Earlier today the College Football Playoff organization released its final protocol for the Selection Committee. Chief among these protocols is the principles that will guide the Selection Committee in determining who will appear in the College Football Playoff, but there are other interesting tidbits worth looking at in the protocols. Let's get down to brass tacks.
Here's what will guide the Selection Committee in making its ranking choices:
Principles.The committee will select the teams using a process that distinguishes among otherwise comparable teams by considering:
- Conference championships won,
- Strength of schedule,
- Head-to-head competition,
- Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory), and,
- Other relevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.
Most of these principles shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, given what's been reported about the Selection Committee for some time now. Given all of the noise at Big 12 Media Days and elsewhere regarding the Strength of Schedule argument, it's no surprise that it's second on the list of items that the Committee will consider. It is somewhat relieving to see that winning your conference championship is the first item listed, and conference champions will get a bit of a preferential look (assuming these items are listed in descending order of importance). Head-to-head competition also is not particularly surprising to be included; I am interested to see how this works out if two undefeated teams end up in a conference championship game. The last two principles are where things get really interesting to me:
Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory)
Am I reading this correctly? If I'm not mistaken, this says that the Selection Committee is going to use the transitive property to help determine who the best teams are for the College Football Playoff. But, they're not going to give preference to margin of victory. If that's the case, is it just an A beat B and B beat C, therefore A > C situation? If the Committee was operating in 2013 and examined Baylor/Ohio State vs. Buffalo, would that game not have mattered because both Baylor and Ohio State beat Buffalo? Or, possibly we are considering how both teams actually performed, just not looking at the fact that Baylor absolutely crushed Buffalo, while Ohio State took until the 4th quarter of their game to finish the Bulls off. While I get that we don't want to encourage running up the score, there is value to considering margin of victory to a point. This is a little bizarre.
Other relevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team's performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.
This one is highly interesting to me, because it shows that something beyond a team's control may keep them from competing in the College Football Playoff. On the one hand, suppose Florida State loses Winston in the ACC Championship game to a shattered femur on the last play of the game. They are undefeated, but without their single best player. Are they left out of the playoff? Conversely, suppose Baylor loses Bryce Petty for the Oklahoma game (and only the Oklahoma game), and lose that game by a small margin (possibly in OT). They have one loss at the end of the season. What does the Committee do with that? This is one of those things that could turn the entire college football landscape upside down. This will be interesting to watch.
Other Interesting Points
While the Principles seem like the most important point of the Selection Committee Protocol (and indeed they are), there are a number of other interesting tidbits. For instance, apparently the Committee will not adhere to a single metric, but "will consider a wide variety of data and information." So, it's entirely possible that the Committee considers Football Outsiders' F/+, FEI, and S&P+ as metrics when creating their rankings. It's also entirely possible that they will only trust their eyes and judge teams solely by what they see (let's hope not). I doubt we'll ever gain the insight into what's considered.
If you weren't aware, the Selection Committee will release a weekly ranking beginning the last week of October. They will meet Monday and Tuesday each week for the following 7 weeks, producing a ranking at the conclusion of their meetings. According to Stewart Mandel, the Committee will meet in Dallas. The Selection Committee will produce a Top 25 Ranking. Since they are selecting not just the College Football Playoff but also what's being referred to as the New Years Six Bowls (Rose, Fiesta, Cotton, Sugar, Orange, Peach), there has to be a deeper ranking than four teams. Additionally, the highest ranked non-Power Five conference champion gets an automatic at-large bid to one of the New Years Six, assuming that team isn't in the College Football Playoff. For more information about the rotations and selections for those bowls, check out Stewart Mandel's book. He does a better job than I will at explaining that order.
The Protocol provides a policy for recusal for Committee members that may be affiliated with a university under consideration. If the Committee member or an immediate family member is (1) compensated by a school, (2) provides professional services for a school, or (3) is on the coaching staff or administrative staff at a school, that Committee Member will be recused. Here's the recusal list for 2014:
- Air Force – Mike Gould
- Arkansas – Jeff Long
- Clemson – Dan Radakovich
- Mississippi – Archie Manning
- Nebraska – Tom Osborne
- Southern California – Pat Haden
- Stanford – Condoleezza Rice
- West Virginia – Oliver Luck
- Wisconsin – Barry Alvarez
There's quite a bit more information in the Protocol, including exactly how the voting process will transpire. The short version is that voting "will include a series of ballots through which the committee members first will select a pool to be considered, then will rank those teams. Individual ballots will be compiled into a composite ranking." If you want to know more, head over to the protocol and check it out. There's greater detail to be found there.
Buckle your seat belts, folks; this is going to be a very interesting college football season.