Rob Mullins (Oregon AD), Playoff Committee Chairman Interview w/ Ryen Russillo

Submitted by The Fugitive on November 7th, 2018 at 1:06 PM

Probably not a ton of new information but at least there's some explanation for LSU.

  • Committee believes LSU is a better team than Washington State, Ohio State, and West Virginia, thus their ranking (base their rankings on if Team A can beat Team B).
  • Committee resets each week with deep dive analysis comparing top teams.  Will reset next week.  (This is important for Michigan because they could potentially have a conference championship game whereas Notre Dame will not).
  • Measures Head to Head, Strength of Schedule, and Conference Championships.
  • The committee loves Michigan's defense, having the #1 unit could certainly help them stay in the top 4.

Direct Download Link to Podcast - start at 32:26



November 7th, 2018 at 1:39 PM ^

No it's not. Bill Connelly has his resume S&P+ - which I don't think is perfect, but is at least objective - and has LSU (7) ahead of OSU (10), WVU (13), and ND (18). Comparing them with S&P+ rankings:

  • Beat 5, Beat 11, Beat 15 on the road, Lost to 1, Lost to 27 on the road
  • Beat 12 on the road, Lost to 25 on the road
  • Beat 33 on the road, Beat 42 on the road, Lost to 31 on the road
  • Beat 4, Beat 35

LSU has beaten a lot of good teams. They lost to a team against whom every team in the country would be expected to lose. WVU hasn't played anyone relevant. OSU escaped PSU and got pounded by Purdue. The only reason that ND is even in the conversation is because they beat us. The rest of their schedule is hot garbage.

Your assertion that 2-loss teams shouldn't be ahead of 1-loss teams would only lead to teams scheduling the easiest possible schedules to avoid the risk of a second loss. If you don't take into account strength of schedule, you might as well get rid of rankings and just look at teams with the best records, which would put UCF at 4th.

Newton Gimmick

November 7th, 2018 at 1:50 PM ^

The numbers in parentheses were resume rankings, not S&P.

EDIT: "J" beat me by one minute and I can't delete so here's a fun fact:

Northwestern can lose to *both* Iowa and Minnesota, drop to 5-6, and as long as Wisconsin loses to Penn St and beats Purdue, the Wildcats will enter the Illinois game in the driver's seat for the Big Ten.  (While also needing a win to be bowl eligible.)

Also, here are the teams that are 12-1 in their last 13 conference games:

Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Northwestern


November 7th, 2018 at 2:03 PM ^

Resume S&P+ is a fine, new metric but Connelly has said a couple of times that while it factors in SOS and scoring margin, it's not perfect and is still a work in progress in computing actual quality of teams.  Like, I wouldn't read too much into a difference of about a point between LSU and OSU; LSU's offense is really not good by any metric, and the spread between their bad offense and fine defense (#13) is a hell of a lot more like 5-4 Miami, Texas A&M, and Purdue than a top-10 team.  So I think the committee is overrating LSU a bit because they beat Georgia and they have a strong preference for SEC teams despite evidence that it isn't a particularly banner year for the conference outside of Alabama.  

Newton Gimmick

November 7th, 2018 at 1:42 PM ^

I disagree -- not necessarily in this case, but in theory.  You are assuming all Power 5 schedules are created equally.

I don't think LSU is a particularly impressive team, but they have played 6 of the Top 27 S&P+ ranked teams -- three of those away from home -- and they are 4-2 in those games.

Washington State has only played one such team, at home, and they are 1-0.  (They lost to #43 USC.)

If we were to stick to the orthodoxy of 'fewest losses = highest ranking', we are encouraging teams (and conferences) to make their schedules as easy as possible.


November 7th, 2018 at 2:27 PM ^

This is the dumbest comment on MGoBlog today.  GTFO. Of course a really good team that has played a really tough schedule with two loses should be able to be ahead of one-loss teams.

I don't think LSU is a really good team.  But did you watch Wazzou struggle at home with Cal?  Did you watch OSU struggle at home with Nebraska?  Those aren't really good teams either right now. LSU has the 6th best Strength or Record per FPI which is about the best "resume" measure out there.  Perfectly fair to have LSU 7th in the rankings right now.

Making a dumb rule like that would also incentivize teams like Wazzou from just scheduling cake non-conference like they did.  Number of losses shouldn't be all the matters.

Along those lines, the crap 2-loss ACC teams (BC, NC State, Syracuse) shouldn't be ahead of half the 3 loss teams they're ahead of.


November 7th, 2018 at 1:12 PM ^

As I said in my earlier thread the committee really wants two SEC teams in this thing this year

  • The committee loves Michigan's defense, having the #1 unit could certainly help them stay in the top 4.

Notice he didnt say anything about winning out - just that if we keep our #1 ranking defensively it will "help them stay in the top 4".

Help them stay.  Good Lord.

And I'm sorry - Ohio State would kill LSU


November 7th, 2018 at 1:18 PM ^

not sure i buy your tin foil hat; if somehow uga beats bama and three 1 loss conf champions are left out in favor of 2 sec teams one of which didn't win it's conference, this whole thing would be burnt to the group. 

also osu barely beat nebraska, i don't think they would kill lsu

i do think the sec is massively overrated though. 


November 7th, 2018 at 1:24 PM ^

Jesus it's not "tin foil hat".  They SHOWED you last night what they are going to do.

Kentucky lost to Georgia, badly, at home - dropped two slots

If Alabama loses a close game to Georgia do you honestly think they'll drop them MORE slots than Kentucky????   Really?

They are 100% telegraphing the move if Georgia beats Alabama.  But a lot of people dont want to see it cause it would screw us big time.   Hell, read the quote in this post "it will help them stay #4".  Does that sound like a ringing endorsement to you?  


November 7th, 2018 at 1:26 PM ^

so much moves around in the last couple of weeks i'm not concerned.  I will take the long shot that there is no chance that we win out and get left out.  if we did it would be chaos led first and foremost by Harbaugh.  

sure their rankings are laughable and how they arbitrarily judge teams is suspect; their main job right now is to get 1-4 correct.  so far I believe they have.  the rest is just noise. 


November 7th, 2018 at 1:37 PM ^

C'mon, friend. Is there a possibility Michigan could get jumped in the wrong scenario? Sure. Is your description of the process that gets there accurate? I don't think so.

The idea that the committee, together, has a preconceived idea that they want to get 2 SEC teams into the playoff is... rather unlikely. We're talking about a pretty diverse group of people that is trying to compare teams with each other. It's not the staff of the Paul Finebaum show smoking cigars in a dark room.

There is, of course, quite a possibility that there is some poor methodology and perhaps even subconscious bias at work.

But it is a pretty simplistic view of the committee that they are going to pay attention to how many slots they drop a team that loses. Why did Kentucky only drop two slots? Maybe it's because the committee thinks they're better than UCF, Syracuse, and NC State. Maybe they're wrong, but that's not exactly absurd. Who's next on the list below them? Florida, which has one more loss... and lost to Kentucky earlier in the year.

"It will help them stay #4" doesn't seem like a meaningful quote at all. 


November 7th, 2018 at 1:49 PM ^

"There are none so blind as those who will not see". 

The evidence is right in front of you Stephen.  They are telling you exactly what they are going to do before they do it.  But you, like many others here, dont want to acknowledge it cause it's unpleasant and hurts Michigan.

Let's hope it doesnt happen and we dont have to worry about it.  In a perfect world Syracuse beats Clemson, Notre Dame loses to somebody and Alabama trucks Georgia.   That would be nice.



November 7th, 2018 at 1:52 PM ^

I also think you're crediting them with a lot more foresight than they probably have.

If they really wanted to have two SEC teams in the top 4, why not.. put two SEC teams in the top 4?

They could have gone with Alabama, Clemson, Notre Dame, and Georgia.  It's defensible.  I don't agree with it, but it's defensible.

Reggie Dunlop

November 7th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

I keep seeing you insist that the committee is telling us what they're going to do. I would disagree with that. The CFP rankings change weekly. They are not the static AP poll which bumps you up for wins and drops you for losses. They re-evaluate every week.

In 2014, heading into the conference championship week, they had Alabama, Oregon, TCU & FSU. OSU was left out in 5th place. TCU didn't have a Big XII conference championship game at that point, and OSU murdered Wisconsin. The final rankings had OSU replace TCU. 

Even though TCU was considered the THIRD best team in the country at the conclusion of their season, with no other games to alter that perception, the committee changed their mind and dropped them two spots to give OSU their playoff berth.

Yesterday's rankings are fun for now. They mean nothing moving forward.


November 7th, 2018 at 2:05 PM ^

I find the idea that the committee's reasoning behind ranking LSU and Kentucky in their respective positions is an attempt to communicate to fans that the SEC will get two teams in the playoff to be preposterous. 

That doesn't mean that there won't be potential problems as a result. You appear to claim that I am refusing to acknowledge something because it's bad for Michigan. I assume that what is "bad for Michigan" is the possibility of being left out of the playoff. I have not refused to acknowledge any such thing. 

Is there a scenario where we could be unjustly left out of the playoff in favor of 2 SEC teams? It's possible. My fandom has nothing to do with it.

What I refuse to acknowledge is the superstition that the committee is somehow deliberately manipulating facts to achieve an anti-Michigan or pro-SEC result. 

Imputing motives to individuals that don't exist is a great way to ensure that the bad results one is actually upset about continue to happen. When one fails to understand WHY something unfavorable occurs, one cannot make efforts to correct it. If we rail on the committee for engaging in a conspiracy to freeze Michigan out of the playoff, we are almost certainly wrong--and the committee can just wave it off as tinfoil hat fever swamp stuff, which it is. If we, instead, address the circular-reasoning issues that may factor into the high rankings of the mid-level SEC teams, we have a better chance to influence current and future committee deliberations by encouraging them to address reasoning flaws that they actually suffer from.

If they overvalue the SEC, it is likely due to the SEC's insular records and the committee's sub-conscious belief in the SEC's relative quality. Those are things that they can recognize and counteract. But accusations of conspiracy cannot be addressed, as there is none.


November 7th, 2018 at 2:33 PM ^

Your last paragraph, absent of your final sentence, is what I believe.  That they think the SEC is so superior to other conferences to warrant inclusion of two teams (if both have one loss) over inferior conferences like the B1G.  Which is why Georgia, LSU, Kentucky and Florida are all over-rated IMO relative to their actual on field performance relative to other teams.

 I never said it was a grand conspiracy to freeze out Michigan nor do i think that.  I believe they are positioning rankings to justify the inclusion of two SEC teams and dont really care who the other two are.  If Clemson were to lose, they'd be out.  If ND were to lose, they'd be out.  The only reason this would impact us is because we're ranked 4th and as such are the last man out.

Kinda crappy to accuse me of saying there's some sort of conspiracy afoot to keep Michigan out when I NEVER said or even implied it.  What I said was their was a desire to get two SEC teams IN - not keep us out - and that's a huge difference.  I think they'd love to have us in if ND or Clemson stumbles or if Alabama beats Georgia.   But given a choice between including Michigan or Alabama should Alabama lose if everybody else keeps winning I do think we're odd man out.  



November 7th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

Agreed there is no conspiracy on the committee, however the CFP architects were required to write the criteria in such a way that the SEC could qualify as many of its members as possible - one things was the SEC would not sign up unless the league title criteria meant virtually nothing. 

The SEC encouraged its members to then schedule meaningless out of conference games such that the pre-season rankings carry over into league play AND no out of conference comparisons are possible. Therefore, in total their SEC league remains more highly ranked during the regular season increasing the probability of delivering two of its members to the 4-team playoff. 

Conspiracy from the Committee Members ?  No. 

SEC manipulation of the CFP system ?  Yes


November 7th, 2018 at 5:36 PM ^

the CFP architects were required to write the criteria in such a way that the SEC could qualify as many of its members as possible - one things [sic] was the SEC would not sign up unless the league title criteria meant virtually nothing.

So, here is an actual document outlining the criteria used to determine playoff inclusion.

The only real concession to the SEC is the absence of a one-team-per-conference limitation. While I suppose that technically means that they can "qualify as many members as possible," it also means that the Big Ten and the Big 12 and the ACC can do so, as well. 

The criteria for evaluating the teams has no structural bias whatsoever. 

The criteria to be provided to the selection committee must be aligned with the ideals of the commissioners, Presidents, athletic directors and coaches to honor regular season success while at the same time providing enough flexibility and discretion to select a non-champion or independent under circumstances where that particular non-champion or independent is unequivocally one of the four best teams in the country.

When circumstances at the margins indicate that teams are comparable, then the following criteria must be considered:

  • Championships won
  • Strength of schedule
  • Head-to-head competition (if it occurred)
  • Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)

That seems reasonably fair. Whether the committees have always held to these (margin of victory may not be directly incentivized but it sure does help the metrics that are used), the criteria are pretty fair. And, for what it's worth, they appear to be demonstrating fealty to the head-to-head clause in keeping us below ND despite what appears to be an otherwise superior resume.

Strength of schedule is supposed to benefit big non-conference games, which is why there was a flurry of them scheduled after the playoff system was adopted. The clause requiring the evaluation of championships makes conference titles important. Later in the document, they say this:

Strength of schedule, head-to-head competition and championships won must be specifically applied as tie-breakers between teams that look similar 

That's pretty clear.

This is not something that is structurally built to favor the SEC. It may favor them in practice, but it isn't designed that way. And, FWIW, there are some elements here that may speak well for Michigan should things break in a difficult direction.