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2013 College Football 8-Team Playoff

It’s been a fun college football season. Here’s how my proposed system would keep the season going with an opinion-free* 8-team playoff:

*The reason I say this is opinion-free is because every team would go into each season knowing exactly who makes the playoff: the six top-rated conference champions and next two highest-rated teams, as determined by a quantitative formula that only knows which teams won and which teams lost–no “this team looks better,” or “that team would win in a rematch.” 

WATCHABLE. Is it exactly what I would have wanted? Well, I wouldn’t choose a rematch between Michigan St. and Ohio St. in the first round. Maybe there could be a rule that says two teams from the same conference cannot play in the quarterfinals. But in any case, Ohio St. was the higher-rated team coming into the Big Ten Championship Game, and now the Spartans beat them for the right to host a playoff game against them at home (it sure beats the alternative, which is playing in an exhibition against Stanford in Pasadena).

I like the in-state Florida matchup. The #1 seed vs. the de facto Cinderella of this tournament. If NIU had beaten Bowling Green, they would have earned the right to be here.

Not that it matters what I think in a system like this, but I think these are the correct 8 teams. Every other team in the entire country except Northern Illinois has 2 or more losses, and NIU had that chance to get in had they beaten Bowling Green this past weekend. 6 teams in this bracket have 1 loss; Stanford has 2, and Florida State has none so far. So I like this bracket because that essentially means that every team in the FBS had a chance to make it to the National Championship (honestly, does NIU or UCF have a chance in the current system or the future 4-team playoff, even if they went undefeated?). The best conference champs are in, and two teams that can say “hey, we just had one-slip up” are in as well. Fair, in my opinion.

In any case, I’m looking forward to some of the bowl games. I guess. But not really. See all 5 of you who read this next season!

College Football Week 14 – AI Score

It’s strange to think how much effect the media has on who plays for the BCS National Championship. Right after Auburn stunned Alabama on Saturday, the discourse around who would play for the all the Xochtils focused on if a 1-loss SEC champion would be more deserving than an undefeated Ohio State. And that’s a fine and valid conversation, except that when it happens on ESPN and in other mainstream media outlets, it actually has an effect on who could play (communication majors everywhere are like “SEE!!! WE MATTER.”). Remember, a huge component of who ends up playing in that game is what people think of how good those teams are. It’s very likely that at least one voter changes his or her mind based on the fact that ESPN is framing the conversation this way.

Why is Ohio State being picked on and not Florida State? Yes, I think Florida State has had more top-flight opponents and has looked more impressive, but I don’t think looking impressive is a qualification for a national championship. It doesn’t matter how you win in any major American sport, so why college football?  The fact is that most rankings have Ohio State’s scheduleranked as more difficult than Florida State’s. So why is the SEC picking on Ohio State as the undeserving team? Because that’s the narrative that is more likely to stick, given how the Jameis Winston coverage and how the Seminoles have beaten opponents.

It’s a sad way to run a championship sport. Who plays for the championship should be based solely on how many games you win, how many games you lose, and who you beat–in other words, the objective quality of your opponents.  Subjectivity should never be a part of it because then we are judging teams based on tradition, how they played last year, style of play, if they played their starters the whole game, et cetera. The conversation about an SEC 1-loss champ versus an undefeated Big Ten/ACC champ should be a side conversation to the actual playoff entry format, not an input to it.

By the way, this won’t be solved by the playoff next year. You’ll still have lobbying as a way to affect who the selection committee puts in the 4-team playoff.

Below are my ratings for Week 14. A summary of my proposed playoff: top 6 conference champs plus the next two highest-rated teams. Top 4 conference champs host the other 4 teams at home on college campuses on December 21. Semifinals and Championship are incorporated into existing bowl rotation.

The teams in bold are potential conference champions that can win out to win the National Championship. These top 6 teams can host a first round game.

  • #1 Ohio State. Beat #12 Michigan State for the Big Ten title and you’re the #1 seed.
  • #2 Florida State. Beat #18 Duke for the ACC title and you’re probably the #2 seed.
  • #3/#4 Auburn/Missouri. Whoever wins is the SEC champ and probably the #3 seed.
  • #5/#6 Arizona State/Stanford. Whoever wins is the PAC 12 champ and probably the #4 seed.

The next grouping are of teams that can win their way into the eight-team playoff:

  • #9 Northern Illinois. Beat #61 Bowling Green and you’re in.
  • #12 Michigan State. Beat #1 Ohio State and you’re in.
  • #13 Oklahoma State. Beat #28 Oklahoma and you’re in.
  • #18 Duke. Beat #2 Florida State and you’re in.

 Our top 6 conference champions are likely to come from this group. If NIU or Oklahoma State lose, then the next highest-rated conference champ could be Baylor, Central Florida, or even Texas. It’s a longshot for any of those teams, but that’s the fun of sports. Sometimes a team sneaks in and surprises us.

Then we have our 2 at-large teams. If Ohio State or Florida State lose, they would drop from a #1/#2 seed to the back half of the bracket, which is fair, given that it would be their first loss. No hosting for them. The other possible at-large teams are the SEC title game loser and Alabama. So, SEC lovers, you might still have 3 teams in there, which I think could be fair given the strength of the top of the conference.

So, if the higher-rated teams win out, here’s what we would get on December 21:

  • 8-seed Oklahoma State at 1-seed Ohio State in Columbus on FOX at 12:30 pm EST
  • 7-seed Northern Illinois at 2-seed Florida State in Tallahassee on ESPN at 4 pm EST
  • 6-seed Alabama at 3-seed Auburn in Auburn on CBS at 7:30 pm EST
  • 5-seed Missouri at 4-seed Arizona State in Tempe on ABC at 11 pm EST

I would watch those!


College Football Week 10 – AI Score

If the season ended today, here’s how the top 4 championship games would be set up::

  • ACC Championship Game: #1 Florida St. vs. #10 Miami
  • Big 10 Championship Game: #5 Ohio St. vs. #21 Michigan St.
  • Pac 12 Championship Game: Winner of #4 Stanford/#3 Oregon (tomorrow night on ESPN) vs. #16 Arizona St.
  • SEC Championship Game: #2 Alabama vs. #6 Missouri
Obviously, there are so many ways this season can go–starting with the game tomorrow night–but let’s say the higher seeds win out. In my fictional college football universe (featuring an 8 team playoff with the 6 highest-rated champions), the top half of the 8-team playoff would be:
  • ACC Champion Florida St., probably at #1
  • SEC Champion Alabama, probably at #2
  • Pac 12 Champion Oregon, probably at #3
  • Big 10 Champion Ohio State, probably at #4
That’s a great top half. And in this fictional universe, those 4 teams would host quarterfinals in their home stadiums around Dec 18 to 21. The four visiting teams would be:
  • The next best conference champion, which would likely be Baylor, at #11 right now
  • The next next best conference champion, which would likely be Fresno State. However, if they lose, their SOS is so weak that they would drop below  Northern Illinois, the next best likely champion. But NIU’s SOS is also so weak that it’s possible they could be jumped by the American champ, Houston or Central Florida. It’s not likely, but it’s possible.
  • The next two best at-large teams. It’s Stanford and Missouri right now, but with losses to Oregon and Alabama, respectively, it could be any number of teams: Clemson, Auburn, South Carolina, Miami, or BYU.
I’m looking forward to all the great games on tap in November and early December, starting with Stanford and Oregon tomorrow night!


College Football Week 8 – AI Score

The first BCS rankings came out this week. Missouri has been shooting up the human polls, and is ranked 3rd in the computers; I have them 1st. Here’s how my scores compare to the computer averages:

Missouri – I have them 1st, computers have them 3rd
Alabama – 2nd, 2nd
FSU – 3rd, 1st
Oregon – 4th, 4th
Ohio State – 5th, 5th
Stanford – 6th, 6th

I feel good knowing that my formula is not too far from the composite of the real formulas. Of course, I have New Mexico State ranked 7th…just kidding.

This past Saturday was pretty fun, although I only caught the highlights. I’m looking forward to this week:

#9 Texas Tech at #15 OU
#20 South Carolina at #1 Missouri
#6 Stanford at #25 Oregon State
#17 UCLA at #4 Oregon

Enjoy the games this weekend.

College Football Week 4 – AI Score

It’s the last year of the BCS! How about that! I’m exited about the four-team playoff next year, although I still think eight is the right number for a league of this size–127 teams!

For your reference, here are Part 1 and Part 2 of my playoff proposal. The only difference is that I now include 6 conference winners and 2 wildcards.

Texas A&M is ranked 37th here. Why? Yes, they stuck with Alabama (but didn’t pull out the win). But who have they beaten? Rice, SMU, and Sam Houston State. I think Austin Community College is next on their schedule. Meanwhile, Auburn, who is also 3-1, is sitting much higher because they’ve beaten a few reasonably decent teams.

FYI, Texas is ranked 76th. Behind Duke but ahead of Vanderbilt. Sounds about right.