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Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Playoff Selection Post

Ok, one more football post, but maybe I should cap this at three in a row. I may update this one after the actual selections have been made. Suffice it to say that this year feels like a strong vindication for those who said we'd need more than 4 teams for a good play-off. I count myself as one such person, though I don't think there is a magic number which works every year. I did propose a scheme in which we could have a variable number, 6-12 as needed, and which makes use of the committee to 1) choose how many, and then 2) choose the seeding order.

This year there are 6 teams which have good claims to be in--the link lists them, but there are no surprises here, and I don't actually agree with Sports Illustrated's assessment this time. Florida State should probably rank first, by nature of the fact that they are the lone undefeated, and that they played three power-5 foes in their out of conference games (Oklahoma State, Florida, and Notre Dame), with good (though way too close) wins over Georgia Tech (who just beat Georgia...), Louisville, and Clemson (each won at least 9 games).

I would rank Oregon second, much as I hate to do so, because they had the best out-of-conference win (Michigan State), and avenged their only loss (Arizona) in dominant fashion. After those top 2, it gets a little more murky. For one thing, the two conferences with the best records against other power 5 conferences were the Pac-12 (8-3) and the ACC (10-7, 4-0 against the SEC). The SEC west was decent, and went 4-0 against power 5 conference opponents, but given that there are 7 teams in the SEC west, having only 4 power-5 foes seems a little cowardly. Granted, two of those foes were Wisconsin (LSU) and Kansas State (Auburn), but the conference itself didn't seem as dominant: e.g. LSU barely getting the win at home against a Wisconsin team which just lost 59-0 to Ohio State's third-string quarterback, Auburn escaping Manhattan with a with over a good KSU team which was blown out by TCU and beaten soundly by Baylor, and Alabama escaping Morgantown against WVU (albeit a WVU team which was better than its record and which was a brutal teams to play in Morgantown, as witnessed by Baylor).

I would probably put Baylor third, because they have a win over the best opponent (TCU, albeit barely), and I've long loathed that "worst loss" always manages to trump "best win" (see both Texas and USC in 2008, for example, or Oklahoma State in 2011, or Oregon in 2001, or Washington in 2000). I could maybe be convinced that they should get left out over their own cowardly scheduling, but I think that the only really fair way to do that is to also leave out the TCU team that they beat on the field. The thing is, TCU's marquee opponent was Minnesota, which had a decent season this year (8-4, a win over Nebraska), but they're not exactly a top-tier team, nor have they been any time recently.

Other marquee opponents of the top-6 teams not named Baylor or TCU include Oklahoma State, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Florida, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech--all of whom have been consistently decent if not actually good in the recent past. If Baylor is 3rd, Alabama should be fourth given that the world would cry foul over leaving the SEC out, and I could be persuaded to swap the rankings of Baylor and Alabama. Oddly enough, I think that of the three teams which are in likely contention for getting left out (Baylor, Ohio State, and TCU), Baylor would probably actually fare the worst in the playoff itself, so the part of me that wants not-FSU (Winston), not-Oregon (rival), and not Alabama (SEC) to be champion is kind of rooting against Baylor's getting in.

This is not how I think the committee will rank tings, anyway. My gut impression is that Alabama will be ranked first for playing in the SEC, and Oregon will probably get ranked second. I have trouble believing that FSU gets left out, or that the committee will now jump Baylor over both OSU and TCU. I can see the Big-12 getting left out of this one, with FSU possibly getting a 4th place seed. In this scenario I would probably root for Ohio State to win it all.

I called it. FSU got the 3rd seed and not the fourth, and the Big 12 got the shaft, which is I suppose one way to resolve which team (Baylor or TCU) should get in over the other. Alabama got ranked first (for being from the SEC), and Oregon second (for being dominant and for avenging its only loss).

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