Let me just say that if it were so, that’s a feature, not a bug, of the new postseason format.
But I fear the true answer is that she’s merely in a coma, waiting to waken once the field expands sufficiently.
Kevin Scarbinsky wildly overstates the impact of the verbal jabbing going on this offseason about the SEC from the likes of Bob Stoops and Rick Neuheisel, but I won’t say there isn’t a grain of truth at the heart of the point he’s trying to make.
College football’s postseason has always been a subjective thing from a selection standpoint and anything that’s arrived at through a subjective process is something that third parties can try to influence. Human nature being what it is, if you can try, you’re gonna try. In the case of the BCS, we saw coaches lobby furiously. We watched Herbstreit and Danielson go at it at the end of the 2006 regular season.
That was in a situation where computers drove some part of the selection process, at least. Now that the entire choice of the semi-finals pool is in the hands of human beings, it’s not logical to expect less lobbying of the decision makers.
Will it work? That’s hard for me to say. I suppose if there were some enormous crest of public sentiment about a particular team getting in – or, more to Scarbinsky’s fear, a certain conference being denied a second choice – I could see the committee members perhaps being swayed by that. But the likelihood is that when it comes to public sentiment, there will be all kinds of cross currents swirling about that will undercut a specific position. There will simply be too many agendas in play. (ESPN loves multiple agendas.)
That’s not to say that I don’t have a concern about lobbying. But my worry is about the internal kind, the in-the-arena types on the committee pushing the others by using their resumes to advocate a choice. For some reason, I haven’t found myself assured by Jeff Long’s reverence for transparency.
One reason I question how seriously the CFP selection committee takes all the trappings surrounding its mission is because I’m not sure the committee itself will take that stuff all too seriously.
Take, for example, the role statistical analysis will play in seeding the semi-final pool.
“The real difference is we are going to pick four teams and it is going to be done by human beings and not by computers,” said Tranghese.
The hope is to avoid some of the controversies that plagued the BCS during its reign over college football, some of which were caused by those pesky computers. For example, the split national titles for LSU and USC in 2003 and an undefeated Auburn team left out of the title picture a year later. And let’s not forget the 2007 LSU squad that won a championship despite suffering two losses during the season.
Blaming the final selections in those controversial years on computers is so much happy horse shit, of course. (And it’s not like anyone’s quick to give the computers the credit for the years the BCS nailed the final two teams.) Computers are there to calculate the data that humans feed them. It’s up to the latter to prevent garbage in, garbage out situations.
But anyway, it’s not like they’re locking the computers out of the selection room now. Quite the contrary, there’s going to be a dizzying amount of data made available to committee members. The issue is how much understanding of statistical analysis do they have to make useful decisions based on the information they will access. Or, from the original Geek,
“The custom platform we built for selection committee was to their specifications and has approximately 100 million pieces of data, including those at the season, game, possession and play-by-play level,” SportSource co-founder Scott Prather said. “We put that into different tools that make it easy for the selection committee to compare and contrast teams.”
“We have statistics at every level of granularity,” Prather continued. “Using custom filters each committee member can determine the information important to them.”
Tranghese’s response manages to be both predictable and hilarious at the same time.
“I don’t think this is rocket science,” said Tranghese.
Yeah, there’s no reason to think it can’t work.
Of course, if I’m wrong about it, they can always remedy the situation by expanding the pool to eight teams.
Me, I’m gonna miss the ol’ crystal football.
The big question is, how’s that gonna play at Walmart?
Bill Hancock’s disingenuousness aside, we all know why we’re getting playoff expansion. And I think most people expect we’ll see expansion of that expansion in the not too distant future. What I’m curious about is whether we’re on the cusp of seeing another fault line exposed, over the matter of player safety. I don’t mean that in the Bielema sense, either. I’m talking about asking players to fight through fifteen, sixteen or seventeen games in a year to win a national title.
While head coaches strike me as control freaks (comes with the territory, to some extent), for the most part, none strike me as being willingly ignorant of the toll a college football season takes on a student-athlete physically. That’s led me to wonder if any of them have thought about what happens when those two issues intersect. I got some answers last week.
“I would hope that if it expands beyond this, we gotta look at the regular season,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said as SEC media days concluded Thursday. “I think you have to reduce the regular [season]. A lot of people may not agree with that.”
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze agreed with Richt, saying college football would have to cut into the regular season for the well-being of the student-athletes participating. Alabama’s Nick Saban didn’t exactly take a side on the matter, but he did say that if expansion comes, the sport should consider the toll more games would put on players.
“Not having thought much about it, I do think that for college players, with their age, with their responsibility to academics and the things they have to do that we’re pretty much closing in on the limit of how many games they should be playing and how we can still fit them in,” Saban said. “In our league, you’d have to win 15 games to win [the national championship in a playoff]. If you expand the playoff, you’d have to win more than that.”
Under the current format, four teams will compete in the College Football Playoff, meaning there will be two semifinal games before a national championship game. That’s after Power Five conferences like the SEC, Big Ten, ACC and Pac-12 have their conference championship games following the regular season. The Big 12 no longer has a conference championship game.
“I have always been concerned with the length of the season,” Freeze said. “But it’s so financially profitable that I’m not sure that there would be any interest [in shortening the regular season]. If you end up going to a longer playoff, there has to be talk of cutting the season back a game, at least.
“The workload that would be on these young men, I would think you’d have to look at shortening the season some if the playoff is expanding.”
Wow, I had no idea there was a college football topic Nick Saban hadn’t given much thought to, but there you go.
Seriously, the common theme there is awkward. These coaches may have legitimate concerns about how their kids hold up as a season grows ever longer, but they all report to athletic directors who answer to school presidents who have other concerns they consider more legitimate. You’ve seen enough goings on over the past ten years, so you tell me – whose concerns are likely to be given greater weight?
The other part of the equation to keep in mind here are that priorities can change over time, if the guys running the show lose track of their calibrations.
While Freeze suggested cutting the regular season by a game, Richt didn’t have a specific number for the regular season. Saban, however, threw out the idea of eliminating conference championship games in order to make room for an expanded playoff and cut down the burden of an extra game between the regular season and the playoffs.
It’s hard to see either of those options being attractive to Mike Slive, who’s trying to build a broadcast network asset while maintaining the value of a crown jewel conference championship game that’s been enormously successful for over two decades. Also, judging by the current debate over the size of the conference schedule, lopping off a regular season game can’t be something any SEC athletic director wants to consider as an option.
But who’s to say how those things look to those folks a few years down the road? Before you argue it wouldn’t matter, because no school or conference is voluntarily relinquishing any of that sweet money, don’t forget to factor what a future players union may have to say into the equation. Life is full of tough choices; it’s just that guys like Slive have been able to dodge most of ‘em over the last decade. We’ll see how long his luck (or that of his successor) holds up.