"Do these people on the committee actually watch games?"
"Talk about disrespecting that team!"
"Their strength of schedule is a joke."
"They just need to keep on winning."
Blah, blah, blah. It's the same stuff every year, every week when the College Football Playoff committee releases its first rankings and every ranking after that. And yet, we fall for it every year. The made-for-tv-event known as the playoff has mastered the art of drawing you in and building the hype but don't you get it? Can't you see the game being played out right before your eyes?
Let me help. The script is the same. ESPN and its college football talking heads spend weeks laying out the storylines and telling us who is playoff worthy and who just not make the cut. Meanwhile, lurking in the background sits the committee. A group of.......well, let's just show you what the College Football Playoff website says about the committee:
A dedicated group of high-integrity football experts, with experience as coaches, student-athletes, college administrators and journalists, along with sitting athletics directors, comprise the selection committee. Members of the selection committee are Gary Barta (chair), Paola Boivin, Tom Burman, Joe Castiglione, Rick George, Ken Hatfield, Ronnie Lott, Terry Mohajir, Ray Odierno, R.C. Slocum, Todd Stansbury, Scott Stricklin and John Urschel.
Ok, that's nice. So this group is supposed to watch games, study the analytics and determine who plays tougher schedules and who are the better teams. There is no computer formula used. In the end, it's a poll of the committee members. But don't be fooled.
Here is what the committee always does and if you sat on the committee you would do the same thing, It's called having a memory. It's called taking into account past history. And yet, that's not supposed to be how this works.
Every season is supposed to be independent of the other. One team's performance from a previous season is to have no impact on how the committee views them the following year. But that doesn't happen. Success over a period of years becomes the biggest factor you don't see written down anywhere but it's there.
Let's take Ohio State for a second. No one questions that the Buckeyes are a talented team and they may indeed be one of the best four teams in the country but what are we measuring? Are we just ranking Ohio State in the top four because.....well, they are Ohio State and loaded with NFL-caliber talent and a Heisman candidate at quarterback in Justin Fields? Or are we just ranking them in the top four because of their success in recent years and people projected them to be in the top four?
So far, Ohio State has wins over Nebraska(1-3), Penn State(0-5), Rutgers(1-4) and Indiana(4-1). Sure, beating the Hoosiers is a nice win and yet if you watched the game, Ohio State blew a lead and Indiana more than held their own. So, are we saying that one game is worth a top four ranking? Or is it the perception of Ohio State that has the committee quick to rank them so high?
We can even use metrics like strength-of-schedule and offensive and defensive efficiency and Ohio State and Clemson don't fare better than most teams ranked behind them.
We can sit a whine about how the committee is screwing BYU, Coastal Carolina and Marshall- all unbeaten. But we do this every year and all have our theories why these teams don't get more love. But the biggest reason is that committee members simply don't view those teams the same way as Clemson, Notre Dame, Florida and the perennial powers. Schools not viewed as power brands just don't get the respect. It's not an argument that these schools play the same schedule and that their leagues are as strong but it's more about what have you done over the last few seasons.
UCF fits in that category. Scott Frost's 2017 Knights could not get any love when the committee ranked teams week-after-week. They got more love in 2018 and college football talking heads sait was because of what they were building. But that's not how this is supposed to work. You are supposed to be judged on what you've done that season.
Now, we are asking the committee to measure teams that have played 10 or 11 games at the end of the season verses teams that might end up playing as few as five or six.
But don't forget this is all about television and what draws the biggest ratings. It always has and always will. ESPN doesn't need that part written in any set of rules. And even though the committee is supposedly representing the "little guy"- everyone knows. The system is not rigged. The system has been built. Protect the biggest brands. Remember what they've done over the years and remember it's about drawing the biggest audience.
So instead of whining every year and every week about what a crappy job the committee did or does. Just realize you are watching the same story play out over and over. Sure, a few teams come and go and we get teased by Cinderella(UCF in the past and Cincinnati this season) but there are always built-in excuses as to why those teams get left out.
Have fun the next couple of weeks and hear the same stuff as we have the last few years but in the end, you know who will make the playoff. You may not know which four teams, but you know...
Final thought: Today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for a lot. All of us have been challenged this year for reasons we all know. I am grateful for many things and these days I treat every day as a gift. The last few months, not Covid-19 related, gave me reasons to appreciate life and remind me to think of others and how I can help them. It's been more than a year since my dad. My mom's strength, at 83, is remarkable. She has been alone and isolated- because we are protecting her during the pandemic- and loneliness can be mentally challenging and, at times, sad. She battles everyday and inspires me as my dad did. I will not be with her tomorrow and that is hard because Thanksgiving is about family. So I ask all to take a moment and think of how to help someone who might need your help or even a phone call or a short message to make their day a little brighter. Happy Thanksgiving...
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