This is a question that will be revisited — probably with greater intensity — in the first week of December: What’s the worst thing the College Football Playoff Selection Committee can do on December 7?
Maybe the decision will be made a lot easier by the on-field results of the next four weekends. However, if the decision is a tough one — and Alabama beating Mississippi State this Saturday could lead us along that path — it’s worth devoting a little bit of time to this issue in advance. Student Section editors Bart Doan and Matt Zemek sit down to discuss the action the committee must avoid at all costs.
What is the worst possible message the committee could send on Dec. 7, and what action or team selection would most reflect that?
On Twitter: @SectionMZ
The great conflict potentially facing the committee on the night of December 6 — after all the games are over — is that when it sits down to make the fateful selection of the four playoff teams on December 7, it might have to choose between two equally strong and compelling needs.
One one hand, the committee will very possibly have to honor conference championships and the head-to-head wins attached to them. This would be why 11-1 Baylor would beat out 11-1 TCU, should such a tie exist. However, it is extremely important for the committee, in year one of this system, to send a very strong message about non-conference strength of schedule, so that athletic directors know they have to steer clear of Cupcake City in future seasons, thereby improving the sport to a considerable degree.
If the committee chose 11-1 TCU over 11-1 Baylor, it would be markedly, severely, unfair to Baylor… but it would be done in the attempt to improve the sport for the next 20 years and beyond. Baylor would be the wronged sacrificial victim… but in service of a much larger goal. One could understand such a move and yet disagree with it in the strongest possible terms.
When one talks about the worst thing the committee could do, it’s not taking 11-1 TCU over 11-1 Baylor. That would be bad on a number of levels, but it wouldn’t be the unforgivable sin other actions would represent. Let’s be clear about that.
Very simply, the worst thing the selection committee could do on Dec. 7 is if it faced a scenario involving teams from separate conferences, without a head-to-head result, and chose the team with a light non-conference schedule over the team with a stronger non-conference schedule and a generally equal if not stronger 12- or 13-game resume. This kind of decision would probably manifest itself in the phrase, “best team.” That’s what the committee would probably say. The underlying implication is that Las Vegas would probably favor the team on a neutral field, a reaction to national perception, which is a close cousin of that nasty R-word called “reputation.”
The committee, in a TCU-Baylor situation, might have to reward conference championships and head-to-head results more than non-conference strength of schedule. That’s plainly apparent. In just about every other scenario, a failure to prioritize non-conference strength of schedule would likely be a highly lamentable mistake. At any rate, the results of the next four Saturdays will help shape the decision. Let’s see how this drama plays out.
On Twitter: @TheCoachBart
Well, it’d probably depend on scenario. This is a little like when people as you when you’re engaged, “You gonna like being married?” Well, at that point you’ve never been married, so how the heck should you know?
In broad form, the worst message the committee could send is that it takes into account regional or brand name value into their selections and cover it up with completely arbitrary and vague “eye test” arguments. Some people will buy it, some won’t.
The point of this entire system was to get the best teams in even if there were more than two; guard against the rare years when three or more teams go unbeaten in power leagues; and to be reasonably objective and transparent.
The transparency part, I give them about a C average. The objective part, I give an F thus far. We’ll find out if that can change, but the committee and this system will squeeze out fan support if the argument of, “Alabama or TCU … be honest … people would rather see Alabama in there and they’re Alabama, so they probably have a better team,” is bounced around.
I’m hopeful the committee won’t blindly just say, “Oh, ahh, (insert conference here),” or “Well, it’s Baylor, so how good really are they?”, and instead will make this an equal opportunity tournament for teams that have earned the right to be there by winning championships, not by being on the good side of the media.