Is the gap growing between the “Power” and “Non-Power” Conferences?

By Alex O’Connor

Marshall has had a historic football season, where they currently sit at 9-0 and are the clear frontrunners in Conference USA. Marshall is also one of three undefeated teams left. As conferences have been realigning rapidly not only in football, but basketball, there has been an increasing concern that the “power” conferences are getting more powerful each time there is a new alignment. NBCSports has noted that Marshall’s streak is special, but there is a large amount of hesitancy on whether or not it will matter if they finish undefeated.

Currently, Marshall is ranked twenty-first in the country, according to the latest AP Top 25, and they are notably unranked in the College Football Playoff Rankings. With the addition of the new playoff system, the twelve committee members are using new statistics to measure the quality of the eligible schools. The most notable new statistic is “FPI”, which stands for the Football Power Index. Per ESPN.com, FPI is a measure of team strength that is meant to be the best predictor of performance going forward for the rest of the season. Given the opponents Marshall has faced in and out of conference, there is no indication that they are anywhere near the top four teams in the country. The establishment of FPI has only furthered the gap between power and non power conferences.

In regards to the media, there is always a desire to find an underdog, or a team that can come out of nowhere to shock the bigger teams. This is especially prevalent in college football. fbschedules.com noted that Marshall going undefeated in this new playoff format will be a true determination if the non-power conferences are actually playing for that grand prize.

A recent example of a small school having major success in the previous format was Boise State. In 2006, Boise State won all twelve of their scheduled games. Though they were and still are in a non power conference, (WAC) they were still slotted into a major BCS Bowl Game which was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. They ended up winning that game by one point over Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma. For the time being, Boise State gave smaller schools at the glory of a big college football bowl game. Now that only four teams compete for the National Championship and the former big BCS bowl games will have considerably less attention than the final four teams. The new playoff system has only made it harder for non-power conference teams to break into the national spotlight and the balance of authority is shifting heavily towards the power conferences.

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