

Earlier this season, Cato surpassed Byron Leftwich for No. 2 on the career passing yardage list. At some point, this season he may supplant himself as the passing yardage leader in school history.

The one thing Cato lacks is an undefeated season on his Curriculum Vitae and Heisman consideration.

The Heisman love will come, but this season is bringing the worst fear for every school that was fearful of the BCS’ replacement.

 Undefeated Marshall is finally entering the Top 25 polls, seven weeks into the season, but their soft schedule doesn’t afford them many opportunities to climb past the militia of one-loss teams guarding the top 10.

The 13-man playoff committee being devoid of a respected non-Power 5 representative hurts their chances even more.

While Notre Dame, Alabama, UGA and Oregon will get a second look from the committee, Marshall is inconspicuously being given the cold-shoulder.

Sensing that the committee would need a little nudge to consider Marshall for the playoff, Conference USA hired a public relations firm to aid

This would never have been possible under the BCS model. Conference USA’s theory is that humans are more susceptible to persuasion.

This is only the beginning. It starts with a PR firm and in a few years we’re investigating a committee member for allegedly receiving impermissible gifts in the form of insider trading tips from T. Boone Pickens in exchange for an Oklahoma State.

A new system will inevitably bring about a whole new set of challenges.

Welcome to the playoff era.

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