Marshall in the SEC (11/12/14)

By John Ewing Director of Research and Analytics @johnewing
Should Marshall be in the College Football Playoff? Plus, odds that Mississippi State and Florida State finish the season undefeated.



For the third week in a row Mississippi State and Florida State are at the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. For the third week in a row, Marshall, the nation's other undefeated team has been left out of the rankings.

The Thundering Herd keeps winning but it doesn't seem to matter.

Marshall averages 295.1 rushing yards (7th overall), 270.6 passing yards (37th overall) and 47.8 points (2nd overall) per game. The Herd has defeated all comers by an average of more than four touchdowns per game.

The problem with Marshall, the team's strength of schedule is weak. The Herd has played the 126th ranked schedule in the country, which is the third easiest.

If Marshall finishes the season undefeated it is unlikely that the Herd will make a Cinderella run to the four-team playoff. Having not played a single game against a team from the Power 5 conferences, Marshall will be on the outside looking in.

What would happen if Marshall played a tougher schedule? To find out, we used 50,000 simulations to determine how many games Marshall would win if the team played Mississippi State's schedule.

On average, Marshall would finish with a win/loss record of 7.0-5.0. Against tougher competition the Herd's scoring average would drop to 32.1 points per game, a difference of more than two touchdowns from its current scoring average.

Marshall is undefeated but in the SEC the Herd would likely have five losses.

This doesn't mean Marshall is a bad team. Most teams would lose a few games against an SEC schedule. We ran the same simulation with Florida State playing Mississippi State's schedule and the Noles lost three games on average.

On a neutral field, Florida State against Marshall is a close game. The defending champions are the projected favorites but not the prohibitive choice. The Seminoles win 55 percent of the time by an average score of 31-28.

In fact, when we simulate Marshall against Florida State's schedule, the Herd are favored in all games except on the road against Louisville and Miami. If we rerun the season for Florida State, the Noles would be favored in every game except at Miami this weekend.

Marshall will not make the College Football Playoff, but if they played Florida State's schedule they would be in the conversation.

College Football's Undefeateds



Mississippi State has three regular season games remaining including two on the road at Alabama and Ole Miss. We simulated the remainder of the Bulldog's regular season schedule 50,000 times and the Dawgs have an 11.3 percent chance of winning out.

Florida State has an easier schedule, Miami (FL) and Florida are in the top 20 of our Power Rankings but still not top five teams like Alabama and Ole Miss. The Seminoles have a 21.5 percent chance of winning its remaining regular season games and finishing unbeaten.

This means there is an 69.6 percent chance that there will be no undefeated teams from the Power 5 conferences at the end of the year and a 2.4 percent chance that both teams win out.