Ranting On The 50 Yard Line Vol. 5: College Football Playoffs and the “SEC Bias”

Following the release of the finals college football playoff rankings, many people were upset and pissed about the inclusion of Ohio State. Even after they washed Wisconsin 59-0 in the B1G Championship, many people (including me) still felt they were undeserving of their Final 4 selection compared to TCU and Baylor (who I thought should’ve been the 4th team). In retrospect it’s easy to see that the committee got things right. Alabama blew a 21-6 lead against Ohio State and eventually lost 42-35. In the National Championship game they blew out Oregon 42-20. The national championship pulled in 33.4 million viewers on ESPN which was a 31% increase from the 25.6 million views from the Florida State-Auburn game from a year before.

Personally, I still have a few issues on which the College Football Playoff committee and the Board of Managers should eventually improve on or give much better transparency:

Stop The SEC Bias

It’s worth noting that I am a fan of the South Carolina Gamecocks, yet I’m not an SEC homer.

The SEC of 2011 and 2012 are long gone. That was a golden age I’m not sure we’ll ever see again. Defense reigned supreme and there was superstar talent all over the place.

SEC Teams Ranked In The CFP Top 25 Each Week:

Week 10 (Initial): Mississippi St. (#1), Auburn (#3), Ole Miss (#4), Alabama (#5), Georgia (#11), LSU (#19)

Week 11: Mississippi St. (#1), Auburn (#3),  Alabama (#5),Ole Miss (#11), LSU (#16), Georgia (#20)

Week 12: Mississippi St. (#1), Alabama (#5), Auburn (#9), Ole Miss (#10), Georgia (#15), LSU (#17), Texas A&M (#24)

Week 13: Alabama (#1), Mississippi St. (#4), Ole Miss (#8), Georgia (#10), Auburn (#14), Missouri (#20)

Week 14: Alabama (#1), Mississippi St. (#4), Georgia (#9), Auburn (#15), Missouri (#17), Ole Miss (#19)

Week 15: Alabama (#1), Mississippi St. (#10), Ole Miss (#12), Georgia (#14), Missouri (#16), Auburn (#19), LSU (#24)

Week 16: Alabama (#1), Mississippi St. (#7), Ole Miss (#9), Georgia (#13), Missouri (#16), Auburn (#19), LSU (#23)

It’s easy to say in retrospect that some of the SEC teams weren’t as good as they were once perceived to be based on rankings. It’s honestly one big ass domino effect that began opening night of the college football season:

  • Texas A&M kicking South Carolina’s ass on that Thursday night established a narrative that people didn’t realize was false until it was too late. Texas A&M (who was originally ranked #21 in the AP to start the season) rode the hype of that South Carolina victory all the way to the #6 spot.
  • LSU began the season ranked #13 and after beating #14 Wisconsin opening weekend, they took on Lamar and UL-Monroe over the next couple weeks. By Week 4 they rose to #8 in the AP.
  • Auburn was still riding the hype of their magical 2013 season. They began the year ranked #6 and blowing Arkansas and San Jose before heading to Manhattan to take on Kansas State. They escaped this Thursday night game barely and it established a narrative not only for Auburn, but for Kansas State as well.

In Week 4, Mississippi St. went down to Death Valley and defeated the #8 ranked LSU Tigers 34-29 on ESPN. Two weeks later, the now #12 ranked Mississippi St. defeated #6 Texas A&M 48-31. That same week, Auburn whooped LSU 41-7 at home and #11 Ole Miss upset #3 Alabama.

By the middle of the season, the narrative became that all the SEC teams were beating up on each other so more than one deserved to be in the Final 4 because the SEC was just that good. At the time I was pounding on the table saying these teams are good, but they are not the best. While they were ranked #1, Mississippi St. never really looked like they were as good as billed. They struggled to put away Kentucky and Arkansas in convincing fashion and despite losing to Alabama by just 5 points, they never really looked like they were a true threat to win that game. Despite reaching as high as #2 in the AP and #3 in the CFP rankings, Auburn never dominated opponents like one would’ve expected. And that actually goes back to their 2013 season. Despite making it to the National Championship game, they were never really one of the best teams in the nation. They just happened to get hot at the perfect time. It’s my personal opinion that Ole Miss really was the best team in the SEC in 2014 but injuries, most notably the injury to the Laquon Treadwell, just completely decimated this team physically, mentally and emotionally to the point that by the time they faced TCU in the Peach Bowl (a 42-3 loss), you couldn’t even say that they looked like a shell of themselves because that is giving them too much credit for that performance.

Once a few ESPN commentators establish a narrative, the rest of the world will follow it. The SEC wasn’t the best conference last year, I felt the Pac-12 was. And despite all the praise the SEC was getting, it was really the SEC West that college football pundits thought was the best in college football. It’s only fitting that the SEC West went 2-5 in bowl games (Texas A&M and Arkansas won) while the SEC East went 5-0 in their bowl games.

Moving forward, it’s vital that people realize that this is no longer the golden age of SEC football. The quarterbacks are nowhere near as good as they were 4 years ago. The defense’s are still good, but not elite like they have been. The rest of the college football world is catching up

Group of 5 Schools Need Love Too

The “Group of 5” schools consist of schools from the American Athletic Conference, Conference USA, MAC, Mountain West Conference and the Sun Belt.

Let’s be honest here, the Group of 5 schools have no chance in hell to ever make the playoffs. Marshall, who had a very good chance at going undefeated (13-1, didn’t lose until the week before the rankings came out), never even sniffed the top 10 of the rankings. They were never ranked higher than #24. Boise State, who finished 12-2, never rose about #20, and they seemed to be the only team taken seriously by the committee. Other schools such as Memphis, Colorado State and East Carolina were never shown much lost by the committee despite being ranked in the AP and coaches poll at one point. The knock on these schools are that their schedule’s aren’t tough enough to hang with the big boys of college football. I’m not here to argue that these guys play schedules as tough as the Power 5 conferences, but I am here to tell you that all these schools made the best out of their situation. You can only play the schedule you’re scheduled to play. Just as people spent all the time overrating the SEC teams, those same people spent all season not giving the Go5 schools enough credit. A staple of the BCS era were these “Cinderella teams” whooping some Power 5 ass in the bowl season.

The highest ranked Go5 school is the one chosen for a New Years 6 Bowl, assuming that a Go5 team isn’t already in the top 4. So what does it take for these schools to achieve a higher ranking? Of course scheduling better teams would be #1 on that list but that’s out of a lot of school’s hands right now (I’ll talk about this in a minute). If these schools weren’t playing the strongest teams, wouldn’t you want them to dominate their opponents? Marshall was freaking blowing teams out by 26.5 points a game. The one game they did lose was to Western Kentucky (finished the season 8-5 after winning five straight games), a 67-66 OT thriller which saw WKU go for 2 to win the game. Apparently none of that was good enough. I’m looking forward to seeing how the committee treats these teams next year.

Everybody loves a good underdog to root for.

Scheduling

“I think a lot of it is your intent to play a strong schedule in your non-conference,” said Wisconsin AD and committee member Barry Alvarez. “… It’s pretty easy for me to take a look at a schedule and see what the intent of the schedule is.”

Meanwhile another (then) committee member said this:

“We just have to say, ‘Listen, it doesn’t matter how they got on your schedule — it’s on the schedule,’” said committee member Oliver Luck, West Virginia’s AD. “It is what it is. We have to take ‘em as they come.”

The Big 12 took a lot of criticism because rather than naming an outright conference champion, they named Baylor and TCU (who both had identical 11-1 records) Big 12 Co-Champions despite the fact Baylor beat TCU head to head. Both teams were left out the college football playoffs. Baylor really got it the worst of anybody. They were penalized for playing SMU, Northwestern State and Buffalo meanwhile Alabama, who did open up with West Virginia, also played Florida Atlantic, Southern Miss and Western Carolina as their non conference opponents. Many of the SEC teams schedule a few cupcakes each season but because the SEC is the best conference, it gets overlooked. I’ve said for years that Alabama always get a pretty easy schedule. Besides the fact that their non conference schedule was weak, they also only had to play Florida and Tennessee from the East. This all ties back into my perception vs reality point.

The Big 12 doesn’t have a conference championship game because all of their members play each other. In the other conferences, not every team has to play each other. South Carolina and Georgia were pulling off double digit victories from 2011-13 (I know UGA only won 8 in 2013) and Alabama managed to avoid them. Hell, the one year Florida won 11 games (2012) Alabama didn’t play them, but they have played in their down years. But I feel myself going on off on a tangent…

The point is, we need committee to be as clear cut about the schedule as possible with us. Realistically, we know every team isn’t being judged on the same scale. I’m a believer that your name holds weight, which is a big reason TCU and Baylor were left out. Let Oklahoma or Texas have been in the position those other two schools were in, I bet you they would’ve gotten that 4 seed, not Ohio State. It’s just as simple as that.

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