Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Committee's First Rankings Are RIght On Target

The College Football Playoff selection committee unveiled its first rankings Tuesday night, and they are, in fact, spot on.

Based on these rankings, we can easily deduce that strength of schedule is of paramount importance to the committee, and head-to-head results are fastidiously considered. Their rankings are more logical and consistent than the two polls, particularly the coaches poll, which should now be thoroughly discredited.

The committee's rankings also vary slightly from what the BCS standings would've looked like. The reason for that is rather obvious: The influence of the polls. In the BCS standings used from 2004-2013, the polls accounted for two-thirds of rankings. That element has been completely suppressed as the committee's rankings bear much more of a resemblance to computer rankings.

Here's the committee's list of its Top 25 teams, as compared to a facsimile of the old BCS standings, our CFP mock standings and the two major polls:

Playoff Committee Rankings Comparison
CFP RankTeamBCSB/R MockAPCoaches
1Miss State1111
2Florida State2422
4Ole Miss6579
8Michigan State91085
9Kansas State10111111
10Notre Dame7867
14Arizona State13171514
16Ohio State14161313
20West Virginia21202022
23East Carolina*22242119
*Top group-of-five team

Explanations of Rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-13 with two exceptions: 1) The AP Poll is used in place of the Harris Poll; 2) Sagarin and Massey rankings are their native systems instead of the non-MOV version used for the BCS.

CFP mock rankings are published weekly at Bleacher Report, with components including polls, computers, strength of schedule and conference championships. The full rankings are here.

A few highlights and thoughts from the committee's first rankings:

Committee's rankings don't behave like polls

That is a good thing, a very good thing. The biggest problem with the BCS in its latter years was that the polls were weighted disproportionately. One of major beneficiaries of this has been Alabama, which always seems to get more support in the polls than it deserves. The Tide, ranked No. 3 in both polls as well as the would-be BCS standings, are much more accurately placed by the committee at No. 6.

Strength of schedule matters, a lot

The Big Ten is being punished as a weak conference, as Michigan State might not be able to play its way into the playoff even if it wins out. Ohio State, at No. 16, virtually has no chance. The committee also is making an example out of Baylor, which is several spots behind its Big 12 rivals with identical records, because of its pathetic nonconference slate.

Where's Marshall?

The only team that's in the Top 25 in both polls and would-be BCS standings but omitted by the committee is Marshall, the only other undefeated team besides the Top 2 in its rankings. The Thundering Herd have won their eight games by an average of nearly 30 points, but their weak schedule clearly has been a huge detriment. As of now, East Carolina is the only team from the group-of-five conferences in the rankings.

The tournament starts now

Don't be fooled by the bracket that's being put out on TV (and everywhere else). Though there are four SEC West teams in the Top 6, there are four guaranteed losses among those teams as they still have to face each multiple times. Essentially, eight of the top nine teams—except Michigan State—all have a chance to play its way into the playoff, which leaves us with the one real surprise ...

No luck of the Irish

Despite three members with ties to the school (and are not covered under the recusal policy)—Condi Rice, Ty Willingham and Pat Haden—Notre Dame did not get much love from the committee. At No. 10, the Irish need some help to get into the playoff field even if they finish 11-1. It's a clear indication that the committee isn't fond of horse shoes or hand grenades: Notre Dame's close loss at Florida State doesn't count for much.


seamusk said...

Thanks for putting this together. I disagree that the playoff poll is better because it's closer to the computer polls. While I like the computer polls, and I like weighing them in, even with statistical anomalies, having a larger group of humans, combined with weighted computer polls, seems like a more accurate ranking. Computers don't get to see the games, and that matters.

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