Marshall dug a hole early on the road at Southern Mississippi Saturday, but Rakeem Cato and company went on fire to return home with a dominating 63-17 victory. For Marshall to start kicking some dust and taking a firm hold of the race for an access bowl spot, these are the types of victories it is going to need the rest of the way.
Marshall’s biggest negative is their strength of schedule. Despite being undefeated, Marshall was placed behind East Carolina in the debut of the College Football Playoff rankings two weeks ago. Despite having one loss on their record, the Pirates were put in the pole position in the Group of Five race. But then East Carolina lost on the road to Temple and dropped out of the second rankings. Marshall was still nowhere to be found in the ranking. Neither was any other Group of Five school.
The problem with discussing Marshall in the Group of Five conversation is the selection committee has given no indication where the Thundering Herd rank right now compared to other potential options. No Group of Five school was ranked in the latest College Football Playoff selection committee rankings, so who knows if Marshall is ahead of the pack or trailing schools like Colorado State, East Carolina or Boise State. It is basically anybody’s guess right now.
Will Marshall need some help even if they go undefeated? It might be something worth keeping an eye on. Would a 13-0 Marshall be seen more favorably than a 11-2 Boise State with a Mountain West Conference championship? Yes, Boise State is worth discussing at this point after finding a way out of New Mexico with a win Saturday night. Boise State is also sitting in front of a Colorado State team that could go 11-1 and be left out of the mix under the structure of the new system. You could make a case for Boise State and Colorado State to be ahead of Marshall. East Carolina is likely not out of the picture yet either, despite two losses. East Carolina still has a pair of victories over ACC schools and both losses came against stronger teams that appear on Marshall’s schedule this season.
If Marshall keeps winning and goes 13-0, their case for receiving the access bowl spot will be made. How it stacks up against a one or two loss champion from the Mountain West Conference or a two-loss team from the American Athletic Conference is what needs to be answered.