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Thursday, October 22, 2015

It's Hard Out Here for a Non-Power Five Team

Yes, that was a Hustle & Flow reference, mayne.

I thought I left my "we all we got" mantra back in the Big East, where it could at least get us somewhere, but I find myself taking interest in the teams in the American that remain undefeated and still have a shot at making a New Years Six bowl game. As I watch, I realize how utterly improbably it is for even the best group of five teams to make it into the four team playoff.

How improbable? Let's take a look at Memphis, currently the highest ranked among group of five teams, and with a marquee win against still ranked Ole Miss - who beat Bama - from the Mighty SEC. I tried to plot a road map that would get them into the playoff, and I realized such a map has a whole lot of turns.

Memphis' best win, Ole Miss, needs to win out and win the SEC, while Bama gets at least one more loss
Houston and Temple, the American's two other undefeated teams, would need to win out, losing only to Memphis. This would pit an undefeated Memphis against an undefeated Temple in the American title game. Temple would have also handed Notre Dame another loss on their way there.
The Big Ten champ needs to be as weak as possible. Let's say Iowa, a team with no top 25 opponents, advances out of the West. Someone would need to come roaring up in the East to unseat Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan. Let's make it Penn State... who lost to the American East champ Temple.

These pieces may effectively remove the SEC, Big Ten, and Notre Dame from the mix, and Memphis would have a win over the SEC champion and the one loss American runner up who has a win over the Big Ten champion. Is this enough? Probably not. Assuming the ACC, Big 12, and Pac-12 champions head to the playoff, there's still a good chance that one of the major conference runners up - especially a one loss Baylor/TCU/Oklahoma State, or a two-loss, non-division winning Bama - could still get the call.

So what would it take for a group of five team to advance to the playoff? We don't yet have enough data from the playoff committee to know for sure, but I would imagine it would take multiple years of sustained success, like what nearly got Boise State in during the BCS era. The thing is, the playoff committee has shown that their rankings don't have quite the inertia that the AP Coaches, or BCS have had. They are tasked specifically with taking the current year into account. Add to that the fact that it's had to see a coach like Justin Fuente remaining at the mid major level after a year like this, and programs like Memphis may forever be behind the 8ball.

And MJG.

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