For all of College Football’s long, wonderful history only one thing has remained constant; small schools do not get a chance at a national title.
No matter how good the team or how terrible the field is that season, a small school will never be given a chance at College Football’s ultimate prize, a National Championship.
This leaves few opportunities to recognize Mid-Major glory, but greatness deserves recognition and I’m here to give it to them in my own way.
To that end, I have created a scoring system to judge who deserves to be crowned Group of 5 National Champion. First up is the 2014 season.
Before we get into that, let me give you a rundown of the scoring system that will be used.
|vs Top 25 Finish||2|
|vs Top 10 Finish||3|
|vs winning record||0.5|
|vs 10+ win team||1|
|Margin of Victory||Points|
|Top 25 Rank||1/week|
|Finish Top 25||1|
|Finish Top 15||2|
|Finish Top 10||3|
|Conf Champ Game||1|
Now that I won’t be throwing random numbers at you and expecting you to know what’s going on like a freshman in an Algebra 2 class, it’s time to crown the 2014 Group of 5 National Champion.
2014 produced three teams in the final AP Top 25 poll: Boise State (16), Marshall (23), and Memphis (25). These are the three teams that will be scored because frankly, the group of 5 cannibalized itself in this particular season.
|Week 1: (17) Ole Miss 13-35 +0|
|Week 2: Colorado State 37-24 +2.5|
|Week 3: @ UConn 38-21 +1.5|
|Week 4: Louisiana 34-9 +3|
|Week 5: @ Air Force 14-28 +0|
|Week 6: @ Nevada 51-46 +2|
|Week 7: BYE +0|
|Week 8: Fresno State 37-27 +1|
|Week 9: BYU 55-30 +4|
|Week 10: BYE +0|
|Week 11: @ New Mexico 60-49 +1.5|
|Week 12: San Diego State 38-29 +1.5|
|Week 13: @ Wyoming 63-14 +5|
|Week 14: Rank: 25 /Utah State 50-19 +5.5|
|Week 15: Rank: 22 / (MW Championship) Fresno State 28-14 +5|
|Bowl Game: Rank: 21 / (Fiesta Bowl) (19) Arizona 38-30 + 9|
|Final: Rank: 16 Points: 42.5|
Boise State’s season started off looking like a complete dud. Squandering a great opportunity on the road against Ole Miss where even a narrow victory would likely lead to them being ranked, this would’ve been a massive boon both in this experiment and in real world national recognition.
This theme of missed opportunities was felt throughout the Broncos’ season until Week 13 against Wyoming. After blowing out the Cowboys Boise State went on an absolute tear, culminating with a New Years 6 bowl victory over Arizona.
Boise State managed to save their season in the final four games and earned a solid score, but this team could have done so much more.
|Week 1: @ Miami (Ohio) 42-27 +1.5|
|Week 2: Rhode Island 48-7 +3.5|
|Week 3: Ohio 44-14 +3|
|Week 4: @ Akron 48-17 +3.5|
|Week 5: BYE +0|
|Week 6: @ Old Dominion 56-14 +4.5|
|Week 7: Middle Tennessee State 49-24 +2.5|
|Week 8: Rank: 25 @ FIU 45-13 +4.5|
|Week 9: Rank: 23 FAU 35-16 +2|
|Week 10: BYE Rank: 23 +1|
|Week 11: Rank: 23 @ Southern Miss 63-17 +6|
|Week 12: Rank: 21 Rice 41-14 +4|
|Week 13: Rank: 18 @ UAB 23-18 +2.5|
|Week 14: Rank: 19 Western Kentucky 66-67 +1|
|Week 15: (Conference Championship) Louisiana Tech 26-23 +4.5|
|Bowl Game: (Boca Raton Bowl) NIU 52-23 +6|
|Final: Rank: 23 Points: 51|
Marshall is the reason Boise State should be kicking themselves.
Marshall shredded their pretty weak schedule and if they hadn’t lost a thriller to Western Kentucky in their only loss of the season, they very likely are the Group of 5 representative in the New Years 6.
Even without the NY6 berth, Marshall still looks like the contender for Group of 5 National Champion because they consistently blew out their competition.
|Week 1: Austin Peay 63-0 +6|
|Week 2: @ (10) UCLA 35-42 +0|
|Week 3: BYE +0|
|Week 4: Middle Tennessee State 36-17 +1|
|Week 5: @ (17) Ole Miss 3-24 +0|
|Week 6: Cincinnati 41-14 +3|
|Week 7: Houston 24-28 +0|
|Week 8: BYE +0|
|Week 9: @ SMU 48-10 +4|
|Week 10: Tulsa 40-20 +2|
|Week 11: @ Temple 16-13 +1.5|
|Week 12: @ Tulane 38-7 +3.5|
|Week 13: USF 31-20 +1|
|Week 14: UConn 41-10 +3|
|Bowl Game (Miami Beach Bowl) BYU 55-48 +4.5|
|Final: Rank: 25 Points: 33.5|
Memphis not only got the same golden opportunity as Boise State against Ole Miss that ended in a similar outcome, but they also nearly upset a UCLA team that would finish number ten.
Memphis didn’t just blow their opportunities against Power 5 opponents, they also failed to capitalize against a relatively weak remaining schedule.
If Memphis completed the upset of UCLA and had taken care of business against Houston, the Tigers are very likely rocking with over 40 points and depending on how long they could have stayed ranked could even have challenged Marshall’s 51 points. A good season for sure but one that could’ve been even better with a few different outcomes.
2014’s G5 National Championship race is really between two schools: Boise State and Marshall. Marshall has the better record (13-1) and Scored 45.6 points per game compared to 21 per game for their opponents.
Beating your opponents by about 25 points on average is truly impressive and would suggest that Marshall was the unequivocal 2014 Group of 5 National Champ.
However, their low AP ranking, lack of a New Years 6 berth and their Strength of Schedule score being a -5.80 (109th in the nation) according to Sports Reference could hurt their chances at the Group of 5’s top prize.
Meanwhile, Boise State finished with a 12-2 record, and not only earned a New Year’s 6 bowl berth but defeated an Arizona team (10-4) in that bowl game, finished 16th in the Top 25 and accomplished this against a strength of schedule of -0.07 (67th in the nation). Combine that with them scoring 39.7 points a game while allowing 26.8 points per game and they make a strong bid to be named National Champ.
However, it is important to note that Boise State won the Mountain West over a Fresno State squad that entered with a 6-6 record and ended their season 6-8. Even with a Charmin extra soft conference championship win they still defeated one more double-digit win team than Marshall did which indicates that Boise State is up to the task of challenging Marshall for Group of 5 supremacy.
To even the playing field, remove the Ole Miss loss and the two teams look much more equal. Both have one loss to fellow Group of 5 schools, although Marshall’s one-point loss to Western Kentucky looks more respectable than Boise State’s 14-point loss to Air Force, and both dominated many of their opponents. But did Boise State really deserve their New Years 6 bowl? Even with the Ole Miss loss removed it is still questionable as all Boise State has is a win over a double-digit win team (Utah State) and a tougher overall schedule (but one that would lose much of its luster without Ole Miss). Neither would’ve played a Power 5 team and Marshall decimated its foes more consistently. Boise State may have received the New Year’s 6 berth more because they were a name brand already known as the OG “BCS Buster” rather than being the best Group of 5 team available.
Because of the shaky ground of Boise State’s New Year’s 6 berth and how Marshall completely slaughtered their opponents more thoroughly than Boise State, Marshall will be crowned Group of 5 National Champs giving them the right to make a real national championship claim that will be ridiculed by most of the college football world. Congratulations Marshall and Boise State don’t let this make you forget you’re the Group of 5’s best hope of a real national title one day.