What would the BCS bowls look like if Ohio State were bowl eligible?

Assuming Ohio State won the B1GCG, we have the following through auto-bids:

  • Rose: Stanford vs. ______
  • Sugar: Alabama vs. ______
  • Fiesta: K-State vs. ______
  • Orange: FSU vs. ______

Louisville would also be assured a spot in an as-yet undetermined bowl as Big East champ, and Florida would be assured of one by finishing in the top 4 of the final rankings. Since Florida and Alabama are both assured of a BCS bowl bid, that means no more SEC teams (thanks to the 2-per-conference rule).

Assuming all else equal, the final BCS standings would presumably look like they currently do, but with Ohio State at #2 and everyone else bumped down by one. That means no NIU busting. Also, at-large selections must be from the BCS top 14, so that leaves only three potential at-large teams: Oregon, Oklahoma, and Oregon State.

So the Rose gets the first selection, since they are replacing the B1G champ. There are no B1G teams eligible in the at-large field, so they would probably take Oklahoma to fill their opening, due to proximity.

Next to pick is the Fiesta. They would probably gobble up Oregon to play against Kansas State just like they did in reality. That leaves:

  • Rose: Stanford vs. Oklahoma
  • Sugar: Alabama vs. ______
  • Fiesta: K-State vs. Oregon
  • Orange: FSU vs. ______

There are two open slots left, and Florida and Louisville are guaranteed those spots. This is where it gets really interesting. The Sugar gets next pick for its bowl, and could choose Louisville or Florida.

If the Sugar took Louisville, then that would leave Florida in an Orange Bowl rematch of its final regular-season game with FSU, which would just be a major bummer. Plus, Louisville is probably a less appealing participant (in terms of fan travel and TV ratings), all else equal, than Florida.

If the Sugar took Florida, then it’s getting a matchup of two SEC teams (albeit a pair that didn’t play in the regular season). This might not be very exciting for either fan base and probably wouldn’t draw very good ratings either.

So I would not be surprised if they enacted the clause of the BCS that allows for switching around of teams to make more appealing match-ups. In that case, we’d probably end up with:

  • Rose: Stanford vs. Oklahoma
  • Sugar: Alabama vs. FSU
  • Fiesta: K-State vs. Oregon
  • Orange: Florida vs. Louisville

What would this year’s postseason look like under the forthcoming 2014 post-BCS system?

Let’s start with the playoff field.

Based on the BCS rankings and the mock selection committee that SI.com hosted last week the playoff field would be:

  1. Notre Dame
  2. Alabama
  3. Florida
  4. Oregon

I think there is a good chance that Stanford would actually be taken instead of Oregon in this situation. It is pretty much an exact reversal of last season’s situation between Stanford and Oregon (conference champ and head-to-head victor ranked lower due to non-con loss to #1 team), and last year the consensus seemed to be that #5 Oregon deserved to be in ahead of #4 Stanford. Kansas State also has a chance, since they are the second-highest ranked conference champion and it has been stated that conference champion status will be valued by the committee.

For our purposes here, let’s assume the four teams mentioned above would be the playoff field.

There are six bowls (with the automatic participants in parentheses):

  • Rose (B1G vs P12)
  • Sugar (B12 vs SEC)
  • Orange (ACC vs ND/B1G/SEC)
  • Cotton
  • Fiesta
  • Peach

Additionally, the highest-ranked champion from the “Group of Five” (Big East, MAC, MWC, and C-USA) will earn a bid.

The remaining slots not filled by auto-bids and contracts will be filled by the selection committee

Two of those bowls will host semifinals. We don’t yet know which two, so let’s just put the semifinals in the two bowls that aren’t currently part of the BCS, the Cotton and Peach (AKA Chick-Fil-A).

So we know where Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida, and Oregon will be (semifinals) and we know where Wisconsin, Stanford, Kansas State, and FSU will be (their contract bowls). We also know that Northern Illinois, as the highest “Group of Five” champ, will be placed somewhere.

That’s 9 teams that are already in the six bowls, leaving only three spots to be filled. So who will get those at-large spots? This is the toughest part of the whole selection process.

The remaining available teams in the top 16 are: Georgia, LSU, Texas A&M, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Clemson, and Nebraska.

Remember, there is no cap on number of teams per conference.

Given their second tie-in, you can bet that the Orange Bowl gets one of the remaining SEC teams in the slot across from FSU; let’s take Georgia due to their strong performance in the SEC Championship game. Oklahoma also seems likely to get a major bowl bid, given the quality of their two losses. We’ll put Oklahoma against NIU since they are the two lowest ranked teams without a host bowl tie-in.

The postseason rules state that the Sugar Bowl gets an SEC team to replace the SEC Champ that has been called up to the playoff, so let’s assume LSU gets placed there based on their head-to-head wins over Texas A&M and South Carolina and their geographical proximity.

So we have:

  • Cotton Bowl – Semifinal: Notre Dame vs Oregon
  • Peach Bowl – Semifinal: Alabama vs Florida
  • Rose Bowl – Stanford (P12 Champ) vs Wisconsin (B1G Champ)
  • Sugar Bowl – Kansas State (B12 Champ) vs LSU (replacement for SEC Champ)
  • Orange Bowl – FSU (ACC Champ) vs Georgia (SEC)
  • Fiesta Bowl – Oklahoma (at-large) vs Northern Illinois (group of five)

What do you think about this postseason? Items for discussion:

  1. Do you agree with this playoff field? What should be the committee’s priority when selecting teams?
  2. What do you think of these match-ups? Are they better, worse, or even with the ones we’re getting in the current system?
  3. Who should/would get the at-large spots?
  4. How should the teams without a host bowl tie-in be placed into bowls?
  5. How would the bowl placements change if the semifinals were at different sites?

What are the polls supposed to be ranking?

We prefer a strict résumé-based ranking of teams. We like to look at who you’ve beaten and lost to and by what margin, and then in cases where teams have played and have a similar résumé (i.e. the six-team SEC clusterfuck in the top 12), we then defer to head-to-head results as much as possible.

We like résumé ranking because we think teams should be ranked based on what they’ve actually done on the field over the course of the entire season. It goes along with our belief that the “most deserving” teams (i.e. the teams who have accomplished the most during the season) should be playing for the championship, not just the “hottest” teams at the end of the season. We believe that in order to play for the championship, your regular season must have been stellar, and you shouldn’t get a mulligan because you took an extra month to kick into high gear.

We don’t like the idea of a “power poll” based on the voter’s opinion of who would hypothetically beat whom if they were to play, because such polls are completely based on conjecture. The sport doesn’t have nearly enough connectivity and common opponents to support any kind of informed opinion on a power ranking.

That’s why the only fair way is to rank based on how each team has performed in the games they’ve actually played, i.e. ranking by their résumé.

Florida State’s national title hopes

If FSU and Clemson win (both should be favored in my opinion) and ND loses (less likely with Barkley injured) next weekend, then I could see poll voters jumping FSU forward a lot in the poll shakeup. Combined with winning the ACCCG and especially if Oregon doesn’t play in the Pac 12 championship, I think FSU is in better shape than most people think.

Regarding Notre Dame bias, and the reaction if undefeated Irish are left out of the championship

I keep seeing people saying that the media and “anyone involved in the financial side” will be lobbying for Notre Dame in the championship game. I just don’t see this happening. Yes, the TV network covering the championship will be hoping for Notre Dame simply for ratings reasons, but I find it really hard to believe that anyone (other than Lou Holtz) would be blatantly lobbying for Notre Dame just because they’re Notre Dame.

We have some massive hacks covering college football, but the vast majority of the cfb media are not going to be lobbying for ND any more than they’d lobby for another team. It seems absurd to me that so many people ascribe conspiracy theories about Waking Up The Echoes and slipping Notre Dame in through the back door.

As for the outcry if they go undefeated and get left out? I don’t see why it would be any different than when Auburn did the same in 2004. Any major team that goes undefeated and misses out on the championship is going to create uproar, not just Notre Dame. But the uproar will be against the lame-duck BCS system that everyone hates, which will be replaced in a couple years anyway. So even the uproar about their exclusion won’t really be anything new, and in fact might be dampened a bit because (1) it’s not new, this already happened to other teams before and (2) the system’s changing anyway, so your uproar is against something that’s already on its way out the door.

Replace Notre Dame with any high-profile/major-conference school and the reaction would be the same. People just want to ascribe bias toward (or against) Notre Dame whenever they can get away with it.

How many teams will finish undefeated?

(Regarding this ESPN poll)

I can’t believe how persistently the college football populace assumes that upsets will not happen. Every week of the season, as early as mid October, we’ve heard people saying “well, it looks like we’ll be finishing with six undefeated teams” and then “yeah that team lost, but we’ll still finish with five undefeated teams” and now “these three undefeated teams shouldn’t have trouble finishing that way.”

There is no way that all three of these teams finish undefeated, and there’s a pretty good chance that two of the three will lose. This is college football and if you didn’t realize it already, upsets happen with frequency, and to anyone. A week ago people thought Alabama was the least likely team to be upset. Why would Oregon or Kansas State be immune to it?

Post-October rankings

We haven’t quite been as proactive as we’d have liked this season, but here’s the résumé ranking we submitted for reddit’s r/cfb poll:

Responding to some questions about conference strength, overratedness, and parity

A friend on Facebook posted the following questions tonight:

Question for college football fans: 6/14 SEC teams have losing records. 3/12 ACC teams have losing records. Where, exactly, is the split between “the bottom teams lose a lot because the top teams are so great” vs “the top teams win so many games because the bottom teams are so bad”? Why is parity good in the NFL but bad in the ACC? Doesn’t parity in any other league –> more competitive? Doesn’t something like South Carolina’s 33-point loss pretty much prove how overrated they were?

Afterword: here are some facts: Auburn won a national championship 2 seasons ago and has 1 win this season. Won’t make a bowl. Arkansas was up to #3 last year and has a losing record this season. Doesn’t having such incredibly fast turnover trivialize your success, and suggest that any team with such success is likely to lose it quickly and, thus, isn’t really worthy of that kind of ranking to begin with?

Here’s my response, which I thought might be worth sharing:

I think the argument for conference strength is a stupid one in any direction, since there’s so little meaningful inter-conference connectivity and within a conference every argument can be immediately countered with its converse.

I think there’s obviously something to be said for excitement and parity in conference races within the conference itself. But in the college football national championship race there’s also a legitimate premium placed on remaining undefeated. When a conference loses all its national championship contenders, then no matter how interesting its conference title race is, it loses some luster in the overall race.

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I don’t think that turnover trivializes success. I think the rapid regression of some of the traditionally second-tier teams like Auburn and Arkansas is not uncommon in other conferences as well. When teams reach above their usual station, they eventually fall back down to earth. You could easily name similar teams and situations in any other conference. The top of the SEC, much like traditional powers in other conferences, has been relatively stable for quite some time.

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I think it’s foolish to take either the stance that “the bottom teams lose because the top is so good” or the stance that “the top teams only win because the bottom is so terrible.” Both are extreme stances, when it’s really probably somewhere in the middle. It’s also foolish to fall to either extreme of the “South Carolina lost by a lot so they were obviously overrated” vs “Florida beat South Carolina by a lot so they were obviously underrated” spectrum.

In both of these situations, as in most arguments within college football, both sides have some validity and fallacy, but you can never get a complete enough data set to know for sure. It isn’t unreasonable to think that the top of the SEC may have some of the top teams in the country, but that the bottom half of the SEC is as bad as any other league.

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Last, I think part of the beauty of college football is the incompleteness and the necessity of discussion, comparison, and exultation of perfection. We have a wealth of teams and a scarcity of games. Every bit of data matters and even at the end of the season when we have every scrap of information available to us, it’s still usually hard to rank the teams with certainty. When you accept the fact that there is rarely a firmly correct answer to any college football question and embrace the shades of gray, you can get past all the headstrong argument-mongers and enjoy the sport for what it is.

Introducing “Net Scoring Defense” and “Net Scoring Offense”

I know that people keep track of scoring by points allowed and points scored, and usually “scoring defense” is the name for points allowed, right?

But in reality “scoring defense” is just calculated “points allowed” which is deceptive if you’re using it to measure how good a team’s defense really is.

What I’d propose is first calculating the points allowed by the team’s defense (i.e. removing any points scored by opponents’ defense and special teams), and then subtracting away any points scored by the team’s defense (i.e. on pick-sixes and safeties).

As an example:

Suppose Team A has allowed opponents to score 140 points through 7 games. But of those points allowed, say they are broken down as follows:

  • 2 touchdowns scored by opponents’ pick-sixes = 14 points
  • 1 touchdown scored by an opponent’ fumble recovery = 7 points
  • 2 touchdowns allowed by kick returns = 14 points
  • 2 safeties = 4 points
  • remaining points scored by opponents’ offensive TDs and FGs = 101 points

In addition, Team A’s defense has themselves scored 3 touchdowns off of turnovers and scored one safety, for a total of 23 defensive points.

So “scoring defense” would be 140/7 = 20 ppg, but the “Net Scoring Defense” would be (101- 23)/7 = 11.14 ppg, a more representative description of the defense’s impact on the game’s score.

Similarly, one could subtract away Team A’s defensive and special teams points scored from their “scoring offense” to get “Net Scoring Offense.”

Does anybody keep track of stats like this? Is there any data source from which one could easily calculate these stats? What do you think?

Regarding early and mid-season polls

It is really frustrating when rankings don’t match up with what’s actually transpired on the field. At this point teams have played enough games that it’s not unreasonable to rank South Carolina ahead of Georgia even though they have one more loss. I think anyone who watched the Gamecocks drill the Dawgs would agree that Carolina is the better team.

There’s some serious disconnect between what the rankings say and what logic should dictate, but there’s a frustrating deference to “poll mechanics” that weighs the loss column more than anything else in voters’ minds.

For that reason, it’s hard to take these polls seriously until it really matters at the end of the season.