Sunday, December 08, 2013

College Football Playoffs

It likes like we will again have an SEC team play in the BCS championship game. Auburn vs. Florida State. Yawn. The SEC manages to continue to play in the championship game because the conference has a reputation of winning it. The strict formula of rankings and ratings almost guarantees it.
Luckily, next year there will be a college football playoff, albeit only of 4 teams. The teams will be chosen by a committee rather than a formula. Hopefully this will give us a better set of teams.

How would we pick teams if we did it this year?

Well, Florida State would definitely be in. They are the only undefeated team. Undefeated teams should always make it to the playoff. Otherwise there will still be other claimants to the championship. Even if a team such as Northern Illinois makes it through undefeated, they should be in the playoff.

After Florida State, we need to use some tools to find the best teams. The conference championships can be helpful for picking participants. Pac12, Big10, SEC, ACC, Mountain West, MAC and C-USA all have a championship game. While we can't include the winner of each game, we can reasonably exclude the losers. (We could consider it as a play-in round.)

The SEC and Pac12 have been the strongest conferences this year, so their champions should get the first look. Do they pass the smell test? Auburn's lone loss has by a couple touchdowns, but it came back in September. They have the best record in the conference, and have beat the next-best teams (Alabama and Missouri) in their last two games. Looks good.

Stanford has two losses. However, they have played one of toughest schedules in the country (#4 by Sagarin - the only teams with tougher schedules are teams that Stanford defeated.) They have more victories over Sagarin top-10 (3) and Sagarin top-30 (6) teams than any other team. The two losses were both close (and could have been wins if a single play would have gone a different way.) They have recovered from their last loss with 3 victories, including the last two against top-25 teams, with the most recent a strong road win over Arizona State. Also looks good.

Now who do we get for the last spot? Oregon and Alabama were both early season favorites with records equal to Auburn and Stanford. Alabama's loss came on a time-expired kickoff return. However, that was the last game they played. (Do we call it a play in game?) Oregon's loss to Stanford was more of a drubbing. Since then, they lost one more game, and had to struggle to beat rival Oregon State.

Michigan State is the Big-10 champion. Their lone loss was a 4 point defeat at Notre Dame. However, the recent victory over Ohio State is the lone signature win. Other than that, they have just a trio of wins over 8-4 teams that are worth talking about. Yet, they have beat all teams by at least 10 points. Maybe.

Baylor is the 1-loss Big-12 champion. However, their loss 32-point loss to Oklahoma State was just a few weeks ago. They also won a close game at TCU last week. Their signature win was over 2-loss Oklahoma. Other than that, there is just a win over an 8-4 Texas. Sorry Bears.

What about the AAC? Louisville and UCF both have a single loss from early in the season. Alas, they lack signature victories. UCF's best win was against Louisville. And then 8-4 Houston is it. For Louisville, its 9-3 Cincinnati and 8-4 Houston. Meh. Neither team has been dominating their opponents.

Northern Illinois has one loss, but that was in the MAC championship game. Fresno State lost one game, but that was last week. Neither team has played a very strong schedule. C-USA champion Rice has 3 losses. The top Independents are 8-4 BYU and Notre Dame. Sun Belt Champion Louisiana-Lafayette has 4 losses.

Without a better option, the fourth spot comes down to a battle between Alabama and Michigan State. They both suffered a narrow road loss to a good team. Alabama would be a strong pick and the likely higher-ranked team. However, their last game was a loss and their opponent is represented in the playoff. Why have a rematch when their are better options? Thus, the spot would go to Michigan State.

Thus the playoff would be:
#1 Florida State vs #4 Michigan State
#2 Auburn vs #3 Stanford

As it turns out, this year, all four teams will likely be playing in the Rose bowl, with Michigan State vs Stanford in the Rose Bowl game, and Florida State likely playing against Auburn in the championship game the next week. Perhaps we just need one more after that to declare a champion.

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