Tuesday, December 6, 2016

College Football Selection Committee Decisions Make Little Sense

An NCAA committee selects four college football teams to play for the national championship once the regular season and conference championship games are complete. This year they selected Alabama (13-0, Southeast Conference Champs – 1 seed), Clemson (12-1, Atlantic Coast Conference Champs – 2nd seed), Ohio State (11-1, Big 10 Conference 2nd place in East Division, 3rd seed), and Washington (12-1, Pacific Athletic Conference Champs – 4th seed). The committee also considered Penn State (11-2, Big 10 Conference Champs) and Michigan (10-2, Big 10 Conference 3rd place in the East Division).

No one can argue with the selection of Alabama or Clemson. Both played tough schedules and won their conference championships. And it is probably acceptable that the committee left Michigan out of the tournament. Although I think they have a better argument to be in the tournament than Washington.

Does Ohio State deserve to be in the field ahead of Penn State? Penn State beat Ohio State, they had the best record in the nation’s toughest conference (The Big 10), and they won the conference championship outright. Penn State was also the second hottest team in the country winning 9 straight games (only Alabama has done better). The problem with Penn State is that they have 2 loses. They lost a game at Pittsburgh (8-4, 42-39 final) and they got crushed at Michigan in the conference opener (49-10 final). But Penn State was hot and beat two top 10 teams and was crushing weaker opponents to finish the season.

Does Washington deserve to be in the field ahead of Penn State? The problem with Washington is that they played the 108th weakest schedule in the country (out of 128 Division 1 teams). That is pitiful, but the committee argues that Penn State had a bad loss at Pittsburgh. However, what the committee fails to mention is that Pittsburgh also gave Clemson its only loss (and it was at Clemson) and they are ranked in the top 25. Pittsburgh was obviously a dangerous team to play. What if Washington had to play 3 top 10 teams and a couple more top 25 teams? Washington lost its only game against a top 10 team (USC) and only has one other victory against a top 25 team (Colorado). Penn State played 6 games against top 25 teams (4-2), and 3 of those games were against top 10 teams (2-1). What if Washington had to play another 2 games against top 10 teams and 4 against top 25 teams (instead of patsies), would they still have one loss? Probably not. It is hard to get for and to play tough games week in and week out. This tests the mental state of a team which has not been challenged in Washington’s schedule. Washington was 1-1 against top 25 teams (0-1 against the top 10). Michigan was much more qualified then Washington also going 4-2 against top 25 teams and 2-1 against top 10 teams. And let’s not forget that the committee seeded Ohio State ahead of Washington even though they did not win the Big 10 Conference and have a worse record (1 less win).

Washington and Ohio State are very good teams. But why should Ohio State benefit from playing one less game because they did not even make the Big 10 Championship game (what if they played in the championship game and lost, they would not be in the tournament)? And why would Washington benefit from playing a weak schedule? The selection committee has always selected Conference Champions and said they consider head to head games as a tie breaker – but Ohio State makes the championship field. One reason a team like Western Michigan (13-0, Champions on the Mid-American Conference) were not considered for the championship field is because they play a weak schedule. Western Michigan’s schedule was much weaker than Washington’s but the difference in the strength of schedule between Penn State and Washington was about the same as Washington and Western Michigan (considering FBS teams as well). Using the committee’s logic of prioritizing loses over strength of schedule, then Western Michigan should have been selected over Washington since they have 1 less loss (just like Washington has one less loss than Penn State). If you do not include strength of schedule then teams will schedule patsies in non-conference games.

The goal of the committee is to get the best 4 teams in the championship tournament and maybe they did. But it is hard to think that Washington is better than both Penn State and Michigan who played a much superior schedule. It is even harder to consider how Ohio State gets in the championship tournament without Penn State also in the tournament. Why reward teams that do not win their conference and that lost to the team that won the conference? A few years back the committee rewarded Ohio State over other teams because they won the Big 10 Championship even though the conference was weak that year. I suppose the committee likes to keep the status quo and benefit teams that have a solid history like Ohio State.

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