Welcome to our fourth and final editorial roundtable discussion of the 2017 prospective playoff field. In this finale we’ve saved the most curmudgeonly for last, two adherents of the BCS system who kindly want you kids off their lawns.
If you missed the first three installments, they are here, and here’s a quick look at some issues raised therein:
- Should Notre Dame be rewarded for not playing a full conference schedule?
- Are Wisconsin and Miami being given a pass just because they’re undefeated in terrible divisions? Do eyeballs really matter?
- Do past performances matter to the committee? Should they?
Without further preamble, here are the responses of the misanthropic duo of Josh Chatham and Erik Evans. This may surprise you, but they have disagreements.
If the playoff field were announced today, what would the field be and the seeding (in order):
JC: Alabama, Penn State, Georgia, Notre Dame
EE: Eyeballs matter a lot until we get to the waning weeks. So, how you’ve won in many respects looks better than who you’ve won against for these first few committee ballots. I don’t make the rules, I just report them. Of course, like all polls, it has a built-in bootstrap: we say X is good because they beat Y who we thought would be good before the season began. And, of course, who you are colors that preseason outlook. This prejudice and logical fallacy permeates the entirety of the process. This is why teams like Penn State are praised for blasting a pedestrian Michigan team and why wins over, say, surging Boston College are overlooked.
But, if we’re being objective, after eight games we kind of know who sucks and who doesn’t; preconceptions should no longer be part of the equation. Who you’ve played has to matter a lot. That legalistic throat-clearing aside, I’d put it:
1. Alabama 2. TCU 3. Georgia 4. Clemson
What undefeated Power 5 team needs to remain undefeated to enter the field of four, and why: Alabama, Wisconsin, Miami, TCU, Georgia or Penn State?
JC: Probably both Miami and TCU, but especially Miami. Their early non-conference slate was horrible and a conference schedule without Clemson or NC State will do them no favors. Considering the way they have had to eke out wins against mediocre opponents the past few weeks. it is unlikely that they go unbeaten anyway.
EE: Absolutely Wisconsin or Penn State. Both had atrocious non-conference schedules. They’ve both played haltingly, even in games which look like blowouts on 30-second highlight reels. Both have been second-half teams against programs a playoff contender has no business being in tussles with. In terms of undefeateds, they have the fewest number of teams on their schedule likely to be bowl-eligible (or present wins over such teams.) Finally, in the case of Wisconsin, the Big 10-West is an absolute disaster. It is, top-to-bottom, the worst division in a major conference.
As of today, what one-loss Power 5 team is in the most trouble and why?
JC: If we are talking about playoffs, probably Oklahoma State. They will need to stay unbeaten (read: beat Oklahoma) and have TCU lose twice, since the Horned Frogs beat them soundly.
EE: I’m going to ignore the implausible, like Michigan State and Virginia Tech. So, for the moment let’s call it a two-way tie: First, is Clemson. Yes, they’d be in the CFP today for the five wins over bowl teams, and they have the opportunity to pick up three more such wins. Structurally, though, I don’t like their inability to run the ball when it matters, and have hated it all season. They’re likely not done losing. Add to that the Syracuse game, where they were absolutely dominated irrespective of score, and that is easily the worst loss of the one-loss bunch. ‘
Second, and gaining steam, is a one-loss PAC 12 champion. I am fairly sure Washington is one of the top six teams in the country when everything is clicking. But, in a PAC 12 where everyone is beginning to reveal deep flaws and conference-wide mediocrity, the Huskies did themselves no favors in a listless road loss. Now that I think about it, I do believe this team would be in the worst shape of all if we began rankings in October.
With the unsteady play by the PAC 12 and the ACC, as well as the cannibalization in the Big 12, is this the year that a conference gets two teams in? Penn State-Ohio State, Alabama-Georgia, Bedlam winner-TCU, etc?
JC: I wouldn't call the Pac 12 unsteady, I would call it terrible. Stanford just had to survive an Oregon State team that was taken to the woodshed by Colorado State. Upper division Pac 12 schools have lost to San Diego State (twice), Houston, and Memphis. Nobody in that league belongs anywhere near a playoff spot at this point. The only two conference with any shot at two bids are the Big Ten and SEC, and the SEC seems to be the most likely. If Georgia and Alabama make it to Atlanta undefeated, and the game is reasonably close, I expect both teams to be in the field. The playoff was literally set up to allow for the fact that, occasionally, the two best teams in the country happen to play in the same conference.
EE: No. A one-loss Oklahoma or TCU, a one-loss Clemson, and a one-loss Notre Dame, for instance, would have more quality victories than what people suppose to be the logical choice here: Georgia. Yes, the win over Notre Dame is excellent, and there would be hypothetically nice wins over Auburn, Mississippi State, South Carolina...and then what? App. State? Kentucky? C’mon, man. GTFOH with that. The Big Ten West is the worst division in major college football -- the SEC East isn’t far behind. Despite losing the head-to-head, Notre Dame would have a superior body of work and would negate an SECCG rematch -- and it should.
The playoff committee has, by and large, seemed to adhere to the old BCS computer rankings to determine the field, especially when making determinations between No. 4 - 8. Along the way, the committee cobbles together differing reasons each week for the Top 25. Should we have just used a BCS plus-one model then, or is the playoff format preferable? Why?
JC: I haven't noticed that they have adhered all that closely but yes, that would have been preferable. Of course, the old bowl system was preferable to the BCS in my view. It used to be that college football was the only sport that recognized a champion based on the entire body of work rather than its final two games.
EE: We have, in essence, a plus-one now. The only difference is that we’ve pared down the many data points of the BCS computers into far fewer, agenda-driven, human-laden data points. The more we can separate out opinion from fact, the better. The Bowl Alliance (damn, I’m old) was in many ways preferable: pare up No. 1 and No. 2 where possible, but leave the bids to the conferences and bowls. If the BCS had limited itself to that, and if participants were limited by internally-reliable computer-driven data sets, that would have been absolutely perfect. Failing that, give me the old BCS back.
Do you see the playoffs expanding in 2026 when the present deals are up? And, should they?
JC: I hope not.
EE: I’d devoutly hope not. And, despite the money on the table, I don’t think it will either for a very important reason: safety. We know that the very act of playing football, the subconcussive impacts, are the ones associated with CTE. With more and more snaps in the modern game, it would be both unconscionable and a tremendous source of liability to expose players to another few hundreds hits a year to make Red Lobster or Dell Computers more money. The blowback from coaches would likely also be tremendous: the more of these exhibitions they have to prepare for, the fewer opportunities they have to maintain the lifeblood of a winning program -- recruiting.
Can one-loss Notre Dame overtake a one-loss conference champion for inclusion in the field? Why or why not.
JC: Yes, and they should. A one point loss to that Georgia squad is nothing to be ashamed of. Also, let them play Alabama, please.
EE: Yes, and they will earn that fourth spot depending on who the one-loss contender is. If it’s Oklahoma State? Absolutely they get the nod. Ohio State? That’s a closer call and probably not. If it’s Washington State? That’s an even closer call and probably so. If it’s Oklahoma? Not a close call and not a prayer either. It’s all relative at the end of the day and depends on who teams 1-3 are.
Switching gears for a second, who is the Group of Five champion and making a big money bowl?
JC: I'm thinking that South Florida gets it done, though I'd prefer to see them slip up a time or two and face Texas in Fort Worth, provided that the 'Horns manage three more wins.
EE: UCF has played the best, but Navy gave them fits as the option is wont to do. Too bad for the Knights they’ve got to deal with another ground-and-pound option team in USF, reading their press clippings for the last month, the probable loss of their coach, and then a potential rematch with Memphis. That’s a lot of distraction and a big hill to climb. So, give me USF vs. Memphis in the AACCG, with the Tigers winning a wild shout-out to moving on to play the B12 runner-up.
I Stan for the AAC -- so should we all. That conference is what the Mountain West wants to be.
Finally, what is your end-of-season projected field and seeding, including national champion.
JC: Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia, Notre Dame in that order. Alabama beats Georgia in a rematch.
EE: ESPN execs are gonna’ need to call a doctor: It’s definitely going to last longer than four hours. Four of the most storied blue-bloods duking it out to add yet one more trophy...and you can hear the aneurysms popping all the way from Athens when one-loss Georgia watches it from the sidelines.
1. Alabama 2. Oklahoma 3. Notre Dame 4. Ohio State
Alabama blasts the Buckeyes by 17 points and finally takes a pound of flesh from the Sooners, as Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield has a long, long day. REVENGE TOUR 2017, Y’ALL!
Ohio State could lay an egg today. Penn State could look like the ‘85 Bears for all we know. NC State can enter the conversation with a dominating win in South Bend. TCU has a tough roadie at Iowa State. Georgia could fall on their face in the WLOCP -- again.
But, as of this morning, what did we get right? What did we get wrong? Who’s full of execrable opinions? What wisdom have you gained? Make your case for Georgia? Why is Penn State getting the love when TCU has far better wins?
Grab a cocktail and chime in below. You’ve got a few hours until the fireworks begin on this gorgeous bye week.