A stats geek takes a hammer to conference championship games.

I’m not advocating here, but Nate Silver makes an interesting argument with this post.  If the lesson to be learned from this season is that the CFP selection committee isn’t swayed by conference championship game appearances, maybe we should blow those up and come up with another way to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

My point is simply this: Conference championships, as currently devised, don’t make much sense. Because of imbalanced divisions, championship games often don’t pit the two best teams in a conference against each other (Big Ten championship participant Wisconsin was probably the fourth-best team in its league, for instance). They’ll sometimes result in an awkward rematch of a game that was already played during the regular season. And conference championship games waste a weekend that could be better spent on something else, such as expanding the College Football Playoff to six or eight teams.

And now we have pretty good evidence that the playoff selection committee doesn’t really care one way or another. So let’s get rid of them! Imagine a world in which we’re spared the annual indignation of having to watch Florida lose to Alabama 59-2. Imagine a world in which historical rivals always play each other every year and yet, by almighty Rockne, the best teams in a conference always play one another, too. Imagine a world with no divisions. By which I mean: a world in which we eliminate divisions such as the ACC’s perplexingly named Atlantic and Coastal divisions, and all teams within the same college football conference compete as one.

His solution comes out of high school debatedom and a concept known as power pairing.  You can read about it all in depth in his piece.

Again, I’m not advocating here.  But I do recognize that college football is doing its damnedest these days to minimize the importance of conference play.  (That’s my second shout out to Bob Bowlsby’s conference in one morning.  Well played, sir.)  So maybe it’s time for a little out of the box thinking to see if things can be salvaged before it’s too late.

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23 Comments

Filed under College Football

23 responses to “A stats geek takes a hammer to conference championship games.

  1. sniffer

    So, we just upended our program to hire a new coach to get us to a championship game that is becoming obsolete? Fantastic.

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    • Walt

      Hmmm…I thought we hired him to win a national championship.

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      • Otto

        1st order is getting a coach that can go .500 against Florida, Richt wasn’t fired for not winning National Titles he was fired for blowing games he should have won, and OT to Ga. Southern.

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  2. Alkaline

    Either CCGs must become play-in games for the CFP or they will eventually be eliminated in favor of an 8+ team playoff. None of the FCS or Division II conferences that send teams to their playoffs have CCGs because all it does for them is eliminate a contender.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dolly Llama

      Go from a Power 5 to a Power 4. Let the conferences pick their division champs however they wish. Those are the “Elite 8.” The winners of those championship games are the final four. Easy peasy, except that “Go from a Power 5 to a Power 4” part.

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    • Macallanlover

      Why do you feel an expansion to eight would eliminate the CCGs? It isn’t a zero sum game, and I don’t see them going away. Not only are they very popular, they make the conferences a lot of money. There is plenty of time to play an additional round between early December’s CG and January 1 which would provide additional dollars and give all conference teams control of their destiny without depending on polls, committees, and computer geeks.

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      • Otto

        Oklahoma loss in the Big12 championship game before their trip to the 03 BCS CG did not slow down conference championship games. A 1 year resume argument between Big10 teams will do little change the conference championship games.

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  3. Macallanlover

    Conferences should be allowed to decide how they wish to choose their champion without interference from outside groups whether it be the NCAA, WWL, or the thousands of bloggers/analysts. And what is a “balanced” division the past five years, may be totally different the next 5-10. Do any of these guys have a perspective that extends beyond the past twelve months?

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  4. Ben

    Don’t forget: 538 is run by ESPN, which we know has a lot at stake here. After Nate’s November, he may be taking some chances at easy money and coming up with an idea for the Mouse to come out on top in the CFP thing.

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  5. mp

    Expanding to 8 just adds four new games. Would the revenue from the four new games be bigger than the revenue the conferences receive for their 5 championship games (revenue completely controlled by each conference)? Dunno. But that will be the calculus, and one that will lead them to try to have their cake and eat it too, meaning keeping the conference championship game but expanding to 8

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  6. Mr. Nate Silver is sounding too much like Mr. John Lennon though.

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  7. Bubble watch for the win, baby. The WWL needs a CFP bracketology expert and show to prattle on about 7 and 8 vs. 9 and 10 (or eventually 15 and 16 vs. 17 and 18) to fill time on ESPN25 and to generate clicks on espn.com. #GetOffMyLawn

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  8. AusDawg85

    Let the conference division champs advance to the playoff, and have the runners-up play for the conference championship. UGA vs. LSU for the SEC-Lite championship ring sounds awesome.

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  9. CB

    “Conference championships, as currently devised, don’t make much sense. Because of imbalanced divisions, championship games often don’t pit the two best teams in a conference against each other.”

    Damn Senator, I’ve literally been saying the same thing for months. Now all of a sudden Mr. Nate (Hillary is definitely going to win the election) Silver says it and it’s post worthy. Color me jealous.

    Your loyal reader,
    CB

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  10. The Truth

    First devised 5 years ago:
    8 10-team conferences
    Round robin schedule, no conference championship games
    Conference winners go into 8-team playoff for Natty
    Only conference games count toward championship, so…
    OTHER THREE REG SEASON GAMES COULD BE AGAINST HIGH-QUALITY, ATTRACTIVE OPPONENTS WITHOUT RISKING SPOT IN PLAYOFF.

    Make it so.

    Like

    • Otto

      Destroys, the tradition of college football and will have fans vacating the college game faster than Brian France’s changes to NASCAR.

      Like

    • JCDAWG83

      I came up with the same idea except I said 12 team conferences and let the conference decide who goes to the playoffs. Some conference might want to send the winner of a championship game, others might pick the highest ranked team, let the individual conferences decide.

      11 game season with 3 out of conference games. Just my .02.

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  11. Ken Dorfman

    yeah, and when we don’t get the results we like, we should use the popular vote not the electoral?

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  12. Austen

    Some of the arguments about the reduced value of conference championships might be true, but I still very much like the conference championship games. They should matter no more or less than other games played during the year for ranking and CFP selection purposes, but in general, they are still going to provide a credible matchup that could elevate or eliminate one team’s playoff chances. Granted, the NCAA basketball conference tourneys actual crown a champion that gets auto-bids to the Big Dance, which makes them highly meaningful. However, for the most part the major conferences are judged in those games as if they are just regular season matchups. If you beat good teams, you add to your resume – but the games are judged like all the others on an individual basis.

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  13. Austen

    I also meant to note that in larger conferences like the SEC, the SEC Championship game seems to almost never pit teams that played each other in the regular season. As such, it helps to ensure there is a bit more cross division play.

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  14. Mayor

    Kick the last 4 entries into the SEC out of the conference and go to a 9 game round robin conference schedule where everybody plays everybody else every season.

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  15. Chopdawg

    Silver’s 2015 post makes a lot of sense to me. I guess my opinion is colored by my enjoyment of the SEC championship game (I’m not sure whether the other conference championship games mean the same things to their fans as ours means to us), and my belief that the 2012 UGA team deserved to be included in a playoff.

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