I Don’t Want a College Football Playoff – Part I

…or The Voices of Many Replaced by Those of a Few

I don’t want a college football playoff. I am an actual American who loves college football a lot more than the average Joe, but, for multiple reasons, I want to keep the BCS.

Reason #1 that I don’t want a college football playoff: The College Football Playoff Selection Committee

Currently, there are 13 individuals from different backgrounds and areas of expertise that will be deciding not only which four teams will be in the playoff, but also the seeding of those teams. The latter responsibility is one of equal if not greater importance than who will actually be playing in the semi-final games.

Let’s say for conversation’s sake that each individual has an equal say in who is in the playoff and how they are seeded. I’m sure that in practice it will be more than just individual votes that will decide the teams, but humor me for a moment. With 13 individuals each member of the committee’s decision has a weight of 7.69% (100% / 13) in regards to who gets into the playoff. Let’s compare that to the weight of the current BCS “decision makers.”

Coaches’ Poll

The Coaches’ Poll is made up of 62 different head coaches. Let it be known that I am not an advocate of coaches voting in something that decides who plays for the national championship. They are so all-consumed in preparing for their own games that there is no feasible way for them to watch enough games and read enough game recaps and articles to be able to accurately rank teams outside of their own schedule. Also, I believe there is going to be a bias (positive or negative) towards their own team and the teams on their schedule. I am aware and understand that they often will receive assistance in making their votes and that they are not voting entirely by themselves. However, having 62 voters will negate some of the inaccuracies of coaches voting.

Since the Coaches’ Poll is worth one-third of the BCS formula, each coach’s vote carries a weight of 0.54% (100% / 3 = 33.3% / 62) in the BCS standings or approximately 7% of the weight that one of the members of the new committee carries. The CFB Playoff Committee members’ decision is going to be more than 14 times as important as one of the coaches in the current system.

Harris Poll

The Harris Poll, in my opinion, is the best poll that exists, even though it is given little publicity. First of all, it is made up of former coaches and players, administrators, and members of the media. These are people who can spend a lot more time watching games and reading about college football therefore are able to make more accurate decisions. Also, this poll doesn’t even come out until halfway through the season, thereby (theoretically) eliminating the issue of a team’s preseason ranking affecting their later rankings (i.e. a team has to actually play some games before the voters decide how good they are). There are 105 voters in the Harris Poll, making each voter’s decision worth .32% (100% / 3 = 33.3% / 105) of the BCS rankings or approximately 4.2% as important as a vote from a new committee member. The new committee member’s decision is going to be over 23 times as important as one of the Harris voters in the current BCS system.

Computers

There are currently six computer ranking systems that are averaged to make up the final third of the current BCS rankings. The highest and lowest ranking of each team’s computer rankings are thrown out and the remaining four scores are averaged for their computer ranking. The new playoff selection process will not directly use any type of computer ranking system. This is problematic because of the small sample size being dealt with in college football. With teams only playing 11-14 games against other Division I-A schools, it can be, at times, difficult to gauge their abilities against teams that are not on their schedule. The computer systems, while not perfect by any means, attempt to do that. Theoretically, based on a different number of variables depending on the system, we can look at the computer rankings at the end of the season and have an idea if one team is better than the other even if they haven’t played each other in 10 years. Without using the computers, every decision made about one team being better or worse than a team they haven’t played will come down to the “eye test” or “gut feelings.”

Louisville is a great example right now. Louisville is not ranked in the top 25 by five out of the six computer-ranking systems. But they’re ranked #20 in the BCS because they passed the “eye test” for enough voters to rank them #13 and #14 in the Coaches’ and Harris Polls, respectively. Voters look at the fact that they are 8-1 and rank them highly. But their one loss came against the only quality team on their schedule thus far. Their eight wins have come against a seven teams that are averaging 2.4 wins each and a D-IAA team. I have a hard time believing the Cardinals are better than UCLA, Michigan State, Oklahoma, LSU, Wisconsin and Arizona State as the voters have indicated. If we look at the computers, we would see that the data does not line up at all with the rankings they have received.

Below we can see a comparison of the importance of each individual component of the BCS with the new playoff committee members.

COMPONENT % OF DECISION
Coaches’ Poll Voter .54
Harris Poll Voter .32
Computer Ranking System 5.56
Playoff Committee Member 7.69

There is too much weight being placed on each person’s shoulders in the new committee. I’m not suggesting for a moment that the current BCS system is without flaw. I have a dozen or more ideas that would improve it. However, in the current system, 167 human beings and six computers all have a say (a republican system) in which teams will compete in one of the most important sporting events in the nation every year. But now, 13 human beings (most of who have non-football-related occupations) will decide the fate of my beloved game (an oligarchic system).

I say let’s keep the BCS, fix it, and quit acting like we don’t love every second of the drama that unfolds every season about who the second-best team in the nation is.

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One thought on “I Don’t Want a College Football Playoff – Part I

  1. Pingback: Fixing the BCS: Revised BCS | Above the Press Box

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