Tomorrow night marks what may well be an inconsequential night for many of you. For those of you still in college, it may mark the night before you get your freak-on for Halloween, or for those of us who fondly remember those nights, the pucker factor of "Oh no, my house! I forgot to buy candy for poor spartan children!"
For the few football obsessed, tomorrow night marks the first night that the college football playoff committee releases its weekly rankings. One would hope that they do not simply copy the AP rankings, or merge them with the "coaching"(airquotes) poll, but actually attempt to dive into the deep metrics. In fact, in looking at their most recent announcement you might glean that they were going to come back after a very deep dive into the "data"(enough with the air quotes).
The selection committee gathered Monday for the start of a two-day meeting at a North Texas hotel to go over the extensive data and outcomes from the first nine weeks of the season.
For those of you not familiar with board meetings, the majority of this time will be spent 1) posturing, and 2) fluffing. Now all of you with dirty minds, I was just convinced by my earth loving wife to raise four chickens (hens). If you have not watched four chickens prance around your backyard, trust me, the reference is entirely accurate and appropriate.
I'm not going to grab their pictures, because it's kinda creepy, but let's spend a second to delve into the 13 committee members and who their loyalty is towards (if you aren't aware). While some of them have served at multiple institutions, in looking at times served/played, it's pretty obvious in most cases where their loyalty is, and that is what I've included below:
Rob Mullens, Chair, Oregon (Pac-12)
Frank Beamer, Virginia Tech (ACC)
Paola Boivin, Arizona State University (Pac-12)
Jeff Bower, University of Southern Mississippi (C-USA)
Joe Castiglione, University of Oklahoma (BIG-12)
Herb Deromedi, Central Michigan University (MAC)
Ken Hatfield, Arkansas (SEC)
Chris Howard, Air-Force Academy (MWC)
Bobby Johnson, Vanderbilt (SEC)
Ronnie Lott, University of Southern California (Pac-12)
Gene Smith, Ohio State University (B1G) and Notre Dame (Independent)
Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech (ACC)
Scott Stricklin, University of Florida (SEC) and Mississippi State (SEC)
One point of clarification.
Committee rules are that when the committee discusses "your team" you have to leave the room, but that's it. That doesn't mean that the lone B1G representative, with loyalty to OSU and ND has to leave the room when discussing Michigan, because, you know, that would disadvantage us. So there's that, and I'm sure Delaney had something to do with it. Also there's this:
Also at the entrance to the room is a hat rack where each committee member has a symbolic white hat with his or her name on it to represent the unbiased nature of the process by having everyone “leave their hat at the door.”
I'll believe that when the CFP starts paying Gene Smith more than OSU does.
Still, all that hardly matters push come to shove, in that they will probably just grab some high level data or quasi-pretty chart (below) and talk about it. In fact, from the past four years we have a decent awareness of what they are actually looking at (in terms of what they have cited as factors weighing into team rankings).
Now don't get me wrong, it's a(n executive) committee. Were it a workgroup, they would have incorporated S&P stats, injury reports, team development, home field/night advantage, and many more useful statistics, with the bulk of the meetings taking place via Skype, the B-school garden and/or Ashleys.
As it is, they are stretched looking at 1) record, 2) strength of schedule (opponent quality), 3) quality of wins and if applicable 4) quality of loss.
I've made it easy for them, and probably hard for you, especially those of you who can't get away from more in depth metrics.
So this is the compiled data ranked by current AP ranking, looking at the strength of schedule of the teams each top team has played, their quality of wins (not looking at in depth metrics, just score differential as it appears that is what they are doing, i.e. "bad losses" refer to massive point differentials and not underlying metrics), and quality of loss.
So we have the people looking at the data, and the data they are looking at and talking about.
Personally I'm in the "just win, baby" camp of things, but it's worth noting that quality of wins do appear to mean something, so for the few people out there saying Michigan doesn't fully control its destiny at this point, I'd say wrong, they do. Just win, and win big.
A couple of observations from this data,
1) Ohio State looks way over ranked by the AP compared to what the committee relies on. However the committee does appear to factor in these early rankings the potential for certain teams, should they win out or win their remaining games. That said, that Purdue loss was loss caliber enough to keep OSU out, though they still ranked OSU highly leading up to the CFP and even prior to playing Michigan or in the B1G.
2) UCF aside from a loss-less schedule, has nothing to hang its hat on. Even comparing it to two loss PSU, (they both played PITT), PSU dominated PITT at a much higher level than UCF and the last 12 minutes of PSU/PITT was trash time. UCF tends to play its starters through to run up the score. While the committee would normally not look at things like this, they have limited options when discussing UCF. UCF also thumbed its finger at the committee last year in a fairly harsh way, so don't be surprised if UCF comes in behind PSU in the first rankings.