ACC

Late Hits: How to improve the College Football Playoff

A cold mathematical formula, calculated by computers, flummoxed college football fans and soured them on the Bowl Championship Series.

The College Football Playoff promised to bring a human element to the process of determining the national champion and it has.

In almost every way, the selection committee and the four-team playoff has been an unqualified upgrade over the old system.

But the selection committee, which will release its penultimate rankings on Tuesday, could use a dose of math. Like the NCAA basketball tournament, the criteria for selection should be clearer for the football playoffs.

As it stands, reputation and name-brand value are being assumed to be part of the selection process because of the committee’s nebulous dependence on “eye test,” “game control,” “body-clock adjustments”* or any other tomfoolery selection committee chair Jeff Long concocts.

(Historical note*: Long rationalized Stanford’s season-opening loss at Northwestern based on the body-clocks of the Stanford players not being adjusted for the early kickoff.)

You don’t have to go to the BCS extreme, putting Florida State in the title game in 2000 over a Miami team it lost to – BECAUSE THE COMPUTER SAID SO! – but there should be some consistent guidelines.

A few humble suggestions:

1) Pick a strength-of-schedule metric

The selection committee talks a lot about strength of schedule, which is smart, but they never actually say which metric they use.

The basketball committee uses the RPI. The CFP committee should have their own version for SoS purposes. Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings for USA Today have an SoS element. It seems like a fairly obvious solution to use those.

2) Pay attention to location

Road wins should be considered more impressive and home losses more damaging. Michigan State, with road wins over Michigan and Ohio State, should be rewarded as such.

Throw in their home win over Oregon and the Spartans (11-1) have arguably best resume of any team in college football. Yet they started the week No. 5.

3) Differentiate wins

All wins are not created equal.

How many wins does a team have against teams with a winning record? How many against teams with 10-plus wins? How many against teams with a losing record?

And throw out all games against the Division I-AA opponents.

A chart to compare the playoff contenders headed into the final week of the season:

 CFP ranking WINS HOME L ROAD W -0.5 0.5 10+ SoS 1. Clemson 11 0 5 5 6 2 47 2. Alabama 10 1 4 1 8 0 5 3. Oklahoma 11 0 5 3 7 2 20 4. Iowa 11 0 5 7 3 1 62 5. Michigan State 11 0 4 3 7 1 53 8. Ohio State 11 1 5 5 4 0 61 9. Stanford 10 1 4 5 3 1 16 14. UNC 9 0 4 4 4 0 63

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Who’s trending

A weekly review of who’s trending:

Oklahoma (UP): The Sooners waxed in-state rival Oklahoma State, 58-23 on the road, to close out its schedule at 11-1 and safely (presumably) in the College Football Playoff as Big XII champions.

UNC (UP): Longest winning streak in 116 years and first unbeaten ACC season since 1980. The Tar Heels are on a roll. If they play like they did in the first quarter in Saturday’s 45-34 win over N.C. State, they will knock off No. 1 Clemson.

Southern Miss (UP): Todd Monken probably deserves some national coach of the year consideration. The Golden Eagles went 0-12, 1-11 and 3-9 the previous three seasons but beat Louisiana Tech 58-24 on Saturday to improve to 9-3 and clinch a spot in Conference USA’s championship game

Notre Dame (DOWN): Injuries, and some bad clock management, finally caught up to the Fighting Irish, who lost 38-36 at Stanford on a last-second field goal on Saturday night to get knocked out of CFP contention.