Colorado State could very well go 11-1 this season, but even that may not be enough for the Rams to sniff a spot in one of the College Football Playoff affiliated bowls. We should still be paying attention to them though, just as we will East Carolina and Marshall.
As you hopefully are aware now, one spot in the access bowls will be reserved for the highest-ranked conference champion from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference or Sun Belt Conference. In the initial College Football Playoff selection committee ranking unveiled Tuesday night, East Carolina entered the ranking at No. 23. Undefeated Marshall was unranked, and no other team from a non-power conference appeared in the poll either. This means East Carolina is now, I suppose officially, the team to beat in the rankings for the reserved big bowl spot.
Of course, East Carolina still needs to win the American Athletic Conference and still has games against UCF and Cincinnati to get by to make that happen. But the Pirates sit in a good position. Marshall is unranked but figures to be next in line if East Carolina happens to stumble. Although, an argument could be made for UCF or Cincinnati to pass the Thundering Herd if either gets by ECU in the American. We’ll worry about that down the line if it pops up.
But what about Colorado State? I previously discussed how Boise State is still an interesting cog in the race for the access bowl spot, and they are. So is Colorado State.
The Rams look to be one of the top teams in the Mountain West Conference and have two victories over power conference opponents, just like East Carolina. The rams have a neutral site victory over Colorado and flew across the country to Boston to take down Boston College earlier this season. The only team to beat Colorado State this season is Boise State, and herein lies the biggest obstacle for Colorado State to jump. And they can’t even do anything about it now.
Because Boise State defeated Colorado State, the Broncos own a head-to-head tiebreaker in the Mountain Division of the MWC. Both teams have one loss in conference play, so Colorado State needs to win the remaining games on their schedule. At the same time, Colorado State needs Boise State to lose at least once. Winning the division will allow Colorado State a chance to play for the Mountain West Conference championship, with a potential shot at a big bowl game on the line.
In theory, a 12-1 Colorado State team would have every bit as strong an argument to play in a New Years bowl as East Carolina. What’s more, the argument for Colorado State could also become stronger if East Carolina’s biggest wins (Virginia Tech and North Carolina) struggle down the stretch. If strength of schedule is an important factor in the rankings, and the evidence suggests it is, Colorado State could be on par with East Carolina. This should add a little more intrigue to this week’s ACC contest between Boston College and Virginia Tech.
Bottom line, Colorado State is still in the running. The Rams need some help along the way, and Boise State does appear to have a tougher final stretch than Colorado State, so there is hope.