Something the MAC commissioner said in the Heather Dinich piece I linked to yesterday…
“In the case of the BCS, they started it from scratch, so they were building metrics as they went. To think that there wouldn’t be a time period of calibration, that’s just logical to think that’s going to occur. One of the big complaints about the BCS was the lack of the human element. Now we have a big dose of the human element. Some people like it, some people don’t. You don’t overreact. You let it play out a little bit to really get a sense of it.”
… is kind of amusing in light of last year’s big struggle over what to do with the Big 12’s two best teams.
If a team from the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big 12 — or Notre Dame — finishes the regular season undefeated and wins its conference championship, it’s a lock for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff, right?
“I don’t think it’s automatic or should be automatic,” ACC commissioner John Swofford said, “but I think it would take some unusual circumstances for an undefeated Power 5 team not to be one of the top four.”
But then why schedule aggressively? Why put an Oklahoma or a Clemson on the nonconference schedule if the only goal is to win every game? Because winning isn’t enough in the sport’s new postseason.
Teams must now answer the question, “But who did they beat?”
Well, that’s the story this week, anyway. The problem with the human element is that it isn’t necessarily consistent. Nor is it necessarily transparent, Jeff Long’s insistence to the contrary notwithstanding.
There are 12 people tasked with comparing teams with similar résumés, and one of the criteria that “must be considered” is strength of schedule. There’s no doubt the selection committee honored that mandate in its inaugural season. It’s the reason Marshall was locked out of the committee’s poll for weeks. It was a factor in all seven of the weekly rankings, as committee chairman Jeff Long consistently noted wins over the committee’s top 25 teams as justification for where teams were slotted. It was one big reason TCU was ranked ahead of Baylor all season. TCU had a win over Minnesota. Baylor had a win over Buffalo.
Bill Hancock explains.
“Clearly, teams that have faced tougher opposition are generally going to come out ahead,” said Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff. “There’s just no question that the committee compares those nonconference schedules. I know that the playoff will usher in a whole new era of scheduling and that teams who want to be in this playoff are going to have to prove themselves with their schedules.”
That’s exactly what Ohio State did.
Well, that was certainly convenient for the Big Ten. But what happens to Ohio State when it’s in the mix next time and doesn’t have an advantage in strength of schedule? If there’s one thing Urban Meyer has demonstrated in winning three national titles, he knows how to work the selection system to his advantage. I’ll believe Hancock when his argument is used to keep a Ohio State or Alabama out of the semifinals.
Which is not to say that Baylor, between its insistence on playing a weak ass nonconference schedule and not getting a conference championship game bounce going into selection time – and don’t think Ohio State’s crushing of Wisconsin wasn’t a big, big factor there at the end – doesn’t face an uphill struggle. But let’s not kid ourselves about how the human element can be influenced at a timely point. Computers may have their flaws, but at least you know they’re using the same criteria at the end they were using at the start.