Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Playoff Selection: An Autopsy

For better or for worse, the College Football "Playoffs" are finally here in FBS (1-A, because Bowl Subdivision certainly doesn't apply in any way that matters) football. While most of what was announced today wasn't much of a surprise, there was one bomb that went off that certainly shook things up, and I believe that was the intent on the committee all along. Following is a postmortem of what was announced this morning.

#1 Alabama
Ok...I don't really have too much issue with how this broke down at the top. I don't really know that I would have placed Bama on top, but when we are only talking four seeds, it matters very little who is selected one through four on neutral surfaces. In basketball, it matters, but in football, not so much.
Alabama really locked down their spot here as soon as they knocked off Mississippi State weeks ago. Nobody else on the Tide schedule had any real zing power to take Alabama down, and Alabama got stronger week by week. This pick was not a lock for me, but it makes sense.

#2 Oregon
Again, I am certainly fine with Oregon in the number two slot, based on what they did on the entire season. They won their most challenging out of conference game handily, pounding Michigan State back in September, and Michigan State is a damn good football team. Their only loss was to Arizona, and that was more than made up for in Santa Clara Friday night in the PAC-12 title game. The Ducks very well could win the whole thing, but they have to get by number three first.

#3 Florida State
Here's my issue here. FSU should have been ranked number one by virtue of being the last undefeated squad in the country. I don't care how you get there, but you got there. If you have not lost to anyone, including after having played a conference title game, you should be able to take a number one spot in a non-scientific ranking. Our PRS rankings are a series of stats and numbers that take account for several items, so FSU may not pan out there. The Seminoles met every challenge week by week, and survived serious and potentially dire off-field issues to remain unbeaten week after week. That's saying something. I suppose I should just be happy for Jimbo and crew that the committee didn't dump them altogether, which was a legitimate fear.

#4 Ohio State
Here is my serious problem with this whole mess. You are looking at body of work. That's our new college football buzz phrase. If that were the case, the Buckeyes would not have made it. At the end of the day, Ohio State had one loss, as did TCU and Baylor. For weeks now, TCU has outranked Ohio State according to this same committee. Yesterday, Ohio State won the Big Ten title in impressive fashion, crushing Wisconsin 59-0. TCU, which had been ranked third, beat Iowa State 55-3. How are you going to tell me, that based on your votes and numbers, that for weeks and weeks, TCU had a better body of work, because you had them ranked third, as many as two to three spots ahead of Ohio State, that in one single day that was no longer so? For you South Park fans out there, it's like the Wookiee Defense. If an eight foot tall Wookiee is living on Endor with a four foot tall Ewok, it doesn't make sense. You must acquit.
I'm not knocking Ohio State folks, so keep your panties out of a bunch. Ohio State had a fantastic season, and overcame a boatload to get to this point, beating Wisconsin with a third string QB in slamming fashion. However, there is only one true thing that you can look at, and that is who Ohio State, TCU, and Baylor all lost to.

Left Behind
So, if we look at the one common thread between, say, TCU and Ohio State, it is a situation where both lost once. TCU lost to Baylor, who ranks fifth. Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech, who finished with seven wins, and isn't in the national vernacular. They both played Minnesota. TCU destroyed the Gophers 31-0, while the Buckeyes struggled largely until the fourth to pull away. If you have to look at that, TCU is the team to be in the playoff. Simple as that.
Now, let's add the Baylor wrinkle. Baylor beat TCU. That being said, Baylor, despite being tied at the top of the standings of the Big 12 with TCU, should be ranked ahead of TCU if a voting poll is the way we are doing this. In theory, this fact should knock TCU out of the conversation, and place Baylor head to head with the Buckeyes. If this were the case, I can now see why Ohio State gets in over Baylor. It actually makes sense.
The final number that comes down to is that Baylor did not play in a conference title game, and Ohio State did. The Big 12 has no such beast, and consider the fact that Baylor and TCU finished tied for the conference title in the Big 12. That made it easy for the committee to toss both Baylor and TCU on their ass, and take Ohio State to the dance. That, in the end, is the only decision making factor left that actually makes any sense whatsoever.
That fact does not support, however, Jeff Long's explanation of body of work. Where the committee falls short on their final selection is the ability to just acknowledge the pink elephant in the middle of the small room. The lack of a Big 12 title game is exactly what killed both Baylor and TCU, because a resume does not change in one freaking day! If that resume was good ever since October for TCU, it certainly didn't change up on one day in early December. It's a complete load of crap.
The Buckeyes, in the end, didn't do anything not to deserve the bid. But please, let's be honest about why TCU and Baylor did not.

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