Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

A gentle, yet needed, reminder

This seems so obvious to me.

All an eight-team playoff will do is lessen the impact of losses in some of those games.  It’s unnecessary, unless you’re the commissioner of a P5 conference that’s shut out of the CFP.  Which is why, although an eight-team playoff may be unnecessary, it’s also inevitable.

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“I had 24 hours to be in the dumps.”

I don’t think I’m over my Auburn hangover yet, but I’m glad to hear Lorenzo Carter is.

But as he thought about it, Carter said he realized that the loss, as bad as it was, didn’t wreck the team’s championship hopes.

“Coach made sure we knew we definitely weren’t out of the mix,” Carter said. “Just one loss isn’t going to define our season. We’ve had a great season so far, we plan on keeping the thing going.

“That one loss, it was good for the team just to wake up, just (have) a wake-up call. But I’m just proud everybody’s been working, we haven’t gotten hung up on that.”

I hate to sound like a schmuck, but I’ll believe that when I see it on the field Saturday.

On the other hand, it’s interesting to hear how postseason expansion has given the team a reason to get past the loss.  I guess if we were living in the BCS days, they’d still be shell-shocked.  To be fair, it really does simplify things:  win the next three games, and the Dawgs are in; fall short in any one of them and it’s have a nice bowl trip, boys.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

Would they really keep a one-loss SEC champ out of the CFP?

I’m not saying the selection committee would do that to Georgia… but if they were inclined to do so, here’s a handy excuse:

As the committee of football philosophers meets Monday and Tuesday in Texas, studying the statistical and the unknowable, it might grapple with a fresh dynamic in its four-year existence. The way things have shaken, and shaken, across this fall in the kooky chambers of college football, it looks like these wise men could wind up awarding, or considering awarding, a playoff spot to somebody who spent a Saturday somewhere getting absolutely mauled.

This has not happened before.

In the first three years of the College Football Playoff selection committee, nine teams with a loss on the CV got playoff berths. Of those nine, only two lost by more than one possession: Washington, when it fell, 26-13, to Southern California in November 2016, and Ohio State, when it lost, 35-21, to Virginia Tech in 2014. “They kicked our ass,” Texas Coach Tom Herman, then the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, recalled this past summer, but they just did not kick it in the way other posteriors have gotten kicked lately.

How should a committee member, with the galling absence of an open bar in the meeting room, weigh such matters as No. 1 Georgia taking a 40-17 obliteration by Auburn on Saturday?

I can hear Herbstreit already.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

Life just got easier for the selection committee.

Ain’t gonna be no Pac-12 team in the playoffs this year, which means the odds of two SEC schools crashing the party have improved.

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When the eye test isn’t enough

Believe it or not, I get this.

But who is playing better ball right now, Alabama or Georgia?

“The only question I have about both teams is their schedule,” Danielson said. “The SEC East is just a hot mess. If you look at Georgia’s schedule closely, you got Notre Dame and who else?

“The same for Alabama.”

Yeah, he makes his point rather inartfully — that Notre Dame win is kind of a big deal, Gary — but he’s saying that he doesn’t have enough to judge either team on because he likes to rely on a difficult schedule to make evaluations.  Saying that he doesn’t have the kind of data he needs to validate a team fully isn’t the same thing as saying a team isn’t good because it hasn’t played a quality schedule, a call I’ve seen plenty of pundits make.

That being said, because the selection committee has made strength of schedule a factor in its determinations, it can’t be ignored.  And that’s where things get a wee bit interesting.

Start with Sagarin.  He has Alabama number one and Georgia at three, despite fairly meh strength of schedule numbers.  Both are closer to Washington and Wisconsin in that regard than to Clemson, Notre Dame and Penn State.  What’s made the difference is that neither of the SEC schools have lost and both have gone through their schedules convincingly, a point Brian Fremeau confirms.

On Tuesday night, for instance, I posted the total point differential teams have accumulated against opponents ranked in the latest CFP committee top 25 rankings. Notre Dame stands head and shoulders above every other team by this measure, having racked up a +75-point margin in four games against currently ranked playoff teams (a one-point loss to Georgia, a 35-point win over USC, a 20-point win over Michigan State, and a 21-point win over North Carolina State). The next best cumulative margin (+29) belongs to both Georgia (in two games) and Clemson (in three games). Alabama is further down the list at +14, a single 24-10 victory over LSU.

Cumulative scoring margin will naturally favor a team that has more opportunities, whereas average scoring margin will tell a different one. Notre Dame has a +18.8 points per game margin against the CFP top 25; Georgia is at +14.5; Alabama is at +14.0; and Clemson is at +9.7. That’s still a selective list, of course, since all games against the subset of teams are given equal footing whether the opponents were in the top five or barely ranked in the top 25. And games against opponents that might be good but are just outside the CFP top-25 subset are ignored altogether. Both the cumulative and per-game data sets tell a story, but neither one does a great job of telling the entire, more complex story of the season to date.

One of the drivers that led me to run the numbers on cumulative scoring margin in the first place was an exploration of dominance. The playoff selection committee has used “game control” language in describing how teams have impressed or not impressed in the past, and that language has stuck with me. Our colleagues at ESPN maintain a metric they call Game Control, defined as the chance an average top-25 team would control games from start to end the way the given team did, given the schedule. They don’t further define what control of games from start to end necessarily means, but it likely has something to do with the in-game win probabilities a given team has over the course of its games.

Another way to evaluate how a team maintains control in a given game is to simply calculate how often it takes a lead, maintains a lead, and grows a lead in a given game. Victory, even by a narrow margin, is the primary goal for every team, but teams are more likely to be consistently victorious if they rarely trail, and frequently play with a multiple-score lead.

Alabama leads the nation in average scoring margin, outscoring their opponents by 26.0 points per game in non-garbage time. The Crimson Tide have had the lead on their opponent on 86.7 percent of their non-garbage possessions, also best in the nation. They have only trailed on 1.1 percent of their non-garbage possessions. They have never trailed by more than a single score this year. They have led by at least three scores (17-point margin or better) on 35.0 percent of non-garbage possessions, and by four scores (25-point margin or better) on 14.4 percent of non-garbage possessions. They’ve epitomized consistent dominance unlike any other team this season.

Contrast the Crimson Tide with another undefeated team, the Miami Hurricanes. Miami’s average margin of victory this year is 10.9 points per game in non-garbage time. They have trailed their opponent on 22.8 percent of their non-garbage possessions this season. They have led by 17 or more points on only 2.8 percent of non-garbage possessions, and haven’t led by 25 or more points at all this year in non-garbage time (or at all, for that matter, against FBS competition).

All of this is likely to be something of a moot point, anyway.  ESPN’s FPI ranks Georgia’s remaining SOS at ninth and Alabama’s 32nd.  Beyond that, assuming they’ll face off against each other in the SECCG, their schedule strengths will be boosted further.

Nothing much to see here, in other words.  Besides, both teams look pretty damned good to me.

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Filed under Alabama, BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

The downside to “it’s worked out for both schools”

I suspect this wouldn’t be an optimum outcome for the folks at Butts-Mehre:

No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1) at No. 7 Miami (8-0): The Irish have been in elimination mode since Week 2. A win would give them a 4-1 record against teams that entered Week 11 ranked, a very Playoff-worthy total. The Canes can silence all concerns about their many close wins and hurt UGA’s resume (in case it comes down to Mark Richt vs. Kirby Smart for No. 4), potentially killing two birds.  [Emphasis added.]

There’s a part of me that would love to hear the awkward sales job McGarity would pitch facing that scenario, but I’d rather have Georgia win out and avoid the issue altogether.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Georgia Football

It’s never too early to start working the refs.

Barry Alvarez has some advice for the selection committee, and — surprise! — it favors Wisconsin.

Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who spent the past three seasons on the College Football Playoff selection committee, said Monday he would be shocked if this year’s 13-member group left out an undefeated Power 5 conference champion because of a weak nonconference schedule.

No. 9 Wisconsin, which is undefeated, was ranked behind six one-loss teams in the committee’s first ranking, raising the question if a Big Ten title would be enough to ultimately boost the Badgers into the top four or if their unimpressive résumé would keep them out.

“I think that would be very difficult to do,” said Alvarez, whose term with the committee expired in 2017. “There’s no part of me that says if you go undefeated as a Power 5 and win your conference championship, and you’re not going to be in the final four? I don’t see that. That would shock me.”

I don’t think he means “shock” in the Captain Renault sense, either.

I’m not worried, though, because I’m sure that if push came to shove, Greg McGarity would be out in front working just as hard to claim a place for Georgia.  [Mic drop…]

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