Note: Before reading below, everything that follows makes an assumption (which I fully understand is not a given) that Baylor's going to beat Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Kansas State. Those aren't layups. I know that, and everyone else who reads this knows that. But we're going to be favored in each of those games, and it would be a mild upset if we didn't win out. So feel free to drop by the comments and attack us for making an assumption - but this whole post is predicated on that assumption, which we know is not a given.
The college football committee doesn't respect Baylor. That's not hyperbole or conjecture, Jeff Long has basically said as much. My ramblings are below. They are ramblings, I am aware that they're ramblings, and they're intended to be ramblings. I hope you enjoy.
By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, I've been tweeting every week as the committee ranks every group of same-record teams by head to head except Baylor and TCU. This week, I forgot that TCU has played one more game than us, so I was technically wrong. We will return to your regularly scheduled programming next week unless they fix their mistake and move us above TCU.
There are several reasons why the committee meeting and announcing rankings weekly is stupid. But chief among them are the following:
The same group of people meeting weekly to discuss teams before they have their final resume is going to develop entrenched opinions (cont)
About those teams that may not be true in the future (e.g. MSU winning 3 "top 10" games against teams who have lost 8 combined games since).
Further - one of the commitee's key principles - conference titles - isn't decided until end of season. They're seemingly addresing (cont)
This issue by giving no credit to presumed conference champions and going to give some kind of bump at the end of the season.
Furthermore - they are voting on groups of teams in rounds (in 6s and 3s) and then ex post facto giving reasons why they voted how they did.
There are a couple more things that I want to point out about the committee/process.
This is more a circumstances point than anything, but I think it is really hurting us that Oliver Luck is the lone Big 12 voice on the committee. As many have not failed to remind me, Baylor lost to West Virginia. I really doubt Baylor has a strong advocate in the room urging the committee to look deeper at the facts.
Also, I think Bob Bowlsby and the Big 12 trying to play nice with everyone is hot garbage. Bowlsby's public statements have been so heavily qualified that they led to a reporter duel - Jake Trotter first reported the Big 12 would support the HTH Baylor-TCU winner as its "champion" in the event of a tie, David Ubben then contradicted that report by saying the Big 12 would not take sides, and finally Trotter came back asserting that they'd be forced to declare a champion. I don't want to get into semantics about in what way the committee will use the "champion" designation - if Baylor and TCU tie, it's going to say CHAMPIONS on Baylor's piece of paper, and that's going to matter. Without delving into the hypotheticals people like to throw out that go something like "If Texas had Baylor's resume, they'd be in the top 3" (because I think those hypotheticals make far too many assumptions), you're crazy if you think Texas or Oklahoma would be silently playing nice in our situation (potential conference tie, winner of HTH). That's not to say that I don't think McCaw, Heath Nielsen and friends aren't working the proper channels to make sure we get a fair shake - I am sure they are. I just think Texas or Oklahoma would be a little louder about it. I'm not sure if it's good or bad not to politic - the historical evidence is pretty mixed.
In conclusion, the committee really should only meet the last weekend of the season, put together a couple of contingency scenarios, and announce one (and only one) set of rankings on the day after the regular season (including conference title games) ends.
By the way, if you're looking to head into the "ESECPN bias" echo chamber, you'll probably want to move on. I don't agree with the committee's rankings so far, and I think they have a terrible process. I also don't think men like Barry Alvarez, Tom Osborne, Tyrone Willingham and a woman like Condoleeza Rice particularly care what TV ratings their selected matchups might do. I don't think they're completely ignorant of the fact that their television partner will love it if they place traditional powers in the playoff, but until someone gives me a concrete reason to feel otherwise, I think they're beyond reproach. The athletic directors are in a bit of a different situation, but I think it's only natural (and a designed part of the process) that they might slightly favor teams from their own conferences when push comes to shove.
Process points aside, let's move on to tonight's rankings. The rankings released tonight aren't that terrible in lots of respects.
Top 3 Teams
Setting aside the fact that Florida State continues to be gifted games late (although, to be certain, they are taking advantage of every gift they get, and most teams don't do that), it's pretty hard to quibble with the top 3. I think it's fair to say that Alabama, Florida State and Oregon (in whatever order you prefer to place them) have separated themselves from the next tier.
Alabama's looked like the best team in the country, even with pretty suspect special teams (which is odder and odder to watch coming from a Nick Saban team), and advanced stats back that up. Florida State is undefeated and plays in a Power 5 conference. The conventional wisdom always errs on the side of ranking undefeated teams highly, which I think it's right. No matter the power conference, no matter your schedule, it's pretty damn hard to go undefeated in any Power 5 conference. Florida State's advanced stats don't look great, but, again, they're the only Power 5 team that so far has made it through their schedule unscathed. If they get a loss, they're likely going to drop below all of the other one loss teams. Oregon, like Alabama, lost to a top 25 team (although Oregon's loss was at home), and otherwise looks the part, both visually and according to advanced stats.
I definitely don't think the order those teams are ranked matters until the last poll comes out. I also am not that fussed about it, because as I'll detail below, Florida State and Alabama both have multiple land mines in front of them. I think something that people fail to grasp, or choose not to grasp, is that in any given season, there normally is not much difference between the top 8 or so teams. If you look at the F/+ or Sagarin rankings (or anything else that, correctly, takes into account margin of victory instead of blindly looking at win-loss records), there are normally a couple of teams hanging around in the top 10 or so with 3 or 4 losses. Those computer rankings aren't "wrong" for ranking those teams so highly. Take Ole Miss, for example - the LSU and Auburn losses were both "one play" losses. (This is why, as you'll see below, that I don't particularly care where Mississippi State is ranked today, because I don't like their odds in the Egg Bowl). Where I am going with this, as you'll see below, is it's pretty foolish just to assume arguendo that none of those teams will lose. It's more likely that all 3 of them lose a game (or in Alabama and Oregon's cases, lose again) than that none of them lose from here on out.
On the other hand, I think the ranking of teams 4-7 is pretty silly (For that matter, I think Jeff Long's explanation made them look even worse). For purposes of the below discussion, I'm going to assume that Florida State and Oregon win out. If they don't, which I'll also talk about a little later, it's obviously a positive.
Jeff Long: "TCU and Baylor body of work isn’t comparable enough for head to head to kick in." I’m not kidding, he said that.
— Matt Hayes (@Matt_HayesSN) November 19, 2014
- Mississippi State (5-1) has an average game control of 6.70 (individual games: 13.96 @LSU, 14.78 v A&M, 13.34 v Auburn, 7.75 @Kentucky, -0.67 v Arkansas, -8.93 v Alabama).
- TCU (7-1) has an average game control of 11.27 (20.16 v Minnesota, 2.83 v Oklahoma, 7.14 v Baylor, 20.36 v Ok State, 23.33 v Tech, -6.19 @WVU, 12.38 v K State, -0.47 @KU)
- Ohio State (6-1) has an average game control of 13.05 (-7.15 v Va Tech, 18.33 @Maryland, 26.35 v Rutgers, 8.05 @Penn St, 29.01 v Illinois, 3.7 @Mich St, 7.8 @Minnesota)
- Baylor (5-1)has an average game control of 10.20 (19.12 @Iowa State, 10.61 @Texas, -7.14 v TCU, -2.26 @WVU, 28.23 v Kansas, 12.60 v Oklahoma)