Monthly Archives: May 2012

Picking the Field: Who Would’ve Been in a College Football Playoff in 1998?

“Picking the Field” is a series where we’ll review each of the fourteen years of the BCS era through the context of a four-team playoff. We’ll look at all the deserving teams each year and attempt to decide who deserved to be in the playoff; we’ll also look at the fields chosen through various proposed selection methods. We’ll be reviewing one season each week for the remainder of the offseason. First up: 1998.


The 1998 college football season was the first of the BCS era. With the memory of a split national championship the prior season (for the third time in eight years) still fresh, the new BCS system brought the promise of a true one-against-two bowl game for the national title.

The Teams

In 1998, the BCS formula was nearly unrecognizable compared to its current format. We won’t get too far into the details, but the AP and Coaches polls were components, as were three computer polls, schedule strength, and number of losses. The final BCS standings only ranked 15 teams. For our purposes, BCS rank is used except for teams in the AP top 25 but outside of the BCS top 15. All records and rankings are pre-bowls.

  1. Tennessee (12-0, SEC Champion). Victories over #8 Florida, #13 Arkansas, #15 Syracuse, AP #19 Georgia and AP #25 Mississippi State, and two more bowl teams (Alabama and Kentucky).
  2. Florida State (11-1, ACC Champion). Victories over #6 Texas A&M, #8 Florida, #12 Virginia, #14 Georgia Tech, and three more bowl teams (USC, Miami, and North Carolina). Lost 24-7 to NC State (7-4).
  3. Kansas State (11-1). Victories over #11 Nebraska, AP #20 Texas, AP #23 Missouri, and one more bowl team (Colorado). Lost 36-33 to #6 Texas A&M (11-2) in double overtime in the Big 12 Championship.
  4. Ohio State (10-1, Big Ten co-champion). Victories over AP #15 Michigan (Big Ten co-champion), AP #17 Penn State, AP #23 Missouri, and one more bowl team (West Virginia). Lost 28-24 to Michigan State (6-6).
  5. UCLA (10-1, Pac 10 Champion). Victories over #7 Arizona, AP #20 Texas, and three more bowl teams (Oregon, USC, and Washington). Lost 49-45 to AP #24 Miami (9-2).
  6. Texas A&M (11-2, Big 12 Champion). Victories over #3 Kansas State, #11 Nebraska, AP #23 Missouri, and two more bowl teams (Southern Miss, Texas Tech). Lost 23-14 to ACC Champion #2 Florida State (11-1) and 26-24 to AP #20 Texas (8-3)
  7. Arizona (11-1). Victories over three bowl teams (Oregon, San Diego State, Washington). Lost 52-28 to #5 UCLA (10-1).
  8. Florida (9-2). Victories over AP #19 Georgia, and two other bowl teams (Kentucky and Alabama). Lost to 20-17 in overtime to SEC Champion #1 Tennessee (12-0) and 23-12 to ACC Champion #2 Florida State (11-1).
  9. Wisconsin (10-1, Big Ten co-champion). Victories over AP #17 Penn State and two other bowl teams (Purdue and San Diego State). Lost 27-10 to AP #15 Michigan (9-3).
  10. Tulane (11-0, Conference USA Champion). Victories over two bowl teams (Southern Miss and Louisville).

The Most Deserving Four

The obvious inclusions are #1 Tennessee and #2 Florida State. Both teams won their conference and had multiple victories over highly ranked teams. Each beat a ranked non-conference opponent.

After those two, though, it gets hairy. (more…)

Old News: Home Sites Officially Aren’t Happening for College Football’s Playoff

So last week the Big Ten officially abandoned the cause of playing semifinal playoff games at the home field of the higher team.

The writing has been on the wall for this since the BCS meetings at the end of April, but Jim Delany and the Big Ten AD’s (how’s that for a band name?) had been insistent that it was still an option. Well, they changed their tune last week, prompting several voices to ask why. Jerry Hinnen wonders:

Which means we’re forced to ask, as we did after Perlman’s comments: Why? Yes, the Big Ten and Rose Bowl have been partners since time immemorial, and yes, maintaining some semblance of the Rose Bowl’s grand tradition in this historic new era of college football’s postseason is a pivotal, noble goal.

But that should be the Rose Bowl’s goal, not the Big Ten’s and not the schools of the Big Ten. A home semifinal at the Big House or the Horseshoe or Camp Randall (rare as such an event would have been in the BCS era) would be a massive advantage and a massive point of pride for any Big Ten team lucky enough to host one. Aren’t the Big Ten’s administrators supposed to be working for that kind of scenario rather than against it?

Here’s a theory: the Big Ten realized the idea was never going to come to fruition, but wanted to get as much mileage out of it as possible. By conceding it themselves, they maintain the appearance of control in the playoff negotiations. (more…)

The SEC and Big 12 Announce a New Bowl; College Football Freaks Out

When the SEC and Big 12 announced on Friday the formation of a new bowl matching the conferences’ champions, imaginations immediately went wild on the implications of such a bowl.

The new game is a major development in college football and will likely have far-reaching effects on the sport. But in the third-in-a-row offseason of bigger and bigger changes, it seems the commentariat is using the latest news as justification for any kind of unfounded endgame.

So let’s get some things straight about this new game and how it affects conferences, teams, existing bowls, and the upcoming playoff. (more…)

The Most Maddening Aspect of the Argument for a Strict 1-4 Playoff Field

Supporters of a strict selection of teams ranked 1-4 for a four-team playoff invariably rely on the argument that if they’re the four best teams, then they should be in the playoff.


The problem with this argument is that it rests on a severely flawed premise: that the BCS top four are also the four best teams. As has been proven time and again, the BCS standings are unreliable and frequently do a terrible job of deciding who the third- and fourth-best teams are.

So yes, if we had an unbiased and incontrovertible ranking of who the four best teams were, then it would make sense to use that ranking to select the playoff field. But we don’t have such a ranking, so it makes sense to add stipulations as a safeguard against the pitfalls of the BCS ranking in its current incarnation.

We prefer the “top two plus two” method: take the top two in the rankings, even if they aren’t conference champs. Then seeds 3 and 4 go to the highest ranked conference champions (or independents) remaining in the top 6.

It emphasizes conference champions while giving non-champions the same opportunity to play for a champion as the current, two-team system.

Florida State and the Big 12 Making Eyes at Each Other; More Dominoes Lining Up

So the big news on Saturday was the chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees, Andy Haggard, dumping on the ACC’s new TV deal and broaching the subject of jumping ship. His complaints, not surprisingly, centered on the conference’s basketball-centrism and perceived favoritism toward the tobacco road schools. Those complaints alone would’ve been news, but the big surprise was Haggard naming a potential landing place:

“On behalf of the Board of Trustees I can say that unanimously we would be in favor of seeing what the Big 12 might have to offer. We have to do what is in Florida State’s best interest.”

Head Coach Jimbo Fisher threw out his conditional support for the move, saying “if that is what’s best for Florida State, then that’s what we need to do.” And even though FSU’s president released a statement of support for the ACC, Dan Wetzel has ACC people saying “this threat feels real.”

Wetzel cites some unnamed sources in both conferences, with one from the Big 12 saying “I can’t imagine how we wouldn’t be interested in Florida State.” All of this feeds into the amorphous rumors of the last week or so that Clemson would be accompanying FSU on the way out, which themselves were preceded by Louisville’s known overtures toward the Big 12 and ACC.

So it appears that the Big 12, currently sitting at ten members, has three potential suitors that would, along with West Virginia, further expand the conference’s presence eastward. Here are a few potential end results of this round of musical chairs: (more…)

We Appear to Have Inadvertently Started a Hashtag

This week, whoever’s in charge of the social media accounts of the BCS has been posing open questions about the logistics of a college football playoff. We answered one of the questions in depth here.

Yesterday’s question was pretty bland, but we had an exchange via Twitter and a term we coined seems to have stuck. We present the following tweets, in chronological order, without further comment:


Jim Delany is One Step Away from the Plus-Two Plan

In all our years of following college football before 2012, we never thought of Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany as a good guy. We almost always disagreed with the opinions and ideas he put forth. But man, he is really steering the boat toward the Plus-Two Plan this year.

First, in January, he softened to the idea of a four-team playoff. At the time, this was college football’s version of the fall of the Berlin Wall (call it “the fall of the Delany Stonewall,” perhaps). Delany’s direct quote: “Four years ago, five of us didn’t want to have the conversation. Now we all want to have the conversation.”

In early February, he was suddenly leading it. Delany dropped the bomb that the Big Ten supported a four-team playoff with semifinal games hosted on the college campus of the higher seed. This was our first sign that Delany, who had always used his smarts for evil, was catching on. One of the cornerstones of the Plus-Two Plan has always been campus sites for the national semifinals. While that idea has been deemed dead at least once, more recent reports have it still “very much alive.”

Delany and his allies had us worried for a while with their calls for strictly conference-champions only in the playoff. But Wednesday’s most recent suggestion from Delany calls for just conference champions that finish in the top six of the final poll to be included. This avoids potential the controversy of including a 10th-ranked Wisconsin, as would have happened in 2011.

We’re happy that Delany is coming around. All along there have been two extremes in the debate over how to select the four-team playoff field: Delany and his allies have favored conference champions only, while SEC Commissioner Mike Slive has favored strictly the top four teams.

Both plans fail to address major issues. (more…)

How Should Tickets Be Distributed for On-Campus College Football Semifinals?

Every Game Counts, the official Facebook page of the BCS recently posed the following question:

If semi-final games are played on campus, how would you divide tickets between the home team and visiting team?

Being the loyal fans and curious numbersmiths we are, the Plus-Two Blog decided to give Every Game Counts (or whatever lowly intern is actually running the thing) as thorough an answer as we could. We left a comment via our Facebook page, but here’s our extended response, with some new data and exposition:

Since these semifinals are play-in games for a national championship, it makes sense to look at last year’s BCS Championship game as an example, since ticket demand for a semifinal would likely be similarly high (from fans as well as media and other required allotments).

LSU and Alabama were each allotted 17,000 tickets (about 24% of the total seating) of the Superdome. Let’s call these “general” tickets. The remaining 52% was split among “Sugar Bowl members, its season ticket holders, television and various sponsors.” [1]

That 52% made up 38,000 tickets. Of those, “28,500 [about 40%] were snapped up in Sugar Bowl ticket packages sold before the title-game matchup was set and 9,500 [about 13%] went to title sponsors, ESPN/ABC and BCS.” [2] Let’s call the 28,500 for the ticket packages “executive” tickets, and the other 9,500 “media” tickets. (more…)