Monthly Archives: December 2015

Initial thoughts on the Playoff selections

The four teams selected for the College Football Playoff were announced today and unlike last year’s stunning change in the final rankings, this year’s situation produced no such drama. The top 4 of Clemson vs Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and Alabama vs Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl were exactly the teams everyone expected and as a group, virtually controversy free. That does not mean the rankings weren’t without ramifications though, here are a few initial thoughts:
Good news for the Tide…
Michigan State moving up to #3 provides Alabama with a much more favorable match up for two reasons: 1) Bama brings fans in droves, so they’re not hugely outnumbered regardless of the scenario, BUT a game in Dallas vs nearby Oklahoma would have been the largest crowd for their opponent that Bama would have ever faced in a playoff/BCS title game. 2) Alabama’s few losses in recent years have come against mobile QBs that throw for big numbers. Very good teams that feature a generally pro-style offense, run the ball well and play good defense typically do not defeat the Tide (see LSU the past 4 years). The only team in the playoff that fits the model of a team Alabama usually beats is Michigan State. It’s not surprising that Vegas has initially made the Tide a whopping 11 point favorite.
And more on the Spartans…
Michigan State has given two teams their only loss. Not only is MSU the only team to accomplish the feat this year, it is a rare to happen in any year. But if you look a little closer, it helped MSU, and the Big Ten in general, to have so few games between the better teams. The top 3 teams in the West (Iowa, Northwestern, Wisconsin) only had 1 game against the top 3 teams in the East (Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan). Given that there could have been up to 9 games between these teams, that leaves 8 games that were unplayed – 8 losses that these teams didn’t have. The West Division teams that MSU played were 2-10 Purdue (MSU won by 3) and 5-7 Nebraska (MSU lost). What if MSU had played Northwestern and Wisconsin in the regular season? Or what if either of these teams had played Ohio State? And Iowa didn’t play Michigan or Ohio State. This is a huge number of losses that didn’t occur, simply because the teams didn’t play. The Big Ten could have easily had no teams in the top 8 and been the conference left out of the playoffs rather than the Pac 12.
Same as it ever was…
the current playoff and New Year’s Six structure is a dramatic improvement from the BCS era, which in spite of the critics, was a dramatic improvement over the previous system (or lack thereof). That said, there are still some remnants from the old bowl system that had a noticeable effect on the quality of the games this year.
The Sugar is tied in to the SEC/Big 12 match-up; this would be great except both conferences did not produce a 2nd Top 10 team. So while #10 North Carolina (Russel Athletic) and #11 TCU (Alamo) are in secondary (at best) bowls, #12 Ole Miss and #16 Oklahoma State are playing in the Sugar.