As much as we debate the preferred size of the playoffs, it feels like we give somewhat short shrift to the process that actually determines which schools make the CFP field. A couple of recent pieces help make that point.
Mike Griffith talks to Roy Kramer about that. Here’s what Kramer says about the BCS, which he played a part in putting together.
Six years into the current College Football Playoff system a four-team selection criteria has proven vague and inconsistent, leaving questions and controversy brewing. Concerns are pointed at a 13-member panel that includes sitting athletic directors and a cloaked voting process.
Indeed, former SEC Commissioner Roy Kramer said there’s a reason he believed cold, hard numbers should be more heavily relied upon than human opinions in determining national championship playoff qualifiers.
It’s why he designed the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) the way he did leading into its application prior to the 1998 season.
“We were concerned with regionalism and the emotion,” Kramer said, explaining why the BCS relied on a pre-determined formula of computer rankings and polls rather than the veiled committee approach used by the current College Football Playoff.
“It’s very difficult to totally separate yourself.”
You would think that the people who brought you the CFP, who had the sensitivity to take the Coaches Poll out of the equation, would have absorbed that lesson, but that there are ten out of thirteen members of the selection committee with conflicts would surely indicate otherwise. And there appears to be almost zero discussion about that.
How to inject more objectivity into a flawed subjective process? Well, one way would be to take an NFL-lite approach and convert the field made up exclusively of conference winners. The problem with that, of course, is that you’d have to do a serious remake of the P5 conferences to make the math work. I don’t think college football is ready to take the steps needed for that.
Which leaves us, perhaps ironically, looking back to the BCS, as Allen Kenney explains.
course, the BCS was not without its faults. The primary point of criticism centered around its hodgepodge formula. It tabulated rankings based on a mesh of opinion polls and proprietary computer ratings that infamously removed margin of victory from their algorithms at the direction of the BCS architects.
At the end of the regular season, the BCS spit out opaque numbers. Between a conglomeration of conflicted pollsters and dodgy analytics, the system as a whole lacked accountability for its results.
Both sources of discontent can be easily remedied. For starters, the public’s familiarity with quantitative computer models has grown significantly since the heyday of the BCS. The use of analytics has become ubiquitous across pro sports, and the media now relies more on advanced stats in sports analysis as a whole.
College football isn’t hurting for widely cited statistical tools. For example, Bill Connelly’s S&P+, Brian Fremeau’s FEI, and ESPN’s FPI have all been refined over time. Stat geeks have even come up with metrics such as Strength of Record, ESPN’s system for evaluating the quality of a team’s overall resume.
As such, we now have superior statistical rankings with more public credibility than predecessors such as the Colley Matrix and the Billingsley Report. Those in charge of administering the new BCS could license however many computer models they deemed necessary and make their formulas available as a boost to transparency.
Honestly, I’m surprised that Mickey hasn’t made a few suggestions about taking things in that direction, given that it controls two of those measures. (Hell, maybe it has, but is getting some resistance. Those selection committee perks are sweet, after all.)
Am I off base here, or do you share my concern about bias and conflicts? If you do, how would you reform the selection process?
41 responses to “When it comes to the CFP, are we missing the forest for the trees?”
The best team concept should rely on wins rather than committees. Make it so.
The more human influence (bias) removed the better. If you had a people group that completely understood the game and the ins and outs of scheduling, SOS, etc..that were also completely void of bias and didn’t even watch football (a group in someplace like Bangladesh that only saw teams referred as “Number 1, Number 2, etc)…maybe they could help.
Until that group of folks is found, we have computers. Some nerd somewhere should be working on this.
Or they could just take the top three rated SEC teams every year and throw in Clemson, tOSU , OK, etc. and keep it honest that way.
1) Get rid of the committee. It reeks of ESPN influence and conflicts galore.
2) Use the polls but require the polls not to release before the games of the first weekend of October. The law of large numbers neutralizes the bias/conflicts of the participants.
3) Include conference championship as a weighting factor in the formula. UCF should get a bump for winning the AAC just like the SEC champion. Maybe that gets ND into a conference.
4) All of the computer rankings selected should have their methodologies peer reviewed by a statistician.
5) If the mode includes margin of victory and the statistician’s review approves, keep it in.
Those are the few I can come up with off the top of my head.
1 Group of 5
Every option has its flaws.
I personally think the committee does a fairly good job – yes, I know GA got shafted last year. ND not being in a conference should be addressed. The 1/2 ass ACC membership doesn’t count.
One problem with that is the PAC-12. If they continue there extraordinary slide to mediocrity, it will become the P4 Champs
their……need more caffeine
If a tree in the forest fell and….
The apathy around the continued failure of Scott as commish is very telling, and reflective of what the Left Coast thinks of CFB. This isn’t about East Coast bias, it is more about the people who should care the most not giving a damn. Have you ever seen more West Coast guys committing to play football in the Mid West and South?
Even as recently as 10 years ago, the thought of the top running back coming east and not going to USC would have been unthinkable. We would not have even wasted our time going after Milton back then. Now, the roles are reversed. It is almost to the point that USC (and the rest of the bunch) no longer needs to waste their time recruiting top tier talent. The best want to go to the SEC and select “other” conference schools. At this rate the PAC-12 will become like the IVY LEAGUE and only play the regular season (among themselves) and call it a season
Agree with the 5 champs plus 2 at large plus top ranked grp of 5 (just to shut them up).
I dont really get the obsession with requiring ND to join a conference. If good enough they can get in as one of the 2 at large teams.
True they do not have the potential 13th game/championship game, however their schedule never has Coastal Carolina and Middle Tenn St. on it either so that kind of neutralizes that in my opinion.
Well since the selection committee is made up of humans they need punishment for choosing poorly.
But what tool would determine that? BCS?
And if we were to use a computer model again then why do we need humans?
At the very least the selection committee should face the same repercussions SEC refs face, wait.
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As I see it, they replaced the BCS large and flawed coaches’ poll with the committee’s small and flawed coaches’ poll. At the big one had enough participants to balance out some errors.
That said, the BCS did a pretty good job of picking the two best teams. The committee does a pretty good job of picking the four best teams. Most of the picking isn’t that hard. The question is how many teams are in.
Every level of football in America selects its championship game participants by playing games on the field except the top division of college football. It shouldn’t be too hard to copy FCS or Div 3’s playoff models. There should be no polls or committees or computer models to determine who plays for a national championship, it should be decided on the field.
The only way an eight-team playoff would ever be fair would be to take the Power 5 down to a Power 4, each of those with two divisions. The division champs would be your field of eight for the CFP. The winners of those games, the conference champions, are your final four. And so on. Doing it that way would not add a single game to the schedule CFP finalists face today. Each of the P4 conferences would be responsible for how their division and championship titles are decided, so any arguments about who “shoulda” been one of the eight finalists would be fought out at the conference level.
That’s the problem … which P5 conference collapses and what does ND do? ESPN isn’t going to pay for a system that doesn’t have ND in it and the folks in South Bend know it. Each conference seems to have TV deals to their liking, so at this point, the Big 12-2 isn’t going anywhere. There will always be a need for a major conference out west, so the Pac 12 isn’t going anywhere.
It would for sure be a grand reshuffling of the conferences, and that’s why it won’t happen — for business reasons and for a lot of others. It’s far more likely that one of the existing P5 would drop out/cease to be/be absorbed, but even the possibility of that is vanishingly small.
Far as Notre Dame goes, I’m sure one of the P4 would love to have such a storied program and would fight over them, and Notre Dame could have their pick. But if they remained adamant about independence, well, enjoy being King of the Dwarves outside the playoff system.
I agree, and let them try to recruit with no chance to be in the playoffs. It is time everyone stopped letting them lead the rest of the country around by the nose. Join in, or become less relevant, promise you they will come around.
As for Mickey, let them drop out and pout about ND, other networks would scoop up the playoffs in a heartbeat. The WWL doesn’t care about ND, just viewers; the playoffs will get viewers regardless of the Irish. Just that the executives live in the northeast and folks at their cocktail parties might be miffed; they aren’t CFB fans in Connecticut anyway. They can watch ND play UCF if they want some football.
Let Mickey drop out of the CFP? Mac, you realize ESPN is an OWNER of the CFP? The CFP is always going to serve ESPN’s purposes.
Keeping ND out of the playoffs be cause they are not in a conference will never happen. It’s a pipedream.
Nationally they are still a top 2 or 3 TV draw, if not 1. like it or not.
The system we have now is like army food I experienced. It ain’t good but eat it anyway or go hungry.
I can’t understand why there is a discussion about problems when the system is batting 1000.00?
College football took a good thing (the playoff) and added a really stupid thing (the committee). 4-8 teams with BCS style computer rankings solves the problem. Not that difficult.
Caveat, people on this blog probably don’t care as much because the current set up benefits Georgia for the moment.
I like the 4-team playoff. Just go back to the BCS to select the Top Four. I have not problem with that. Or some modified BCS that uses equally-weighted rankings of, say:
1) Online fan poll
2) AP Poll
3) Coaches Poll
5) Fremeau’s FEI
6) ESPN FPI
The problem, of course, comes when teams #4 and #5 in the ranking at the end of the end of the year are separated by .00000001 points in the ranking.
Not sure which would have less integrity, the Fan Poll or the Coaches Poll.
I don’t like the mandatory all P5 schools get in because unlike the NFL, CFB lacks the ability to push parity through an annual draft. However, for the good of the game, including P5 champs is the only way left to attempt to acknowledge what’s left of CFP’s regional basis. So take the P5 champs and 3 wild cards for an 8 team playoff. Then structure the final selection similar to BCS, where there is transparent data and analytical models posting their findings throughout the season, with the final vote appearing after conference championship games. However, the committee is only part of the vote, not the entirety. Or, I’d just outsource the final selection to Vegas. They don’t give a shit about bias – only dollars, and they are usually pretty good at picking a spread.
For the group of 5, ESPN needs to give them their own playoff and championship. If, for example, UCF becomes such a draw, let the conferences relegate certain football team to other conferences, pulling up UCF for Football only. Isn’t this how the Premier League works in Europe. They seem to do OK with it.
Novel concept. Not a bad idea actually, but there is zero chance that Vandy, Ole Miss, Kentucky and Arkansas are going to sign on to a relegation format. Hell Auburn would have been a relegation candidate in 2012 and that’s not good for anyone. Add in that Florida would never want to give close-by UCF a chance to jump up to their level. The reality is, if UCF started receiving SEC money they might be able to do some actual damage that would make Boise State’s 5 year run through P5 opponents look quaint.
As for P5 champions I don’t like automatic qualifiers either. I think there is room to take conference championships into strong consideration without guaranteeing that a three loss team from a weak division gets an automatic berth on the off chance they score an upset. I think we can all agree that more often than not a P5 champion will rank in the top 8 and if they aren’t then it’s usually for good reason.
One effective way to remedy the issue would be to eliminate conference championship games all together. Instead of having two often mismatched divisions square off for one game why not let the entire season’s body of work speak for itself? Do away with divisions and go to a 9 game 4-5 rotational schedule which would ensure that in just two seasons everyone in the SEC plays everyone and let the rankings fall where they may. Problem solved. Of course that would never happen. Conference championship games are money grabs and the powers that be won’t hear of losing revenue in order to improve the product.
Answering the Senator’s question, we should be concerned about bias and conflicts, but the trouble is that changing the current system only seems to change the biases and conflicts and don’t produce much better results.
In the last two years UGA-Oklahoma, and two games of UGA-Bama produced big ratings. That may be why ESPN and others are slow to change. As they say, follow the $$$.
(on the 8 team format)
I would like an emergency exception to the Power 5 champion provision to prevent a bastard step child from getting into the playoff when they don’t deserve it. Not sure how to word it, maybe: “Any automatic bids reserved for conference champions shall revert to the pool of at-large selections in each instance an eligible conference produces a champion with 3 or more losses. The champion in question shall remain eligible to be chosen from the pool of at-large selections. The at-large candidates shall be ranked and any diverted bids shall begin at the 3rd place position (and so on) among at-large candidates. At no time shall the diverted bid be used to select the loser of the conference championship game from the conference in which such automatic bid was diverted. The runner-up in question shall remain eligible for selection via any other remaining at-large bids, whether from the 2 permanently existing at-large selections or diverted bids from other conferences.
Translation: crappy title game winner isn’t getting in automatically if they lost 3 or more regular season games. Now wounded but once strong runner-up probably isn’t getting in either unless they’re really good. If they aren’t really good, they are getting in the back of the line and are probably out unless chaos unfolds. So, yes, in a year with a bunch of crazy conference championship game upsets, you could have all 5 P5 bids revert to the at-large pool.
This is a perfect example of why one game winner take all championships are bad for the sport.
Not sure I agree, hear me out (then you can trash my logic or lack thereof)…
A school could have started the season crappy and end up with a so so record but be playing the best ball late in the season (like UGA back in, was it 2007 ?).
At the end of that season the 2 teams playing the best football (and would have beaten the snot out of anyone else except each other) were UGA and Southern Cal and I think neither made the BCS.
i hear you, but would counter that with such a small sample size (12 games), no team that got its shit pushed in the way it did in knoxville—an october mid-season game—deserves a natty. I was there in person, it was the biggest heaping turd pile i’ve ever seen georgia lay on the field.
I’ve always thought that the playoff committee was the wrong solution to the right problem. If you’re concerned about multiple undefeated teams, or multiple teams having a claim to being the best, then expanding the field from 2 to 4 made sense. But introducing the selection committee to the mix just introduced unnecessary chaos. They should have kept the BCS rankings and let that decide the 4-team field.
Having said all that, I’m convinced that the drama surrounding the selection committee each year is a feature not a bug. They want us tuning in and clicking and talking about this stuff, because it all equates to money in their pockets.
^ This over and over and over
Simple. Just use the talent rankings the Senator posted elsewhere today. Top 4, top 8, whatever. Not really sure why we even play regular-season games anymore, when we have all-knowing recruiting services to tell us who’s the best team.
I’m not certain on the solution to this problem, however I can say that leveraging the Coaches Poll is a waste of time. Admittedly, few coaches ever have time to watch the games or follow teams they’re voting on because they’re too busy running their own programs. Therefore, there’s an inherent flaw in their poll. I would eliminate that poll altogether.
I’ve been saying this since the induction of the 4 team playoff. I liked the BCS. We just needed a plus 1. We have that now. Why not let the BCS formula determine the 4 team playoff field? The BCS got it right almost every year. We have the plus 1 now because of the select few years where a team was left out.
College football is different and unequal. It should remain that way. If there were no playoffs, I submit there would be better non-conference matchups during the season. Resume building and fan interest would drive the money to do so rather than hosting multiple cupcakes. But a cupcake or two is still good…seeing an Ivy League or regional school is good for everybody. UCF went undefeated and claimed a championship that is ignored because of a playoff system that will always exclude them. Do away with the playoffs and let’s see if Bama or Clemson wants to play each other or UCF. The arguments, interest and excitement around the bowl matchups would be better than the ESPN driven agenda we must swallow today. There is no way nor reason to scale down CFB so it becomes NFL lite. Let the bowls argue and bid for the best teams and whether they are crowning a national champion…it’s for the kids and the fans anyway. I’ll forever recognize Colorado as the 1990 MNC. It’s my prerogative and enjoyment at the gnats expense to do so. I could be enjoying an UGA claim in 2008 and 2012 with more interesting bowl matchups than what the BCS ( and ESPN) force fed us.
Make College Football romantic again!
As long as the sorry ass, piece of crap, broke fans have no input, the format doesn’t matter. I only care about UGA winning the SEC in December. Everything after the SECCG is made up shit for losers and turds.
Well a’ight then.