State of the Conference: Reaction to Initial Selection Committee Rankings

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Tuesday saw the first ever College Football Playoff Committee Top 25 released. And, it wasn’t too far off from Sam’s top 25 that he released a few hours earlier. They should just let 4 Down Territory decide the final four. But, anyway, at this point in the season rankings don’t mean much. Many of the teams still have games against each other, so that will automatically eliminate certain teams. But, we did learn a few things about how the committee values teams. That will be our topic today in this week’s edition of State of the Conference.

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Many people (myself included) were worried that the College Football Playoff Committee would be more worried about pleasing everyone and let personal bias slip into their rankings. Fortunately, for the people who want to see the best teams in the playoff bracket (and SEC fans), they did not let bias cloud their judgment. I feared that the loss of Archie Manning would take away from the SEC’s chances of getting multiple teams in and make our voice not quite as loud. The initial rankings indicate otherwise. Arkansas athletic director and Playoff Committee Chairman Jeff Long said the committee spent roughly 10 hours total in Dallas debating and comparing teams. To me, there were several things that stood out to me as to how they determined who was ranked where.

The first, and biggest, thing was strength of schedule. The committee took more of a “who have you beat so far?” approach, which is the right thing to do. Mississippi State and Florida State are clearly #1 and #2, since they are undefeated. The strength of schedule factor became evident with the next 15 or so teams, however – #3-#17 is a huge cluster of 1-loss teams trying to stake their claim in the top 4. For example, Auburn’s one loss is against the #1 team in the country, on the road. The win on the road against a top 10 Kansas State team also gives the Tigers a major bump in the strength of schedule category. Many people expected Alabama to be in the top 4 if you look at AP rankings. Their one loss is to #3 Ole Miss which is a “good” loss. But, who have they beaten? Their best win so far is against an inconsistent, couch burning West Virginia team. Then, look at a team like Ohio State. They are a traditional, big name power. Many people expected them to be in or around the top 10. But, who have they beaten? The answer is no one and their one loss is to a terrible Virginia Tech team. Because of this, the committee did not reward them just because they are THE Ohio State University.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Indiana

The second thing that was evident to me (but not always true) was head–to–head play. Case-in-point is Ole Miss and Alabama. Both teams have 1 loss on the season. Alabama to Ole Miss (#3) and Ole Miss to LSU (#19). Alabama lost to the higher ranked team, but Ole Miss beat Alabama so they get the higher ranking. This is not always the case however. Look at Baylor and TCU. Baylor beat TCU in what was a shootout of Texas-sized proportions (remember that Texas rant Sam had a few weeks ago?) But, TCU has played the better schedule so far this season. Baylor’s nonconference games have been against SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo. Now if that doesn’t just scare the bejeezus out of you, then I don’t know what does. In the Bama/Ole Miss example, their schedules are similar enough to justify the head–to–head argument. In the Baylor/TCU example, the schedule strengths aren’t even close enough for head-to-head to come into play.

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ATTENTION SEC HATERS, THIS IS THE POINT THAT YOU WILL LIKE SO START READING HERE. The final thing that is evident to me is that none of this means anything right now and the final rankings will be much different from what they are now. Alabama plays Mississippi State. Auburn plays Ole Miss. Georgia plays Auburn. Ole Miss plays Mississippi State. Auburn plays Alabama. Kansas State plays TCU. Baylor plays Kansas State. Michigan State plays Ohio State. And the list goes on and on. The point is that there is still plenty of time for your favorite team to play their way into the Final 4. It just better be against quality opponents, and not some glorified scrimmage.

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