Mocking the bracket and 2017 application

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The purpose of the College Football Playoff’s mock selection exercise is to educate the media so the media can educate the public.

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Plenty of the former transpired over the past two days in Dallas; hopefully, a morsel of the latter will unfold here right now.

The exercise is not designed to lift the curtain on the current season.

We applied the selection process to 2012, creating a playoff bracket and January Six bowl matchups based on how that season transpired.

Three things were clear as we assessed and voted, and they should be kept in mind as ’17 hurdles toward selection Sunday:

1. The committee uses four criteria to separate teams that are clustered: conference championships, strength of schedule, head-to-head results and comparative outcomes against common opponents (without incentivizing margin of victory).

2. Wins over teams that are .500 or better is an important evaluation tool that eventually morphs into wins over teams in the committee’s top-25 rankings. (The weekly rankings debut in November.)

3. Relative scoring on offense and defense is also valued as a data point for the committee when comparing teams, because it shows dominance:

How many points did you score/allow against opponents compared to how many points your opponents scored/allowed in all games.

In other words: If Team X slapped 40 points on Team Y, which allows an average of 20 per game, that’s a high relative score for X.

*** There was no discussion of 2017, but the mock committee’s assessment provides a launching point for a topic that’s relevant any season:

Will a two-loss team make the playoff?

I’ll take a deep dive in a moment. But here’s the canvass:

We seeded the teams in the following order based on results through the conference championship games, and remember: Undefeated Ohio State was not eligible in 2012, which meant five-loss Wisconsin was the Big Ten champion.

(Also ineligible: Penn State, North Carolina and Miami).

Our top 12:

1. Notre Dame
2. Alabama
3. Stanford
4. Florida
5. Georgia
6. Oregon
7. LSU
8. Texas A&M
9. South Carolina
10. Kansas State
11. Oklahoma
12. Florida State

That led to the following assignments (with the 2017-18 bowl rotation):

Rose: Notre Dame vs. Florida (semifinal)
Sugar: Alabama vs. Stanford (semifinal)
Cotton: Kansas State vs. LSU (Big 12 vs. at-large)
Fiesta: Oregon vs. Texas A&M (at-large vs. at-large)
Peach: Louisville vs. Wisconsin (Group of Five vs. Big Ten)
Orange: Florida State vs. Georgia (ACC vs. at-large)

You might have picked up on two developments.ye

* We had two teams from the same conference (Alabama and Florida) in the semifinals, which has not happened in the real world CFP.

* We also had a two-loss team (Stanford) in semifinals, which hasn’t happened in the real world CFP.

The matter of two-loss Stanford is of particular interest to me in lieu of recent comments by a senior administrator at USC, and I’ll address that below.

We certainly discussed the Cardinal’s resume relative to Oregon’s, and the mock committee determined that Stanford’s head-to-head victory and conference championship trumped Oregon’s resume, which included only one loss.

(You might recall the head-to-head meeting: Stanford upset the No. 1 Ducks in Eugene 17-14 in overtime.)

Note: I played the role of current committee member Rob Mullens, who is Oregon’s athletic director, and therefore did not participate in any voting or discussion involving the Ducks, per the committee’s recusal policy.

*** Now, the comments by a senior administrator at USC:



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