Jeremy Harper: Can the Red Wolves Make the College Football Playoff?


Desperate for a tantalizing topic to entertain readers before college football’s opening kickoff, bored sportswriters have promoted the idea that the SEC could possibly, possibly be shut out for the first ever College Football Playoff. The reasoning is that the SEC is so amazing (of course) that it will cannibalize its chances during conference play, opening the door to less worthy programs. 

Listen, y’all, that’s not happening. Not when the chair of the committee is an SEC athletic director. Even Kentucky has a chance to make The Four. Consider too that the most powerful voice in sports, ESPN, is launching a billion dollar network just for the SEC.

Chances are greater that we’ll see four SEC teams in the playoffs than seeing zero.

The bigger question is, what chances do we have of seeing a Mid-Major break the Membrane of Four?

According to an excellent Sports Illustrated article, a number of factors would have to align for the door to open to a mid-major program:

• An undefeated record

• Wins over two respected power-conference foes, one of which finishes the season in or near the top 10

• Either a third win over a decent power-conference opponent or two wins over respectable mid-majors that typically play in bowls

• One Top 25 win over a conference foe and a league schedule with no more than two opponents ranked in the bottom third of the FBS

By that criteria, for A-State to make the playoffs this year, we’d have to go undefeated, hope that Miami cracks the Top 10 despite a loss to a visiting Sun Belt opponent, see ULL crack the Top 25, count on mediocre seasons from the aristocrats of the Privileged Five, and pray that Idaho, Georgia State and New Mexico don’t suck.

That’s a tall order.

Improbable, yes, but not impossible (except for the part about Idaho not sucking). But even if A-State or ANY mid-major met those lofty requirements, is there really any chance we’ll ever see it happen?

Further consider the make-up of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee, an august conglomerate of the most noted minds in football, tournament formats, and politics. It’s not a bad bunch. But who, if any on this committee, is a true friend of Mid-Major programs?

Lacking the technology to truly gauge the hearts of committee members, we must assess this situation through wild conjecture and pseudoscience (two disciplines for which I need no instruction). I won’t allow you into the top secret process. Just rest assured some kind of process was applied.


Jeff Long

University of Arkansas AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Dedicated to keeping the mid-majors in his state “in their place.”

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 0%


Barry Alverez

University of Wisconsin AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: N/A

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 0%


Michael Gould

Air Force Academy Superintendent

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Played for and coached Air Force

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 20%


Pat Haden

University of Southern California AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Once played in the World Football League, the mid-major of professional football leagues.

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 2%


Tom Jernstedt

Former NCAA VP

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Is credited for developing the modern NCAA Basketball championship, which is friendly to Mid-Majors

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 50%


Oliver Luck

West Virginia AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: N/A

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 0%


Archie Manning

College and NFL Icon

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Played on some really bad Saints teams

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 1%


Tom Osborne

University of Nebraska AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: N/A

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 0%


Dan Radakovich

Clemson AD

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Once played for something called the IUP Crimson Hawks

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 40%


Condoleeza Rice

Former Secretary of State, Stanford Provost

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Hung out with a lot of mid-major nations

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 5%


Mike Tranghese

Former Big East Commissioner

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Big East became a Mid-Major so maybe that’s something?

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 2%


Steve Wieberg

Former USA TODAY reporter

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: Dedicated to a journalistic code promoting impartial balance, amirite?

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 10%


Tyrone Willingham

Coach at Stanford, Notre Dame and Washington

Notable Mid-Major Achievements: He might remember that he was once an assistant coach at Central Michigan

Predicted Commitment to Mid-Major: 9%


You gotta admit, Mid-Majors don’t have any chums on the Committee – not one Other Five athletic director, conference president, or retired coach. There’s not a single person on this committee even remotely interested in seeing Central Florida or Boise State or Marshall or any other rising Mid-Major steal thunder from a program that’s already insanely resourced without going to a playoff.

So forget it, y’all. The Power Five said the door was open to Mid-Majors, but the bouncers ain’t having it. But hey, we still have the GoDaddy Bowl.

college football playoff trophy


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