Monthly Archives: June 2012

How to Build the Perfect College Football Selection Committee

Late Wednesday night some details leaked out about how the selection committee for the upcoming playoff will operate.

the Coaches' Trophy

Look into the crystal ball

Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick told the South Bend Tribune:

[A] selection committee will be charged with not only designating the four teams to play for the national title, but creating weekly standings of what it considers to be the top 20 teams from midseason on.

“We didn’t want the top four teams to just come out of the blue at the end of the season,” Swarbrick said.

This could mean very disappointing things are about to happen, or it could mean some very good things. So let’s look at what the committee needs to avoid, and then what they should implement.

Things to avoid

(1) An ordered ranking of teams 1-20. Putting the teams in order opens up the rankings for criticism and questioning, reinforces the flawed “slide them up, slide them down” recursive ranking method, and encourages relying on impressions based on a incomplete season. As Matt Hinton of CBS Sports puts it:

By publicly ordering the teams, though, instead of simply dropping the playoff field in December like stone tablets from a mountaintop, they’re also helping undermine borderline decisions and publishing a readymade rebuttal for critics. (“How could they pick Oregon when their own rankings said Stanford was better?”)

(2) Any type of poll that doesn’t include the voters’ explanations. We’re reaching a point where just a list of teams isn’t going to meaningful. Especially when the people creating the list will also be picking the playoff field, their thoughts on each team will be far more important than their listed ranking.

(3) Selectors who can’t devote all their time to the duties. Obviously, people with a full-time job that requires them to focus on non-football duties during the week need not apply. The selectors need to spend all weekend watching games, then the rest of the week digesting, dissecting, and discussing the state of the sport. This should rule out administrators at most levels. Presidents, commissioners, and athletic directors all have too much else to deal with to be focused on college football teams and games.

(4) Selectors who have an obvious association with one team or conference. This means former coaches, former administrators, former players, former anything. If they’ve been employed by, donated money to, or played for any team that might be involved in the playoff discussion, they should not be on the committee. There have been various voices calling for the committee to accept inevitable biases and try to even them out. This is an absurd idea; the only way to truly balance biases is by an unwieldy, enormous committee with one member from each team.

(5) Selectors working in the media. Any member of the media needs to be worried about a different kind of conflict of interest. As Paul Myerberg notes: “While the media might bring a level of objectivity to the proceedings, writers don’t own their objectivity to the sport itself – they owe their sense of objectivity to the reader, and you can’t cover the sport while serving as one of its key decision-makers.” More on this later.

Things to implement

(1) A tiered grouping of teams, starting midseason. Have the committee put teams into a few groups, based on accomplishments up to that point, and ordered as if the season were to end at that moment. Tier I: Would definitely be in the playoff (contains 0-4 teams); Tier 2: Under strong consideration for the playoff, definitely in a major bowl (2-6 teams); Tier 3: Needs some help for the playoff; strong consideration for a major bowl (4-8 teams); Tier 4: Outside the playoff picture, needs some help for a major bowl (6-10). The teams should not be ranked within the tiers; the tiers are only to give a rough grouping of where teams stand, and both upward and downward mobility should be clearly implied.

(2) Written majority and minority opinions on the playoff field. Take a cue from the Supreme Court, and have the committee release a clear and well-reasoned explanation for why specific teams were included and excluded. If there are teams that have a legitimate argument for inclusion but don’t make the field, have those arguments be presented and addressed by the committee as well. A short version of these explanations should be released each week, getting longer and more detailed as the year goes on.

(3) Selectors as full-time paid employees of the College Football Championship. The selectors need to be able to devote attention on par with that of a full-time job. This will allow them to spend the time necessary on each team, as well as express their opinions on the important teams and games from week to week. If the selectors are paid employees, the seriousness of the job should be evident; with good pay, selector positions will be prestigious and coveted–those doing a bad job risk being removed. The playoff will generate plenty of money to pay these selectors a very generous salary (If there are 15 selectors, each with a $300,000 salary, that’s still less than one percent of the estimated yearly playoff revenue).

(4) Make the College Football Championship Committee (CFCC) an independent, self-sufficient media entity. [This is, admittedly, the most far-fetched idea of the lot] Hire the best of the college football media that you can get, from various regions of the country, to be on the committee. Have them cover the sport and their selection process exhaustively. Bring in some print journalists, some online, some TV; have them watch games, discuss the teams, and then let each release their weekly thoughts through the CFCC.

Writers can produce their columns, TV personalities can record a short segment, and all of it can be disseminated through the CFCC and made available to the rest of the media. A small sub-committee each weekend could cover specific games, with all members watching multiple games over the course of the week before holding a roundtable discussion and releasing the weekly tiered list.

The committee members would be employed exclusively by the CFCC, and hold no other jobs. Their primary duties would be as decision-makers in the sport, their secondary ones would be covering the decision-making process; this is how the fifth “thing to avoid” above is addressed. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this committee?

Unfortunately, Bill Hancock, Executive Director of the BCS (for two more years), spoke on the Mandel Initiative Podcast and the Dan Patrick Show this week, and described in a bit more detail what he expects the selection committee to look like. In both interviews suggested that the committee will have 10 to 20 members, and that the members will likely be current administrators, a la the committees in other NCAA sports. This clearly isn’t set in stone, but if it is the end result, let’s hope there is heavy pressure on the committee to keep open and accountable on a weekly basis.

Got your own ideas for the selection committee? Leave them in a comment, or let us know by tweeting @plus2plan.

Picking the Field: Who Would’ve Been in a College Football Playoff in 2002?

“Picking the Field” is a series reviewing each of the fourteen years of the BCS era. We’ll look at all the best teams each year and attempt to decide who deserved to be in a four-team playoff, to get an idea how difficult the process will be for a selection committee; each post includes a poll where you can tell who you think should’ve been in. We’ll review one season each week for the remainder of the offseason. This week: 2002. (Check out 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001).

The 2002 season was perfect for the BCS system. Two teams finished the season undefeated, but under the previous system they would have been sent to separate bowls, and a true national champion might never have been crowned. Under a four-team playoff, two more spots are opened up in the field–who deserved to be in, and who would’ve been left out in the cold?

The Teams:

After the two undefeated teams came a slew of conference champions and co-champions, an independent, and two divisional runners-up. The top ten was made up of two teams that finished with no losses, two more that finished with one, and six teams that finished with two losses; every other team finished with at least three except Boise State, whose only game against an AQ-conference team was a blowout loss to Arkansas.

For our purposes, BCS rank is used except for teams in the AP top 25 but outside of the BCS top 15 (in 2002, the BCS only ranked 15 teams). All records and rankings are pre-bowls. Complete rankings, with explanation of the methods, are available here (scroll to bottom for final standings).

  1. Miami (12-0, Big East champ). Five victories over ranked teams (#14 Florida State, #15 West Virginia, AP #21 Virginia Tech, AP #22 Florida, AP #24 Pittsburgh) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Boston College, Tennessee, Connecticut).
  2. Ohio State (13-0, Big Ten co-champ). Three victories over ranked teams (#6 Washington State, #11 Michigan, #12 Penn State) and five over other bowl-eligible teams (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, Texas Tech, Cincinnati).
  3. Georgia (12-1, SEC champ). Three victories over ranked teams (AP #13 Alabama, AP #19 Auburn, AP #25 Arkansas) and six over other bowl-eligible teams (Tennessee, Kentucky, Ole Miss, Georgia Tech, Clemson, New Mexico State). Lost 20-13 to AP #22 Florida (8-4).
  4. USC (10-2, Pac-10 co-champ, even though they lost head to head to Washington State). Three victories over ranked teams (#9 Notre Dame, #13 Colorado, AP #19 Auburn, ) and six over other bowl-eligible teams (Oregon State, California, Washington, Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA). Lost 27-20 to #8 Kansas State (10-2) and 30-27 to #6 Washington State (10-2, Pac-10 co-champs).
  5. Iowa (11-1, Big Ten co-champ). Two victories over ranked teams (#11 Michigan, #12 Penn State) and four over other bowl-eligible teams (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Purdue, Miami (OH)). Lost 36-31 to Iowa State (7-6).
  6. Washington State (10-2, Pac-10 co-champ, even though they beat USC head to head). One victory over a ranked team (#4 USC) and four over other bowl-eligible teams (Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA, California). Lost 25-7 to #2 Ohio State (13-0) and 29-26 (3OT) to Washington (7-5).
  7. Oklahoma (11-2, Big 12 champ). Four victories over ranked teams (#10 Texas, #13 Colorado [twice], AP #13 Alabama) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (South Florida, Texas Tech, Iowa State). Lost 30-26 to Texas A&M (6-6) and 38-28 to Oklahoma State (7-5).
  8. Kansas State (10-2). One victory over a ranked team (#4 USC) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska). Lost 35-31 to #13 Colorado (9-4) and 17-14 to #10 Texas (10-2).
  9. Notre Dame (10-2). Four victories over ranked teams (#11 Michigan, #14 Florida State, AP #20 Maryland, AP #24 Pittsburgh) and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Purdue, Air Force). Lost 14-7 to Boston College (8-4) and 44-13 to #4 USC (10-2).
  10. Texas (10-2). One victory over a ranked team (#8 Kansas State) and six over other bowl-eligible teams (Oklahoma State, Iowa State, Nebraska, North Texas, Tulane, Texas A&M). Lost 35-24 to #7 Oklahoma (11-2) and 42-38 to Texas Tech (8-5).

The Most Deserving Four

The first two slots are obvious: #1 Miami and #2 Ohio State are in, no question. Also a no-brainer should be #3 Georgia, with only one loss, a conference championship, and as solid a set of wins as anybody outside of the top two. What about beyond those three? (more…)

You want a four-team playoff? How about two of them?

So we’re finally going to settle it on the field.

Are you ready for some off-the-field issues? As we mentioned yesterday, the NCAA is going to have to change some bylaws to let this playoff happen. That’s not a problem, but there may be other major unintended ramifications of such a rules change.

Right now, the 2011-12 NCAA Postseason Football Handbook states [emphasis added]:

A bowl game must serve the purpose of providing a national contest between eligible teams. The competing institutions shall be active members of the Association, and a member institution shall not participate in more than one such game during any academic year.

So: obviously, under a four-team playoff, two teams will be playing two postseason bowls (the semifinal and the championship game). This means that the NCAA Football Issues Committee* will need to change that bylaw in order for the playoff to exist. There’s two ways to change it: they can either be very specific or not. Both could have major consequences.

If they’re non-specific, meaning the rules are changed to allow teams to play two postseason games (or, alternatively, to play in a four-team playoff), then you can bet there will be a scramble for competing two-game tournaments. Every second-tier bowl that isn’t a part of the major post-BCS playoff will be scrambling to either host a college football version of the NIT, or at least lobbying for the possibility to inviting select teams after the first round of bowl games has concluded.

Imagine a year like 2009, when the following teams were left at the end of the regular season: Alabama (13-0), Texas (13-0), Cincinnati (12-0), TCU (12-0), Boise State (13-0), and Florida (12-1). That’s six deserving teams. You can bet that the two teams who are left out would love a chance to prove themselves against three other top-tier teams.

Or what about a four-team playoff between the champions of the Sun Belt, MAC, Conference USA, and Mountain West, provided those teams don’t make the “major” playoff? Or, if there isn’t a second playoff, what if the Capital One Bowl decides that it wants to invite the winners of the Peach and Gator Bowls, after those games are decided?

Clearly, if the NCAA postseason rules aren’t changed very precisely and specifically, there will be a lot of questions about competing postseason formats.

If the new rule is extra-specific, meaning the bylaws are changed to allow only two teams to play an extra postseason game (or alternatively, to only sanction one “additional” bowl game), then you can bet that any bowls that are left out of the “chosen” postseason tournament will be getting their antitrust suits ready. Does the NCAA really have the authority to limit teams’ and bowls’ postseason opportunities? Well, yes and no.

They would probably be allowed to limit them when there is an officially sanctioned NCAA postseason tournament to determine a national champion (although the basketball’s precedent is to have two additional tournaments, the NIT and the CBI). But the new college football playoff, just like the BCS before it, will not be an officially recognized NCAA championship. So if the “chosen” postseason tournament isn’t to determine an official NCAA championship, then can the NCAA legally restrict other tournaments from happening? The NCAA may have no choice but to create (or take over) college football’s postseason tournament.

So we’re looking at two potentially dramatic results from this simple postseason rule change: either competing four-team events are allowed to exist outside of the major tournament, or the NCAA is forced to officially sanction an FBS national championship.

*The 2011-12 NCAA Football Issues Committee is: Barry Alvarez, University of Wisconsin; Nick Carparelli Jr., Big East Conference, chair; Joe Castiglione, University of Oklahoma; David Cutcliffe, Duke University; Robert DeCarolis, Oregon State University; Richard Gianinni, University of Southern Mississippi; Brett Gilliland, Mountain West Conference; Dave Heeke, Central Michigan University; Chris Massaro, Middle Tennessee State University; Bruce Van De Velde, Louisiana Tech University; Mark Womack, Southeastern Conference.


Update: After posting this, we stumbled across a post by John Infante (via Blutarsky) that touches on a lot of the same ideas as this does. Here is another bylaw that would need to be changed.

Update II: Infante (of the Bylaw Blog) states “The NCAA running the playoff does not solve all antitrust issues. Didn’t stop the NIT from suing and more or less winning.” So we may be looking at a competing/second-tier playoff either way.

It’s Officially Official This Time: College Football Playoff Details and Questions

Well, you can remove last week’s asterisk. The Presidential Oversight Committee had their meeting today and approved pretty much everything the commissioners agreed upon last week. Some details still need to be worked out, but the broad strokes are set. From the statement released on the BCS Facebook page:

The group of university presidents who oversee college football’s Bowl Championship Series agreed today to launch a new four-team, seeded post-season playoff to determine the national collegiate champion. The new format will begin with the 2014-2015 season.

Break out your champagne, caviar, and victory cigars. We’ve said this in the past, but it’s another edition of V-BCS Day, and this time is the most official of them all.

So what details do we know, and what questions are still left to be answered? We can break it down into a few categories: the field of teams, the scheduling of the games, the distribution of revenue, and peripheral questions. Here are the big questions, with sourced answers whenever possible:

Questions about the Field of Teams:

Q: How many teams?
A: (via BCS Facebook) Four teams, seeded; selection will not favor any conferences over others (i.e. there is no AQ status for the playoff), and there will not be a cap on the number of teams that can come from the same conference.

Q: How will they be chosen?
A: (via BCS Facebook) Selection committee. The makeup of the selection committee hasn’t been decided, but (via @schadjoe) Bob Bowlsby of the Big 12 envisions a 15-member committee.

Q: Are polls or other rankings going to be considered?
A: (via BCS Facebook) The committee will consider “win-loss record, strength of schedule, head-to-head results, and whether a team is a conference champion.” Also, (via @schadjoe) Larry Scott of the Pac-12 doesn’t think a football RPI will be used.

Questions about Scheduling the Games:

Q: When does this system begin?
A: (via BCS Facebook) After the 2014 season (i.e. December 2014 and January 2015).

Q: What are the dates of the playoff games?
A: (via BCS Facebook) So they’re trying to take back New Year’s: “The date of the first semifinal games will be either Wednesday, December 31, 2014, or Thursday, January 1, 2015.” Additionally: the championship will be “the first Monday in January that is six or more days after the final semi-final game” which means the first few dates for the championship will be Monday, January 12, 2015; Monday, January 11, 2016; Monday, January 9, 2017; Monday, January 8, 2018; and Monday, January 7, 2019.

Q: Where will the games be played?
A: (via @slmandel) Six bowls will rotate hosting, but BCS Director Bill Hancock said those bowls have not yet been decided. The four current BCS bowls (Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, and Orange) are almost certain, and the Cotton Bowl is a good bet to make a play. The new SEC/Big 12 “Champions Bowl” will likely be included, but it might be absorbed by the Cotton or Sugar, leaving a sixth spot up for grabs.

Q: What happened to home hosting?
A: That died a long time ago, haven’t you been paying attention?

Q: What about when those bowls aren’t hosting semifinals?
A: (via Brian Murphy) “Rose Bowl would have a Big Ten/Pac-12 match-up, the Champions Bowl would have a SEC/Big 12 match-up and the Orange Bowl would have an ACC team if those teams and/or bowls are not involved in the semifinals”

Questions about Distributing the Revenue:

Q: How much is this thing going to be worth?
A: (via CBS Sports) “Conservative estimates project the new playoff model to be worth $360 million annually — or double the current total BCS payoff — and it could fetch as much as $400 million.” Some estimates are floating up to $500 million, meaning the twelve-year contract could reach $6 billion (yeah, with a “B”).

Q: How are they going to distribute the revenue?
A: Short answer (via @MattHayes_SN) that hasn’t been decided yet. Longer answer (via CBS Sports) last week, “commissioners were considering dividing the revenue based on the league’s past performances” and that method “would likely create a divide between five power conferences (SEC, Big 12, Pac-12, Big Ten, and ACC) and the rest of the leagues.” Also: (via BCS Facebook) “Generally speaking the concept would (1) reward conferences for success on the field (2) accommodate teams’ expenses (3) acknowledge marketplace factors and (4) reward academic performance of student-athletes.” So yeah, we don’t know, but we have a general idea.

Q: Could arguments over revenue distribution hold up the deal?
A: Probably not, since it’s been officially announced. The conferences should be able to strong-arm the bowls into giving them good deals, and the bidding war between TV networks is going to be insane. There should be plenty of money floating around to please all conference, at least for now.

Q: Is the NCAA going to take a cut of the money, like they do for the basketball tournament?
A: Almost certainly not, since this playoff will not be administered by the NCAA.

Questions about other stuff:

Q: Wait, so this still isn’t going to be an officially designated NCAA championship?
A: It appears not, but who’s going to argue that the champion of the playoff isn’t legit?

Q: Doesn’t the NCAA have to change some rules to allow for the extra round of the postseason?
A: Yeah, they’ll probably need to change some bylaws.

Q: Does that mean other, competing playoffs could be created?
A: Well, that’ll depend on how the NCAA changes postseason rules. We haven’t seen anyone ask that question yet, but check out our thoughts on it. This could end up being a pretty sticky issue down the line.

Q: Does this thing have a name yet?
A: No. But it won’t be called the BCS. Leave your name suggestions in the comments.

Q: But I want a bigger playoff!
A: (via BCS Facebook) This deal is locked in for twelve years, from the 2014 season to the 2025 season. So get comfortable with it.

Q: Won’t this create travel problems?
A: Yeah. Teams will probably be on the road for a couple of weeks. Fans will have to either scramble for championship tickets after the semifinals or gamble that their team will go all the way and buy in advance. In reality, the championship game will probably be a relatively sterile, corporate affair with the tickets sold well ahead of time, a la the Super Bowl. Yeah, bummer.

Q: What happened to that plus-one idea?
A: They talked about it, but as everyone already knew, the revenue for a playoff would be astronomical, and public sentiment was so strong behind a playoff that fans and media would’ve made a mockery of anything less.

Q: But I have another question that didn’t get answered!
A: Leave it in the comments and we’ll try our best to find out an answer. We’ll also be updating this post with any other news that comes about.


So We’re Officially* Getting a Playoff

So the big news yesterday was that the conference commissioners have reached a consensus on a four-team playoff, and they want a committee with a preference for conference champions to select the field. All around the internet, people are abuzz.

Pardon us for not being too excited, but really? We’ve known since April that we were looking at a four-team playoff that had to be approved by the presidential oversight committee. And now, what’s the big news telling us? We’re getting a playoff (after the presidential oversight committee approves it, which could take until September)!

The big news here isn’t the “consensus on a playoff,” but the consensus on a selection committee. In the end, a selection committee was the only method flexible enough to handle whatever crazy situation might arise regarding rematches, contradictory rankings, and who-beat-whom arguments amongst the top teams. You can add stipulations about the top six or some number of wild-cards, but as we’ve already seen in the first few years of our Picking the Field series, no rigid method is going to pick the four most-deserving teams every year. A selection committee, not bound by ranking orders, computer formulas, or conference-champion exemptions, could be the best way to pick the playoff field.

“Could” is the operative word here, since there are some obvious issues that will need to be addressed for the committee:

  • What will the official the committee’s official instructions be for choosing the field (the difference between the words “best” and “deserving” come to mind)?
  • Who will be on the committee, and will potential biases be addressed?
  • How big will the committee be?
  • How often will the committee meet? Will they put out weekly rankings?
  • Will committee members be held accountable for watching relevant games?
  • Will there be a college football version of the RPI that selectors can reference?
  • How transparent will the selection process be?

But okay, enough wet blanket talk. Yes, we’re once again officially* getting a playoff. It’s a time to celebrate, to imagine the excitement, pageantry, and finality the new postseason will bring. We’ll be back with our ideal selection committee characteristics next week, and more thoughts on whatever the next news on the playoff front happens to be. In the meantime, leave any thoughts about any of our selection committee questions (or anything else) in the comments, and enjoy another iteration of V-BCS day!

Picking the Field: Who Would’ve Been in a College Football Playoff in 2001?

“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 best 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. This week: 2001. (Check out 1998, 1999, and 2000).


After an exciting and crazy season of college football in 2000, the 2001 season would be filled with its own unbelievable ups and downs. A week of games were cancelled and rescheduled following the September 11th attacks, but college football helped provide a unifying and healing force for many Americans. The final weeks of the season would lead to the wildest finish in the sport until 2007. In 2001, it seemed no one but Miami wanted to play for the championship. Picking a second team was nearly impossible–would picking four teams be any easier?

The Teams

The season finished with one undefeated team, Miami, with every other highly-ranked team having some degree of glaring flaw. There was massive upheaval in the top five over the last three weeks of the season. First, top-ranked Nebraska and third-ranked Oklahoma would lose to Colorado and Oklahoma State, causing each to miss out on the Big 12 Championship and pushing Miami to #1. The following week, second-ranked Florida would drop a heartbreaker to Tennessee, while third-ranked Texas would drop the Big 12 Championship to two-loss, streaking Colorado. This left the Vols ranked second for the final weekend of the season, only to lose the SEC Championship to LSU. The final BCS rankings had the unenviable job of sorting through the mess, and ended with very different rankings from the other polls.

The final BCS standings only ranked 15 teams. A “quality win” component — a bonus for beating other top teams — was added to the previous BCS ranking system, a clear reaction against the mess of 2000. 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. Miami (11-0, Big East Champ). Four victories over ranked teams (#15 Washington, AP #15 Virginia Tech, AP #18 Syracuse, AP #24 Florida State) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Boston College, Pittsburgh, Troy).
  2. Nebraska (11-1). One victory over a ranked team (#11 Oklahoma) and six over other bowl-eligible teams (Iowa State, Texas Tech, Kansas State, Rice, Troy, TCU). Lost 62-36 to #3 Colorado (10-2).
  3. Colorado (10-2, Big 12 Champ). Two victories over ranked teams (#2 Nebraska, #7 Texas) and four over other bowl-eligible teams (Texas A&M, Iowa State, Colorado State, Kansas State). Lost 24-22 to AP #20 Fresno State (11-2) and 41-7 to #7 Texas (10-2).
  4. Oregon (10-1, Pac 10 Champ). One victory over a ranked team (#12 Washington State) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Utah, USC, UCLA). Lost 49-42 to #9 Stanford (9-2).
  5. Florida (9-2). Four victories over ranked teams (#13 LSU, #14 South Carolina, AP #16 Georgia, AP #24 Florida State) and one over another bowl-eligible team (Marshall). Lost 23-20 to Auburn (7-4) and 34-32 to #6 Tennessee (10-2).
  6. Tennessee (10-2). Four victories over ranked teams (#5 Florida, #13 LSU, #14 South Carolina, AP #18 Syracuse) and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Alabama, Arkansas). Lost 26-24 to AP #16 Georgia (8-3) and 31-20 to #13 LSU (9-3) in the SEC Championship.
  7. Texas (10-2). One victory over a ranked team (#3 Colorado) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (North Carolina, Texas Tech, Texas A&M). Lost 14-3 to #11 Oklahoma (10-2), and 39-37 to #3 Colorado (10-2) in the Big 12 Championship.
  8. Illinois (10-1, Big Ten Champ). Two victories over ranked teams (AP #22 Ohio State, AP #23 Louisville) and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Northern Illinois, Purdue). Lost 45-20 to AP #17 Michigan (8-3).
  9. Stanford (9-2). One victory over a ranked team (#4 Oregon) and three over other bowl-eligible teams (UCLA, USC, Boston College). Lost 45-39 to #12 Washington State (9-2) and 42-28 to #15 Washington (8-3).
  10. Maryland (10-1, ACC Champ). No victories over ranked teams, but six over bowl-eligible teams (Georgia Tech, Clemson, NC State, North Carolina, Wake Forest, Troy). Lost 52-31 to AP #24 Florida State (7-4).

The Most Deserving Four

There is no doubt that #1 Miami is the best team in the country, and the most deserving. Beyond that, there are plenty of questions. (more…)

College Football postseason meetings continue in Chicago; “seismic change” still on hold

The eleven conference commissioners, the Notre Dame Athletic Director, and BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock met in Chicago today in a continuing attempt to determine the successor to the current college football postseason. Though the prognosis in April was for “seismic change” and a near-certain four-team playoff, things haven’t progressed much since then.

Here’s their statement:

We made progress in our meeting today to discuss the future of college football’s post-season. We are approaching consensus on many issues, and we recognize there are also several issues that require additional conversations at both the commissioner and university president levels.

We are determined to build upon our successes and create a structure that further grows the sport while protecting the regular season. We also value the bowl tradition and recognize the many benefits it brings to student-athletes.

We have more work to do and more discussions to have with our presidents, who are the parties that will make the final decisions about the future structure of college football’s post-season.

The word from Twitter and other blogs seems to be that the commissioners had nothing interesting to say upon leaving the meeting, only reiterating that everything but the status quo is still on the table, and that includes a plus-one. There seem to be some hang-ups, and it’s not surprising that the folks at today’s meeting couldn’t get past them. They’re the same things we’ve known as stumbling blocks for months now: how to select teams, when to play games, how to select sites for games, and how to distribute the revenue.

The very public discussion has been over how to select teams, while there’s been less talk of where and when to play the semifinals. What is likely the major sticking point (and will be for some time) is revenue distribution. Revenue distribution shouldn’t have much influence on the structure of the playoff, but it’s not surprising that the people in charge want the new postseason system revealed only when it is completely finalized.

One of the goals for the June meetings was said to be narrowing down the postseason proposals to present a small number of options to the presidents. In the last couple of months, commissioners and presidents have been making periodic public statements about various postseason proposals. The commissioners and other folks in charge have almost certainly spent time polling the opinions of their athletic directors and school presidents (and hopefully the fans as well).

Our guess is that today’s meetings were a time to reconvene, discuss their constituents’ opinions, narrow down the already-leading options, eat some delicious lunch, craft a few statements, and head back to their presidents. It seems unlikely that anything will be resolved by next week, but it’s pretty clear the men convening at these monthly meetings are eventually going to pass the final decision on to the school presidents. How soon that happens is anybody’s guess.

Picking the Field: Who would’ve been in a college football playoff in 2000?

“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 best 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. This week: 2000. (Check out 1998 and 1999).


In the third year of the BCS era, there was little doubt that the system had worked satisfactorily the previous two seasons. The ranking formula remained unchanged, and after an exciting matchup between the only two undefeated major-conference champions in 1999, the BCS was due for some controversy. The 2000 season was happy to oblige.

The Teams

The season finished with a single undefeated team, Oklahoma, and several one-loss teams bunched together behind them. Interestingly, there were multiple high-profile games between the one- and two-loss teams, including a few non-conference match-ups. All these connections between teams made the selection of the #2 team extremely difficult.

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. Oklahoma (12-0, Big 12 Champ). Four victories over ranked teams (#8 Nebraska, #9 Kansas State [twice], #12 Texas), and three over other bowl-eligible teams (UTEP, Texas A&M, Texas Tech).
  2. Florida State (11-1, ACC Champ). Four victories over ranked teams (#7 Florida, #13 Georgia Tech, #15 Clemson, AP #22 Louisville), and one over another bowl-eligible team (NC State). Lost to 27-24 to #3 Miami (10-1).
  3. Miami (10-1, Big East Champ). Two victories over ranked teams (#2 Florida State, #5 Virginia Tech), and four over other bowl-eligible teams (West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Boston College). Lost 34 – 29 to #4 Washington (10-1).
  4. Washington (10-1, Pac 10 co-champion). Two victories over ranked teams (#3 Miami, #6 Oregon State), and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Arizona State, UCLA). Lost to 23-16 to #10 Oregon (9-2).
  5. Virginia Tech (10-1). No victories over ranked teams, but seven over bowl-eligible teams (East Carolina, Boston College, West Virginia, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, UCF, Akron). Lost 41-21 to #3 Miami (10-1).
  6. Oregon State (10-1, Pac 10 co-champ). One victory over a ranked team (#10 Oregon), and one over another bowl-eligible team (UCLA). Lost 33-30 to #4 Washington (10-1).
  7. Florida (10-2, SEC Champ). Four victories over ranked teams (AP #20 Auburn [twice], AP #21 Tennessee, AP #24 Georgia), and three over other bowl-eligible teams (LSU, South Carolina, Middle Tennessee). Lost 47-35 to Mississippi State (7-4) and 30-7 to #2 Florida State (11-1).
  8. Nebraska (9-2). One victory over a ranked team (#11 Notre Dame), and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Iowa State, Texas Tech, San Jose State). Lost 31-14 to #1 Oklahoma (12-0), 29-28 to #9 Kansas State (10-3).
  9. Kansas State (10-3). One victory over a ranked team (#8 Nebraska), and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Texas Tech, Iowa State). Lost to 41-31 and 27-24 to #1 Oklahoma (12-0) and 26-10 to Texas A&M (7-4).
  10. Oregon (9-2, Pac 10 co-champ). One victory over a ranked team (#4 Washington), and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Arizona State, UCLA). Lost 27-23 to Wisconsin (8-4) and 23-13 to #6 Oregon State (10-1).

The most deserving four

Let’s consider the on-field results among top-ten teams:

  • #4 Washington > #6 Oregon State > #10 Oregon > #4 Washington
  • #4 Washington > #3 Miami > #2 Florida State > #7 Florida
  • #3 Miami > #5 Virginia Tech
  • #1 Oklahoma > #9 Kansas State > #8 Nebraska
  • #1 Oklahoma > #8 Nebraska

There are a couple things that become clear here. (more…)

Decoding Jim Delany and the Big Ten’s comments about the forthcoming playoff

Last week, after the SEC had their conference meetings, the consensus from the coaches, athletic directors, and presidents was that the league strictly favored a playoff between the top four teams in the country. And we mean “strictly”:

“We won’t compromise on that,” Machen said at the SEC spring meetings. “I think the public wants the top four. I think almost everybody wants the top four.”

The Florida president wasn’t the only one promoting a hard line against a selection method favoring conference champions. The unanimous chorus out of the meetings was for taking teams one through four, with commissioner Mike Slive saying the conference’s back-up plan was “1, 2, 3, 4.”

That was last week. This week, tired of continuously being labeled as the obstruction to a playoff, the Big Ten have come out with some thoughts of their own. First, Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman (who for some reason is a go-to spokesman after only a year in the conference) divulged that the Big Ten presidents’ top two preferences are the status quo, followed by a true plus-one.

Perlman then conceded that the presidents are “also realistic,” adding:

We are trying to be open to the conversations. We’ve tried not to put a stake in the ground (and say), ‘Over our dead bodies.’ We’re trying ultimately to do what’s best for college football.

In that statement, Perlman, who speaks for the Big Ten presidents, is purposefully re-casting the SEC as the obstructing party in the playoff debates. Perlman’s comments, coming after the SEC’s hard-line stance on a top four field, are an attempt to re-frame the Big Ten as the group who have made all the concessions in the playoff discussions. The implication here is that if they’re conceding not to their second-choice postseason plan, but their third choice, then they deserve some concessions from the other side.

And Perlman makes a good point. In the discussions of how the playoff will go, the SEC has gotten its favored option nearly the entire way, from the number of teams, to the sites of the games, to the size and structure of the playoff, to special treatment of any bowls. The SEC makes demands, and they’re generally followed. Maybe with these public comments, the Big Ten can gain a little leverage against the heretofore uncompromising SEC.

But what of the other comments that came up on Monday, from Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany? Delany was quoted saying that he wanted “the best four teams,” adding that he “didn’t really think that … conference champions-only met the public’s demand for elite teams playing each other,” and that “the combination of champions and an elite at-large team regardless of status — it could be a champion, could be an independent, could be a divisional runner-up or championship loser — was probably the right formulation.”

Delany’s comments were quickly labeled as “backtracking” and “all over the place” due to his previous proposals favoring conference champions. But Delany is really cutting to the core issue in all of this: who are the best four teams? The money quote from Delany:

I think that people understand now that our search right now is to find the best four football teams. However you do that, typically it’s going to involve a lot of champions. I don’t care whether it occurs in a committee but I do think the two key issues are honoring champions, honoring strength of schedule, honoring teams and coaches that try to play good schedule and recognizing teams that play an additional championship game versus one that doesn’t.

Delany also questioned whether the current system of unmonitored computer rankings and biased, self-serving human polls was a valid selection method. As we’ve profiled here in the past, the BCS rankings and polls in general are not a reliable way to decide the four most deserving playoff teams. Delany isn’t the first to propose a selection committee, but many are jumping on his statements as evidence that a committee is the best selection method.

This may not be The Compromise That Saves The Playoff, but it’s still refreshing to hear Delany refocus the selection debate. Let’s hear less of the conferenc-champs-vs top-four debate and more of the deeper and more important debate over how to determine the top four in the first place.

Picking the Field: Who Would’ve Been in a College Football Playoff in 1999?

“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. This week: 1999. (Check out 1998).


The second year of the BCS era brought a few tweaks to the formula, but after the success of the first championship at the Fiesta Bowl there was little concern going into 1999. Florida State was the pre-season #1 team and finished the season undefeated. Preseason #11 Virginia Tech, with dazzling redshirt freshman Michael Vick leading them, also finished undefeated, as did the Thundering Herd of Marshall, who were unranked until the fourth week of the season.

The Teams

The only change to the formula used for calculating the BCS rankings was the addition of five more computer polls. A team’s lowest ranking of the seven total computer polls was dropped, then those were averaged. A team’s BCS total was calculated by adding four parts: the computer average, the human poll average, a strength of schedule component, and the number of losses. A lower total was better. 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. Florida State (11-0, ACC Champion). Three victories over ranked teams (#10 Florida, AP #17 Georgia Tech, AP #20 Miami), and four over other bowl-eligible teams (Virginia, Clemson, Wake Forest, Louisiana Tech).
  2. Virginia Tech (11-0, Big East Champion). Two victories over ranked teams (AP #20 Miami, AP #25 Boston College), and three over other bowl-eligible teams (Virginia, Clemson, Syracuse).
  3. Nebraska (11-1, Big 12 Champion). Three victories over ranked teams (#6 Kansas State, #14 Texas A&M, #15 Texas [rematch in Big 12 Championship], AP #16 Southern Miss), and one over another bowl-eligible team (Colorado). Lost to #15 Texas.
  4. Alabama (10-2, SEC Champion). Five victories over ranked teams (#10 Florida [twice], AP #16 Southern Miss, AP #15 Mississippi State, AP #24 Arkansas), and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Houston, Mississippi). Lost to 29-28 to Louisiana Tech (8-3) and 21-7 to #5 Tennessee (9-2).
  5. Tennessee (9-2). Two victories over ranked teams (#4 Alabama, AP #21 Georgia) and two over other bowl-eligible teams (Kentucky, Wyoming). Lost 23-21 to #10 Florida (9-3) and 28-24 to AP #24 Arkansas (7-4).
  6. Kansas State (10-1). One victory over a ranked team (#15 Texas) and one over another bowl-eligible team (Colorado). Lost 41-15 to #3 Nebraska (11-1).
  7. Wisconsin (9-2, Big Ten Champion). Three victories over ranked teams (#9 Michigan State, #13 Minnesota, AP #19 Purdue). Lost 17-12 to Cincinnati (3-8) and 21-16 to #8 Michigan (9-2).
  8. Michigan (9-2). Three victories over ranked teams (#7 Wisconsin, #11 Penn State, AP #19 Purdue) and one over another bowl eligible team (Syracuse). Lost 34-31 to #9 Michigan State (9-2) and 35-29 to Illinois (7-4).
  9. Michigan State (9-2). Two victories over ranked teams (#8 Michigan, #11 Penn State) and two over other bowl eligible teams (Oregon, Illinois). Lost 52-28 to AP #19 Purdue (7-4) and 40-10 to #7 Wisconsin.
  10. Florida (9-3). Two victories over ranked teams (#5 Tennessee, AP #21 Georgia) and two over other bowl eligible teams (Western Michigan, Kentucky). Lost 40-39 and 34-7 to #4 Alabama (10-2), and 30-23 to #1 Florida State (11-1).
  11. Penn State (9-3). Two victories over ranked teams (AP #19 Purdue, AP #20 Miami) and two over other bowl eligible teams (Akron, Illinois). Lost 24-23 to #13 Minnesota (8-3), 31-27 to #8 Michigan (9-2), and 35-28 to #9 Michigan State (9-2).
  12. Marshall (12-0, MAC Champion). No victories over ranked teams, and 5 over other bowl eligible teams (Clemson, Miami (OH), Toledo, twice over Western Michigan).

The Most Deserving Four

Just like in 1998, the top two teams are clearly deserving of inclusion. Both #1 Florida State and #2 Virginia Tech were undefeated major-conference champions, and were the most exciting and impressive teams over the length of the season. (more…)