Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Committee Members Behaving Like Pollsters

After just one week, it's pretty clear that the College Football Playoff selection committee members are behaving like the voters in The Associated Press and coaches polls.

Yes, the 12 members are doing more homework and their rankings remain superior and more logical than the polls, but they're very much falling into the trap of sliding teams up and down based on wins and losses. With the exception of one team—Ole Miss at No. 11—the teams are ordered according to their number of losses.

The committee may come to regret having to do this made-for-TV event (let's face it, ESPN really wanted it) every week until Dec. 7, when it has to unveil its final rankings—the only one that actually matters. If the members want to fulfill the promise that they're taking a fresh look at each team every week, there had better be significant fluctuations in the upcoming rankings.

While these rankings don't exactly resemble the old BCS standings (and that's a good thing), we have the entire Top 10 pegged in order with the exception of Nos. 5 and 6 Alabama and TCU being flipped. And committee chairman Jeff Long admitted during the selection-show interview that these teams are so close that they had to "go to the tape" to break the tie.

Here's how this week's rankings look:

Playoff Committee Rankings Comparison
CFP RankTeamBCSB/R MockAPCoaches
1Miss State1111
2Florida State2222
7Kansas State8799
8Michigan State7876
9Arizona State1291112
10Notre Dame91088
11Ole Miss10121213
14Ohio State13141311
23West Virginia24262425
24Georgia TechNR322928

Explanation of Rankings

BCS rankings are a simulation of the BCS formula used from 2004-2013 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, Thoughts from Committee's Rankings

Ole Miss' Big Drop Reveals Poll Mentality
The Rebels lost a heartbreaker against No. 3 Auburn on a last-minute fumble that was ruled a touchdown on the field and only overturned by replay as Laquon Treadwell suffered a horrific ankle injury in the process. But they dropped seven spots in the rankings to No. 11. That smells like a poll.

Eight Teams Can Still Play Their Way in
With Alabama having games remaining against Auburn and Mississippi State, it looks like the top seven teams, plus No. 9 Arizona State, all will have a shot to land a spot in the playoff field simply by winning out. The highest-ranked team that does not control its own fate is eighth-ranked Michigan State, which needs at least one of the other conference champions to suffer a second loss.

Notre Dame Faces a Must-Win Game, and Then Some
The Irish, as expected, are still stuck at No. 10. They can move up by beating No. 9 Arizona State this week and then must root like crazy for the Sun Devils the rest of the way. Notre Dame's best chance of getting into the playoff will rest on ASU winning the Pac-12 title (presumably over Oregon).

Committee Has a Bias, but Not an SEC Bias
Of the six SEC teams in the committee's rankings, only Ole Miss is placed higher in the CFP rankings than the AP poll. Of the five Pac-12 teams in the rankings, each is ranked at least as high—if not higher—in the CFP rankings as the AP poll. You can interpret this as the polls being biased toward the SEC (which they are) and/or that with four of the 12 committee members having Western ties (more than any other region), the teams out on the left coast are getting a closer look.

Little Guys Still Get No Love from Committee
No Group of Five team made it into the Top 25 this week, and this is at least somewhat troubling. If Marshall is deemed unworthy because of its weak schedule, then Colorado State (despite the fact that it needs help to win the Mountain West) should be strongly considered. If strength of schedule is of such paramount concern, then there's no chance any non-Power Five team will ever land in the playoff. As in, ever.

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