Wow. That’s all I can say at the moment. Wow.
For three polls I’ve been trying to model the committee’s selections to develop a formula through what they say is important to get close to where they select. And so far it has been very close.
Then this week happened and blew it all to hell.
What I think bothers me most is Mississippi State at Alabama. The outcome of that game, for some reason that is not readily evident, has worked opposite of how they’ve placed teams so far.
So what have we learned?
I’m not trying to use hyperbole here, but everything the committee has said to date has basically been abandoned. Here are some main messages the committee just sent:
1 – It has been stated by the committee that there will be no incentive for margin of victory, but they are doing just that. You cannot look at how a team won against an opponent and not factor the score differential. I’ve been pretty hard on the Huskers for the obvious reason that they haven’t beat anyone yet. However, they lost to a team ranked four spots lower than them and dropped eight spots. Auburn lost to a team ranked six places lower than them and dropped five. Mississippi State barely fell with a loss. TCU, on the other hand, actually won a game and dropped. The only difference in these examples is how the teams played. Wisconsin blew out the Huskers, but Auburn barely fielded a team against Georgia. Why is this one loss worse than the other? Additionally, TCU didn’t blow Kansas out of the water and dropped due to the performance. Would they have dropped if they hung 80 on Kansas like they did Texas Tech? Would Mississippi State have dropped more if they didn’t get a late, meaningless, score? Message received from the committee, margin of victory (or loss), e.g. how you beat teams on your schedule, matters, no matter what they say.
2 – Early rankings are getting the benefit of the doubt, if you started in the top ten. If you started below you do not get that same benefit. Arizona State dropped to just above Auburn due to a loss at unranked Oregon State. Auburn, on the other hand, lost at home to A&M and had two other losses (including two in a row!) but still remains in the Top 15. They opened in the top four. Arizona State started at 14th. For some reason beating a team with three losses, just because they were once ranked high, elevates the team that beat them, not indicate that perhaps that team is not as good as we once thought. I mean, come on, A&M was in the top 25 due to beating Auburn.
3 – Losses are not as bad as originally thought. In some cases a bad win has hurt a team more than a good loss. Baylor has been stuck at #7 for several weeks now, most recently being jumped by Ohio State. This is besides the fact that Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech and Baylor lost on the road to West Virginia. Ohio State, however, lost that game just after Braxton Miller went out. Since then they have improved. It is hard to equate, but the human factor of the committee is giving Ohio State the edge because they most likely wouldn’t have lost that game today. It is as if the loss has been erased. Dealing with losses is the one factor that the committee has not been consistent, at all.
4 – Schedule strength is a sham. Until this week they were pretty consistent. When looking at Top 25 wins, Power Five wins, and where the losses ended up, I was able to predict within a few slots where most of the teams would end up. Generally I’d get them within the right tiers, but may not agree on where on the tier that sat. That’s probably just because I don’t have to negotiate with eleven other people. That being said, Mississippi State’s position in the chart is a key reason why no team should worry about how they schedule for the foreseeable future. Currently they have beat one team in the Top 25, and that is three loss Auburn. That’s it. Here is the entire resume:
FCS: (5-6) UT Martin
FBS: (14-17) Southern Miss, UAB, South Alabama
Power Five: (P5 record: 21-21) LSU, A&M, Auburn, Kentucky, Arkansas, Alabama
Of the Power Five schools, only Auburn (4-3) and Alabama (7-1) have winning records against the P5.
Mississippi State has more FCS/FBS opponents than much maligned Baylor. The only Top 25 team they beat has three losses. Besides the fact that they used to be undefeated and are now not, I cannot find any reason why they deserve to be fourth over either Ohio State or TCU with their schedule since there are teams lower than them with better schedules. Obviously strength of schedule doesn’t mean a thing or, more disturbingly, strength of schedule doesn’t mean the same thing for each team.
5 – After these revelations this week the last thing we learned is we have absolutely no idea what winning a conference title is going to do for a team. There is no way both Alabama and Mississippi State can win theirs, but of the next three out could all earn a title. Ohio State could win their conference championship game. Would the boost be enough to jump Mississippi State if both end with one loss? The Big 12 has an even odder ending. The conference only awards tie breakers for non-playoff bowl games. If two teams end with one loss, even with a head to head, the league awards co-champions. That forces the committee to determine how they want to proceed. One way or another though, if everyone in the top six wins out, we’ll find out exactly how much conference championships are worth.
6 – Lastly, I learned I wasted three weeks of data modeling. Monkey mad. Stupid subjectivism.
This week’s games
#12 Kansas State at West Virginia (Thursday Night) FS1 – Teams have not fared well going into Morgantown and it should be extremely cold in the mountains that night. Kansas State has to win to give Baylor any chance at all. Currently both TCU and Baylor have two Top 25 wins (twice the amount of Mississippi State), having a highly ranked Kansas State to play at Baylor at the end of the season is the kind of drama the conference needs. I highly doubt the Mountaineers give two craps about that though as they are trying to increase their bowl opportunities.
#25 Minnesota at #23 Nebraska (Saturday early afternoon) ESPN – After 11 weeks of nearly unwatchable football, the B1G started getting a few match ups that actually have meaning. The winner of this game will stay in the Top 25 and, if said winner is Minnesota, then the Gophers have a chance to go to the championship game with a win against Wisconsin next week.
#8 Ole Miss at Arkansas (Saturday Afternoon) CBS – This game doesn’t mean much, except to give Ole Miss a win, but can you believe that this was the game CBS chose? That’s how pathetic the SEC’s schedule is this week.
#19 USC vs #9 UCLA (Saturday Night) ABC – Thank goodness the Pac put a worthwhile game on the docket this weekend or we’d have next to nothing to watch. UCLA’s schedule is a lot more impressive than about any other team in the tiers, knocking off USC will give them their third Top 25 win.
If the Season Ended Today
The playoff committee doesn’t just seed the playoffs, it fills all of the bowls associated with the playoffs. If the season ended today this is how the New Year’s Six would look:
Sugar: #4 Mississippi State vs #1 Alabama
Rose: #3 Florida State vs #2 Oregon
Non-Playoff Bowls –
Cotton: #8 Ole Miss vs #5 TCU
Peach: Marshall* vs #10 Georgia
Orange: #19 Georgia Tech* vs #6 Ohio State*
Fiesta: #9 UCLA vs #7 Baylor
It may not be seeded exactly like this, but it should be close. The teams with asterisk are automatically seeded. Marshall gets in as the best team in the “Group of Five”. Georgia Tech gets in because it is the next highest team available within the ACC to represent the conference within its own bowl against the best team left in the SEC, B1G or Notre Dame. After that the remaining teams are seeded due to geography and to prevent rematches where possible.
Hopefully next week won’t be such a colossal train wreck.
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