The Process: How It Works, Seeding, Recusal

The CFP Process: The Process
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– It’s unspoken, until we start asking about the theory behind these revotes in terms of seeding. It only matters in the top four, but as it’s set right now, No. 1 Florida would play No. 4 USC, and No. 2 Oklahoma would play No. 3 Texas in a rematch. We’re not supposed to vote to change seeds – we’re not supposed to put USC at the three just because we don’t want to see OU-Texas in the playoff. We’re supposed to vote based on who the top teams are in order – period. 

– Following a lengthy debate on the merits of each team, Jeff Long jokingly quips that the media people in the room were extremely thorough, really knew their stuff and probably should’ve made up the actual committee. There’s a silence, and then Forde, Schroeder, Russo, Hayes, and I say at the exact same time, “yup.” 

– After the theoretical discussion on reseeding, we do one more vote for the top four and this time it’s really and truly for the order. 

– The four teams are set, but it’s about where each one should be. Again, it’s 1. Florida, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas, 4. USC. 

– We held three revotes and the top four never changed. While that might seem like silly overkill, it solidified the rankings and made it a good talking point. In the real thing, Jeff Long can then say that we voted, voted, and voted again, and the top four was a rock. It was an affirmation that we believed the four teams were right. As far as the seeding, that’s not our fault, and that’s not our responsibility. We ranked the teams, and the seeds are the seeds – the committee can’t really care about the matchups in the playoff. That’s not the committee’s job. 

– If this process seems tedious, it’s really not – it moves relatively quickly. On our next vote we have to create the next tier from the next pool of teams, so we plug in our votes, and this time around, BYU, Georgia, Georgia Tech and Oregon all make the cut, with a tie between Virginia Tech and Oregon State. But then the committee chose to revote. 

– We screwed up. 

– While it’s a thorough process, it’s also a bit like playing a game of telephone. The more you keep plugging in the rankings into the system in various ways and tiers, the more there’s a chance for something to slip. For some reason, after all the votes and all the revotes, Oklahoma State got left out. 

– This is a huge, huge deal because teams in the top 12 – top 11 if the top ACC team is lower – gets into the big New Year’s Day bowls.

– The rankings become 1. Florida, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas, 4. USC, 5. Penn State, 6. Alabama, 7. Utah, 8. Texas Tech, 9. Ohio State, 10. TCU, 11. Boise State, 12. Cincinnati, 13. Virginia Tech. 

– This is where the chairman steps in. 

– Oklahoma State went 9-3 with its three losses coming to Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech – the three 11-1 stars of the Big 12. However, the Cowboys kept being dropped for some reason despite almost making it in the last pool. 

– The top four was fun to come up with, but even in this crazy year of 2008, it was relatively easy. The rest of the rankings are far harder to do because the committee really, really has to fine-tooth each slot. Each member has the stats right there and are able to compare and contrast Team A vs. Team B vs. Team J. 

– We vote again almost specifically to fix the Oklahoma State gaffe, but also to refocus. 

– This time around, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Oregon State and Pitt are the four teams in the pool to make the top 14. Oklahoma State is a mortal lock to be the No. 14 team. 

– An extremely interesting aspect and key part comes up that none of us knew about. During one of the discussions, Heather Dinich threw out a stat from some ESPN metric about schedule ranking, and Jeff Long quickly stepped in. While we could bring in our own notes, and we could do whatever we needed to for research, in terms of discussions about the teams and the rankings, only the CFP-sanctioned SportSource analytics were allowed to be used. If the stat or the metric wasn’t in the CFP-supplied data, it didn’t exist. 

– It’s been fun, it’s been great, and now Tony and I don’t get to do much of anything for the next hour because Ole Miss becomes part of the discussion. Had the real Archie Manning been a part of this, he’d have to physically leave the room with Missouri and Ole Miss being debated as part of a tie-breaker. 

– On the computer screen is a somewhat polite and very curt blocker. “The ranking round in progress contains a team from which you are recused from voting. Please wait while other members rank the teams and you will be moved to the next step when the step is complete. Please excuse the rest of the committee for openly mocking you while you stand in the hall eating pastries.” 

– Okay, I added that last sentence. There were no pastries. 

– I want a t-shirt that says, “I was recused from the College Football Playoff committee and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.” 

– It’s understandable for outside appearances, but it’s overkill. There are enough other voters in the room to act as a buffer, so in this specific case, even If Archie isn’t allowed to debate the merits of Ole Miss, he should be able to vote. 

– Being recused from the voting process is sort of like being hungry and watching everyone else in the room eat steak. 

– Ole Miss doesn’t even get in on this round, so Tony and I are still shut out. 

– 14. Oklahoma State, 15. Georgia Tech, 16. Georgia, 17. Oregon. 

– We now have a top 17, and then it’s down to the holdover pool to plug in the rest of the slots. Currently, BYU – who went 10-2 and was in the discussion for earlier tiers – is sinking like a rock, Ole Miss, Oregon State, and Pitt are all on the board. Boston College, Iowa, Michigan State and Missouri are knocking on the door. 

– There’s a lively debate going on about Ole Miss – the team that beat the committee’s No. 1 Florida team in Gainesville – but again, Tony and I can’t say anything. 

– One key thing to notice is that the little guy is getting completely shut out. BYU isn’t puny, but no one is fighting its cause. Again, recused, I can’t say anything, otherwise I’d have brought up that the two losses came to a tremendous TCU team and an unbeaten Utah. However, the two brand-name wins over Washington and UCLA didn’t mean anything since both of them stunk – Washington went 0-12 – and there just weren’t any quality victories. The other team getting killed is Ball State, who went 12-0 before losing to Buffalo in the MAC championship. The Cardinals were 22nd in the BCS standings and got as high as 12th before the loss, but they’re dead in this room because they beat absolutely no one with a pulse. Keep that in mind, 2014 Marshall. 

– Now we’re back in after Ole Miss was ranked 22nd. 

– There’s a five-way tie for the last four spots between Cal, Florida State, Nebraska, North Carolina and Northwestern. Northwestern is clearly the least deserving of the bunch going 9-3 with one decent win over Iowa and a bad loss to Indiana. Apparently, everyone else thinks so, too. 

– Now that Tony and I are allowed to speak, we bring up a mistake between Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. The rankings have 9-3 Georgia Tech higher, even though it lost to a 9-4 Virginia Tech team that ended up winning the ACC title. 

– Revote, glitch fixed. 

– And then it’s lunch time. 

– After taking a break, the committee reconvenes to take another long look at what just happened to make sure everything is as close as possible to the way everyone wants it to be. To paraphrase the question in the room, “is there anything here the public can look at and say is inconsistently wrong.” 

– And there was. 

– Before lunch, we had it 20. Michigan State, 21. Ole Miss, 22. Cal, 23. Boston College, 24. North Carolina, 25. Pitt. As it turned out, we didn’t like where Cal was considering it went 8-4 and beat a Michigan State team that went 9-3 with few decent wins. 

– And there we go. We have a top 25. To compare and contrast … 

– The media mock CFP top 25 for the end of the 2008 regular season: 1. Florida, 2. Oklahoma, 3. Texas, 4. USC, 5. Penn State, 6. Alabama, 7. Utah, 8. Texas Tech, 9. Ohio State, 10. TCU, 11. Boise State, 12. Cincinnati, 13. Virginia Tech, 14. Oklahoma State, 15. Georgia Tech, 16. Georgia, 17. Oregon, 18. Oregon State, 19. Missouri, 20. California, 21. Michigan State, 22. Ole Miss, 23. Boston College, 24. North Carolina, 25. Pitt 

– The final 2008 BCS standings: 1. Oklahoma, 2. Florida, 3. Texas, 4. Alabama, 5. USC, 6. Utah, 7. Texas Tech, 8. Penn State, 9. Boise State, 10. Ohio State, 11. TCU, 12. Cincinnati, 13. Oklahoma State, 14. Georgia Tech, 15. Georgia, 16. BYU (who didn’t make the CFP top 25), 17. Oregon, 18. Michigan State, 19. Virginia Tech (note that Georgia Tech is 14th), 20. Pitt, 21. Missouri, 22. Ball State (who didn’t make the CFP top 25), 23. Northwestern, 24. Boston College, 25. Ole Miss. 

– It’s way too late, but Forde comments again about Alabama not being in the top four. Admittedly, it’s sort of hard to block out the Sugar Bowl loss to Utah, but considering the SEC championship was like a playoff game, it’s about as solid a top four as could’ve been created. 

– So what does this all prove? 

– 1) If you really, really think about it and overanalyze each particular spot, you get it right. What was the fatal flaw of the BCS standings? The human polls that were always uninformed and haphazard. This way, even with its glitches here and there, 13 or so people check, recheck, and recheck again each and every ranking slot to make sure it’s right in terms of consistency. While there are certainly debates and controversies – especially up top – there has to be a top four, and at least this way there’s as much of a united front as possible. Those in the room who didn’t agree got their say. 

– 2) You probably don’t have to watch much college football to get this right. The rankings are based on logic, reasoning and analysis, so if you can understand side-by-side-by-side comparisons, you can probably figure this out if you have 13 smart people in a room serving as a set of checks-and-balances. 

– It was reiterated that there was a MASSIVE gap between No. 4 USC and No. 5 Penn State, meaning Alabama – the BCS No. 4 team – wasn’t even close. Win your conference championship. 

– And then came the jokes about how this whole exercise was done to keep the writers and media types in the room from being to dog the process. Actually, it worked.