HUNTINGTON — Marshall’s football team lost control of its own destiny in the Conference USA East Division race with last week’s loss to Charlotte, but the chances for the Thundering Herd to host the C-USA championship have increased after a change in the league’s divisional tiebreaker format.
Conference USA released a statement Tuesday on the clarification of tiebreaker policies surrounding the selection of a division champion.
“On Monday, our Athletics Directors clarified the ‘Two-team or multiple-team tie for divisional champion’ by adding ‘Highest average computer ranking’ following ‘Highest CFP ranking,’ ” the statement said.
The “highest average computer ranking” will take into account the following six established ratings systems: Sagarin, Massey, Colley Matrix, Wolfe, Anderson and Hester and Billingsley. Those six computer ratings indexes were also used to compute a composite for the BCS system prior to the College Football Playoff’s birth in 2014.
As for Conference USA, the change involved the league’s eighth tiebreaker, which used to state that the divisional champion would be the team that had not participated in the championship game most recently.
That did two things: (1) It brought into play factors that occurred before the current season of play that was directly affected, and (2) rewarded a team that had not shown consistency in getting to the title game. Neither of those were ideal for the league.
So why the big deal about a factor that far down the pecking order on the tiebreaker list? Because there is a decent chance that it could become relevant by the end of the week.
Louisiana Tech, Southern Miss and UAB are all tied at 5-2 in Conference USA’s West Division and all 1-1 in head-to-head with each one another. And, should all three win this weekend, the tiebreaker would not be able to be broken before that eighth scenario.
The goal of the league’s athletic directors was to keep the determinants within the season in which the game was being played, as Conference USA said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. It also adds consistency to the formula by implementing the same standards that are used for determining a host between the East and West champions when tiebreakers exist.
“This mirrors the policy to determine the host and enforces the intent that the competitive results determine the outcome,” Conference USA said in the release.
So how exactly does that affect Marshall? Well, potentially not at all, if Marshall or Southern Miss loses. But it could factor in a major way if both teams win this week. Marshall (7-4 overall, 5-2 C-USA) hosts FIU (6-5, 3-4) while Southern Miss (7-4, 5-2) travels to Florida Atlantic (8-3, 6-1).
The East Division is a pretty cut-and-dry scenario. If Florida Atlantic beats Southern Miss and/or Marshall loses to FIU, the Owls are the East Division champions and will host the Conference USA championship game by way of having the best conference record.
If Florida Atlantic loses and Marshall wins, the Herd is the East Division champion and would host in several scenarios, one being definite and the others being likely, but not official until Saturday evening.
They are as follows:
n If Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss win and UAB loses, Louisiana Tech wins the West, based on head-to-head. Marshall would host the title game, based on its head-to-head win against Louisiana Tech.
n If all three win on Saturday, the winner of Conference USA’s West Division would be chosen by the computer ratings, as outlined above. If that is Louisiana Tech, Marshall would host, based on head-to-head. If it’s Southern Miss or UAB, the host would be determined by the highest average computer ranking.
n If Southern Miss and UAB win, Marshall played neither head-to-head, so the computer rankings would come into play to determine a host. As of Tuesday, Marshall is well ahead of both Southern Miss and UAB in average rankings. Those rankings will be updated following Saturday’s games.
Marshall head coach Doc Holliday said his focus is on one thing: beating FIU on Saturday. That will be a chore in itself after the Panthers got a program-changing win over the University of Miami last weekend.
While Holliday’s focus was on FIU, he added that he did have some allegiances this weekend in C-USA matchups, most notably, Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson.
“Are we Southern Miss fans this week? Hell yeah, we are,” Holliday said. “Jay’s my best friend right now.”