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This Week’s Obsession: Playoffs

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Nick’s Question:

What do you guys think of Bama getting in ahead of OSU? Do you still trust they’ll get it right in the future? I know Brian has a six-team playoff, but do you guys all agree on that or have other ideas?

…that we broke into three parts.

Q1: Did the committee get it right this year?

David: I think they got it fine. Clemson, Oklahoma, and Georgia are the Top 3 and probably should be. Maybe bump the Sooners to 1? This is fine, though.

As far as Bama/OSU goes...whatever, I think its pretty 50/50. Bama's schedule wasn't great, and OSU had an extra loss. It was a coin-toss.

Nobody’s arguing Ohio State looked like a playoff team; the problem is Alabama didn’t either. [photo: Patrick Barron]

Brian: I don't think there was a way to get it right, really. You're choosing between a team that has its most notable win over Mississippi State and one that lost to Oklahoma and Iowa uncompetitively. (Remember that OU-OSU game should have been worse than 15-point loss; OU spent the first half driving the field and then shooting itself in the foot.) And USC, which also got blown out embarrassingly by Notre Dame. This isn't a year when there's a clear choice, or even a vaguely clear choice. It's a coin flip.

But it's one the committee got wrong, for the same reason they got it wrong last year. It's a coin flip as far as resume and team quality goes. So make the season count, dammit. If a conference championship isn't going to be a tiebreaker why even bother? Penn State last year and Ohio State this year both went through an extra game against a tough opponent to win a supposedly important thing only to get passed over for a team that sat at home and watched. That's garbage.

[Hit THE JUMP for ripping on the SEC, and how teal were the 90s? So teal]

Ace: As much as it pains me to say Ohio State should be in, agreed for the same reason.

Seth: I agree it was a coinflip. I'm less bothered that they ignore conference championship games* and more bothered that they didn't make the distinction between playing an FCS team versus scheduling Oklahoma. This was the moment for the committee to come out ripping on eight-game conference schedules and FCS games (and correctly label the SEC a weak conference). Instead they functionally rewarded Alabama and the SEC for scheduling decisions that result in worse football.


* [I am bothered they ignored Ohio State beating an undefeated Top 4 team and glad OSU and Wisconsin got to play. But it was only by half dumb luck that we got a good championship game this year, and even that only partially rectified a problem of Wisconsin playing a dramatically easier conference schedule. Championship Games are dumb moneygrabs and fatally flawed by divisions. I hate divisions. Divisions should be outlawed. Divisions are the reason Rutgers is on Michigan's schedule every year and Greg Dooley isn't kept up at nights worried about the Brown Jug running out of room for scores.]


Q2: Do you have confidence they'll get it right in the future?

this isn’t helping

Ace: I think they’ll kinda get it right by realizing they should expand the playoff, but since this is college football and money is king, they’ll expand it too much.

David: I don't really have confidence because every year is different and there are almost an infinite possibility of situations. So, I guess my confidence in the selection committee is directly related to the clarity of the situation.

Seth: Right. The mistake the committee made was painting itself into a corner last week by claiming Bama and OSU were neck and neck. That's a perception problem from trying to post-hoc justify an ad-hoc system. Giving 10-13 people power to choose whoever they want works if they're honest and transparent. The problem with a bunch of coaches and ADs is they're too used to marketing to say truthful things like "We needed to find four teams with resumes worthy of national championship contention and we had three."

Ace: They’ve done that before, too. The weekly rankings releases make for awful TV that people apparently watch but they also make it apparent that the criteria is a bit fluid.

Or, perhaps more likely, they go more by feel than they let on and then retrofit the explanations.

David: Maybe this is the wrong place for this, but the fact that we talk about rankings on a weekly basis is dumb. Once the season is about 2/3 over, it is easy to tell who is generally eligible for the Playoff and what the paths of elimination are. So, having Clemson and Miami at #2 and #3 is like pointless because only one can possible qualify.

Brian: They still employ Bill Hancock. No, they won't get it right. The weekly rankings are a symptom. It makes money, it creates controversy, so they do it. Since that's the way this whole thing works they will always approach it from that angle. 


Q3 What's Your Ideal System?

Ace: A six-team playoff. It preserves college football’s uniquely important regular season by giving byes to the top two teams in the country, something that will be contested through the conference championship week. It also opens the door for, perhaps, a Group of Five team to finally sneak in, which I’d like to see, and helps in years like this where there’s not a clear #4.

What do you do with ‘06? Current system would invite Michigan and…LSU? Six-teamer would have to decide between USC, L’Ville, Wisconsin, and Boise. Variable system would hopefully have M/FL play for a chance to play OSU.

David: Brian's 6-Team format is good. I could live with 8 (5 Conf Champs. 1 G5, 2 wild cards). What about a 12 team? (10 Conf champs and 2 wild cards.) That would prioritize winning your conference getting a Top 4 for a bye week. Plus, you would get to play lower seeds, etc. That might be too many teams, though. These are all kind of interesting, but I would be fine with just a Top 6.

Seth: I'd like a variable system of two to six teams, with the extra game(s) around Christmas. A few years ago I went through all the years since the BCS began and tried to decide which system would be best for most of them. The answer was six by a slim plurality, which should tell us that the answer varies by year.

This year they could invite five, have a play-in game between OSU-Bama, and continue as normal. Last year they could have skipped the first round and put Clemson and Bama in the championship game. The four in 2015 were fine. The 2014 playoff would have been six. 2013 would have been two. 2012 would have been five. You can look at any year and it's amazing how non-controversial the obvious breaking point is.

Ace: While I enjoy the guaranteed chaos of arguing over how many teams should be included, I have no idea how you go about choosing that doesn’t go sideways.

Seth: Only way I could figure is it goes to the committee to decide. Use this year as an example, if they announce they went with a five-team format with Ohio State in and Wisconsin out, who can argue that?

Ace: Five teams is weird as hell, though.

Seth: Play-in game on Christmas or thereabouts and then you're at four.

Ace: Man, that sucks for Alabama and Ohio State. I like it.

David: I feel like 'ulterior motives' would just...explode.

Ace: do think the less you give the committee to screw up, the better. Getting too complex is going to lead to problems. And I’m not ready to turn it over to the computers.

Seth: It has all the same problems as the current system.

[we wait around for Brian’s response]

I think however we can all admit this is infinitely better than the BCS, which was bogged down by tons of restrictive rules (e.g. can't consider margin of victory). And that was better than polling lazy journalists and coaches who do things like vote 1997 Michigan fourth to give Tom Osborne a parting gift. And that was better than a few East Coast Notre Dame-loving journalists informally clapping themselves on the back, or whatever the system was before it.

Ace: Oh, without a doubt. I’m thoroughly enjoying the playoff era. Even at its worst it gives us some incredible matchups. Like, it kinda retroactively kills me that we couldn’t settle 1997 on the field.

BiSB: (Michigan opens Big Ten play against Scott Frost next season. So, in a way...)

Ace: I thought that was already settled when UCF outhit us.

Seth: The incredible number of 1997 Michigan and 1997 Nebraska downloadable teams on EA's NCAA 2014 servers is a testament to how badly the country still wants that one. I think Osborne himself once admitted he was glad they didn't, because Michigan's defense was exactly the kind that could give them fits: sound up front, fast at linebacker, and running at the cornerbacks was doom.

We've gone off-topic.

Ace: Someone rescue Brian from, I’m sure, doing the OSU UFR.

David: Where does Scott Frost's Mom fit in? She has to be relevant to this.

Seth: We should get her on the podcast that week.

Ace: /giphy mmmbop

Good god, I forgot how 90s the 90s were.

BiSB: Teal. Teal as far as the eye could see.

Ace: Brian do you have any thoughts on ideal playoff setups or Hanson or teal or Scott Frost’s mom?

Unless we hear otherwise, I bet Brian loved wearing lots of teal while listening to Hanson and writing angry letters about Scott Frost’s mom.

Head to toe teal.

In fact, Brian briefly served as the mascot for the Charlotte Hornets.

Until his angry letters about Scott Frost’s mom caused too much controversy.

This better all go in the post.

Seth: There is a lesson from the 1990s, and that was don't mess with jeans. We stonewashed them, changed shades of blue, wore them too high, wore them too low, wore them too baggy, wore them with holes, even put elastic on them. None of these were good decisions.

We wore them as shirts. It was awful.

Ace: I spent most of the 90s pulling my damn pants up.

BiSB: Bugle Boys did tend to droop

Ace: Being skinny in the 90s: not a good look.

David: That's why I stuck to Nike gym shorts. Not much has changed.

Brian: I've advocated six teams for going on ten years now and this season's edition of pickin' time made it clear that this is yet another year when six is the fairest field possible:

1. Clemson vs 4. Alabama or 5. OSU
2. Oklahoma vs. 3 Georgia or 6. USC

There were some complaints on twitter that it's not fair to Georgia, who has to play an extra game when their resume is on par with Clemson or Oklahoma, but literally every system bundles in some unfairness. Ask PSU last year or OSU this year. Six is the best compromise between the urgency of the regular season and a wide enough field to encompass all reasonable contenders.

Also note that from the perspective of the college football watcher, the potential bye unfairness is actually a feature. When Miami lost to Pittsburgh just before the end of the season, everyone was quick to point out that Miami's loss was essentially a mulligan. If they beat Clemson, they were in, Pittsburgh did nothing. In a six team system, Miami just tossed their potential bye out the window. The thing CFB does better than any other sport is reduce the number of meaningless games. Six improves that feature while still expanding the field a little bit.

Seth: How did you wear your jeans in the '90s Brian?


Brian: I spent the 90s as the lead singer of the Four Tops. We mostly wore weird flowy glitter slacks.

Seth: I don't know anyone who owned a pair of jncos who ever tucked them in, or had less than 8 inches of flannel boxers showing above the waistline.

Adam: Hey guys, sorry I'm late. The committee got it wrong because why even have a stupid conference championship game; I only trust the committee if they don't have to make a decision so nope don't trust them; and a six-team playoff is ideal unless we go to Seth's system, which only works if the blogpoll is resurrected.

As for jeans, I spent most of fifth grade lobbying for these. Multiple people in my school had these. Multiple. I'm not sure why either. My mom said no because she thought they were incredibly stupid, and I need to publicly thank her for that.

Adam: But I did have a teal backpack at one point, so...

Brian: This is now very long.

Ace: But we haven’t heard your thoughts on Hanson.

Brian: Seriously it’s too long.

This post first appeared on Mgoblog, please read the originial post: here

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This Week’s Obsession: Playoffs


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