North Carolina Sports: Looking at the College Football Playoff System

Oct 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; ACC commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during ACC Operation Basketball at The Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 26, 2016; Charlotte, NC, USA; ACC commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during ACC Operation Basketball at The Ritz-Carlton. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

The North Carolina Tar Heels and others are at the mercy of the college football playoff system. Is the Committee concerned with the right things?

Coming into their victory against Georgia Tech, the North Carolina Tar Heels were 18th in the polls and 21st in the College Football Playoff rankings. The interesting thing about both of those numbers is that they do not exist. They mean nothing except for those of us who talk about the relative value of teams that will never play each other to prove things on the field.

The AP Poll has had no bearing on the finish in college football since they left the BCS for no apparent reason. They were being corrupted somehow?

The College Football Playoff rankings are likewise meaningless. One week’s rankings do not have much effect on the next. The only batch of Committee rankings that matters is the one at the end of the season. ESPN is the only group who seems to care about these rankings, since they use them to derive their ranking of top 25 teams.

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Yet there are some problems inherent in determining any list of teams. Are the Tar Heels the 18th or 21st best team in the nation? I would think they would be a few spots better like 15th, but I am not worried about the Heels. Their playoff fate was settled when they lost to Georgia, or at least when they lost to Virginia Tech.

However the inclusion of Texas A&M in the initial four has pointed one of the problems with the system. Is a problem that the Aggies were included over unbeaten Washington in this rating? No. You don’t get playoff spots for a resume that as it turns out was missing a loss to Mississippi State. I think the SEC has gotten too much credit this season, but it is hard to fill out a top 25 when you really only know maybe the top 8.

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  • The problem was pointed out by Bobby Petrino. His Cardinals are 7th in the playoff rankings. Because they lost to Clemson, their playoff future is out of their hands. So Bobby went on a rant about how he shouldn’t have to blowout teams to gain traction and he should have put 80 on Florida State in retrospect.

    The idea that Petrino is resistant to blowing teams out is laughable. However he has a point. Does margin of victory matter? And if so, how much?

    The BCS was once criticized for having margin of victory in their formula. It was removed but margin of victory is still lingering in the minds of the humans of the process. Let’s say that Texas A&M and Washington are up for that final playoff spot. Let’s say both teams played UCLA and won (UCLA does not play Washington this year). Are you to tell me that the committee should disregard whether it was a three point game or a fourteen point game in that instance?

    Fortunately the Committee does not consider margin of victory. So says member Kirby Hocutt to ESPN. Hocutt mentioned that Louisville’s schedule strength was the problem. That’s very bad news for small schools, and not good for Louisville. They play Kentucky every year as a traditional rivalry game. Their Houston matchup blew up in their faces before they even got to that part of their season.

    Scheduling is the reason I felt that North Carolina would not be playoff team before the season. Two FCS schools no matter what happened to Georgia and Florida State. Ask 2004-5 Auburn why they were left out of a USC blowout of Oklahoma. The answer was two FCS opponents.

    Strength of schedule is hard to justify. Take a team with four losses in one conference and stick them into another league that same year and they might do better. Why didn’t Louisville play a harder schedule? Because they had to play Boston College. To say otherwise renders conferences meaningless (which might be where things ultimately go). Strength of schedule is a number, yes, but it is not an objective standard.

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    At least the committee has stated that there is no consideration of margin of victory. You win a game and you win, it’s that simple. So there should be no talk of big wins and close losses. The Committee needs to keep its context for rating teams secret, because if it doesn’t then they become committed to things that will not always be true. I think the preliminary rankings are already a mistake.

    In the end, the concern is not what the rankings look like now. It is what the rankings look like in December.