Conference champs and the CFP

Interesting look at the issue from Andy Staples at I found the following passage a bit surprising, but after thinking about it, it really makes sense:

[quote]The committee doesn’t attach the mystical significance to a conference title that a lot of fans do, probably because the members of the committee work in the sport and understand unbalanced schedules in huge leagues have diluted those titles.

Which is why Alabama would have gotten into the CFP even if they had somehow lost to Florida in the SECCG. Their 12-game resume was such that a championship game loss would not have knocked them out. Nor would it have pushed three-loss Florida (if they had beaten Bama) into the CFP field, with the Gators having survived by far the weaker SEC division (and losing to us on top of that).

Penn State, on the other hand, was in the tougher Big Ten division, having played both tOSU and Michigan. But if you look at a conference title as just a tiebreaker if other factors are equal, and note that Washington and PSU both had conference titles, then the logical conclusion is that U-Dub’s resume (and its record) was thought to be better than Penn State’s, and that’s why the Huskies got in and the Lions didn’t.

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Here’s another issue, mentioned in the story. The CFP committee has now established the precedent that a conference championship (and even a head to head win) does not necessarily get you in. If they had put PSU in over tOSU, you could figure nonconference strength of schedule really doesn’t matter, schedule 3-4 cupcakes, focus on winning your conference and get in that way. Which of course, is how U-Dub got in. But Penn State didn’t, and that NC loss to Pitt (which was a decent team but not great, with 4 regular season losses) is probably why. And tOSU’s big win at Oklahoma is what got them in even though they didn’t even win their division.

Great points. I’m pretty sure football is the only sport in which SEC teams don’t play all of the other teams in their conference once each year, and/or have a tournament to crown a champion.

The Big 12 gets a lot of flack, mostly for good reason, but I do like that its size and schedule format allows all of the football teams to play each year. It’s difficult to feel like Arkansas and Georgia are conference opponents when they only play once every eight or nine years.

Is there another sport that decides who gets to play in the playoffs by popularity contest? By opinion? Why is it every other football league outside D1 can have a real playoff? Even High School gets it right. Why would anyone be happy about the current system that relies on a small group of people’s opinion of who deserves to be there.

And your suggestion is what? Limit it to conference winners? Even then, we have five conferences (or 11) and four playoff spots. Someone has to be left out. Guess what – somebody has to make the decision of who to leave out. Expand the playoffs to 8 teams? That’s three at-large teams. Somebody has to decide who gets those three at-large spots, and who doesn’t. So you’re not getting subjective opinions out of it no matter what. Go to 16 teams? Somebody has to pick those 16.

So as long as somebody has to pick the teams no matter what, I’d rather they go with the four best teams, whether they won their conference or not. Because it is quite possible that the winner of a Power 5 conference may not be anywhere near one of the four best teams (like if Florida had won the SECCG).

I went back this week and looked at the situation in 2010, when we went to the Sugar Bowl, to see what might have happened then if the CFP had been in place. The Power 5 winners were Auburn (#1), Oregon (#2), Wisconsin (#5), Oklahoma (#7) and Virginia Tech (#13). TCU, which won the Mountain West and went 13-0, was third. We were 8th. A four-team playoff, limited to Power 5 conference champs, would have included OU and left out TCU, which then proved they belonged by beating Wisky in the Rose Bowl. In an 8-team playoff with three at-large, we would have been left out to include VTech.

If the BCS rankings had corresponded with the way the CFP ranks teams (no way to know now), and the playoffs had the present format, it would have been Auburn vs. Stanford and Oregon vs. TCU in the 2010 CFP semifinals.

That real playoff in the other divisions? A committee picks those teams too.