Evaluating The First College Football Playoff

Well, it’s the worst time of year again, that point where we have to wait the longest time until more college football. But that’s ok, we can still talk about this past season and the upcoming season to keep us buys. Speaking of last season, let’s take a look at how the first ever playoff went and what could be better.

First, I think the committee did a decent job. It wasn’t perfect, but hard to be on your first go. There was on obviously big miss, TCU, but hindsight is 20/20. Clearly TCU belong in the top 4 and not Florida State, but how could you leave out an undefeated team? It was what it was.

I’ll tell you my first big problem with the committee. Weekly rankings was a terrible, horrible idea. They said they started fresh each week, and that’s fine. It explains TCU falling from 3 to 6 in the final rankings. Doesn’t explain Mississippi State jumping Michigan State when neither team played a game though. And that’s what weekly rankings showed us, the flaws. They said it was new each week. It wasn’t. Each week looked a lot like the last. Teams that lost moved down and teams that won moved up. We saw it each week. It’s time to do away with that.

The committee needs to meet twice. The first meeting should be the first weekend of November. They get together, watch the games, look at the numbers, go over the data, have their discussions and release their rankings at that point of the season, after most teams have played about 8 games. Then they don’t get together again until championship weekend in December. They meet again, watch the games together, go over the data again and have their discussions. Then they release their final rankings. That’s it.

Honestly, what is the point of starting in week 7 and releasing rankings every week? They meant nothing. Absolutely nothing. It served no purpose but to have a show for ESPN. It didn’t help the teams. Do you remember the first rankings? Mississippi State, Florida State, Auburn and Ole Miss. Oregon was 5, Alabama was 6 and Ohio State was 16. Talk about a miss. The supposedly third best team out there would go on to lose 4 of the next 6 games.

Look, you just don’t know who the best teams are early on. By waiting until November you have a better idea. But then holding off during the final month of the season you don’t dangle the carrot in front of anyone (TCU) just to pull it away. Give people a look at where they are. Then put the final rankings out there when all is said and done. It would have been much better to be honest.

Also, let’s get some more transparency. I don’t think CSPAN needs to have cameras in the room 24/7 or anything, but how about an explanation that is thorough? Or at least clear criteria. Just saying we take everything into account isn’t good enough. Is it more impressive to allow fewest rushing yard or fewest passing yards? Is it more impressive to score the most points or be the most efficient at converting third downs? No one knows. The committee should tell us. What metrics did they use? What data did they analyze? We really ought to know and so should coaches and teams. Obviously there’s more to it than winning games. The only undefeated team was #3, not #1. We need to know all the criteria at work.

I also think the next four out need explanations. The committee should say something along the lines of “#5 was behind #4 for reasons xyz and could have been in the playoff had this or that been different.” Be open about it. Tell Baylor they were #5 and not #4 because most of the teams they played weren’t very good. That’s not Baylor’s fault necessarily, it just makes it hard to say with much confidence they are very good when you have such a small sample to look at. Marshall blew threw most of their inferior competition. But no one thought they were the best. They just played nobody. Baylor played a bunch of nobodies. So hard to get a read on them. The committee should just up and tell the teams on the outs why they were there.

Under the BCS we would have had Alabama and Florida State in the championship. Thank goodness we got the playoff. It wasn’t perfect, but I think it can and will get better over time.