The Process: The Flaw

The CFP Process: The Process
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– Welcome to the major flaw – Pat Haden had to leave the room. Actually, the guys playing Haden, Kirk Bohls of the Football Writers Association of America and Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times, didn’t have to physically leave like the real members do when they have to be recused, but since USC was in the top six, Haden couldn’t vote, couldn’t argue for or against any of the teams, and couldn’t participate in the voting process. While this step was put in place to assure the skeptical world that committee members on a payroll of a specific school wouldn’t be able to wield and influence with their biases, it eliminated one voter from the entire process of coming up with a top four. Now, it became 12 voters, not 13, and in the real thing, there’s a chance that more could be out of the mix depending on the year. The voters and committee members were chosen because of their “integrity” – the word used over and over when describing them. Being in the room, and later being frozen out/recused as Manning when Ole Miss was up for discussion, the recusal process seemed like an unnecessary measure, at least among the other voters. 

– Procedurally, it seemed like there should be a way to do this without the recusal. Haden probably shouldn’t be allowed to argue or debate USC, but he should’ve been able to answer specific questions. 

– The first big debate was over USC vs. Texas Tech as part of the pool of six. Was it more important to win a conference championship, or should Texas Tech have been given more consideration because it lost out on the Big 12 South on a quirky tie-breaker of the BCS standings, which obviously wouldn’t be used or available in the 2014 scenario. There are no hard and fast rules on voting, however, the first thing at the top of the protocol we were asked to consider in terms of criteria was who did and didn’t win a conference championship. 

– Our top six – Manning’s top six: Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, USC, Penn State, Alabama. 

– As it would turn out, by the way, the left-brain/right-brain Manning combination of Barnhart & Fiutak nailed it on every turn. All the votes and eventual changes ended up coming back to what we had right all along on each vote. Not to brag, or anything. 

– Again, here’s where the in-room transparency would’ve been key. The six teams we voted for all ended up in the overall top six pool, with Utah, Boise State, and Texas Tech out. A few wanted to debate the merits of Utah and Texas Tech, but the arguments were to the general room. This should be a situation where one voter should be lobbied if he or she didn’t vote a certain team into the six. 

– But everyone was still alive – the first six isn’t set in stone – so this the time to make a pitch or argue. What would be truly interesting in the real thing would be to see if the voters assigned to represent a certain conference ended up speaking up. Oliver Luck can’t talk West Virginia, but if the situation involves the Big 12, and he pushed hard for a Big 12 team, that’s when the transparency would be the key. 

– USC not being in the room here was a problem. It’s not like the guys playing Pat Haden would’ve lobbied for USC, but there were some questions about USC as a team that some people had, and if this was the real thing, it would’ve been helpful to have been able to use Haden to give the facts. It has to keep being said; if these are men and women of integrity, then they should be respected enough to give their honest opinion, self-interests or not. 

– The first three were up – in alphabetical order: Florida, Oklahoma, Texas, with the debate between 12-1 SEC runner-up Alabama, 11-1 Big Ten champ Penn State, 11-1 Pac-10 champ USC. At the end of every round, if three voters ask for a revote, there’s a revote. However, you have to argue your case. 

– Before debating the merits of Alabama, Penn State and USC, the discussion surrounded Florida, Oklahoma and Texas. No one had a problem with Florida, and Oklahoma had a few questions, but it wasn’t a fight for the Sooners. Matt Hayes of The Sporting News questioned the idea of Texas – and he had a great point. No matter how the tie-breaker worked, Texas still didn’t win its division or its conference. The counter-argument, though, was that this was the one year – because of the quirky way the Big 12 South decided its champion – that the Didn’t Win Conference Title thing would’ve been acceptable, except for the BCS rankings became the tie-breaker, and for purposes of the CFP rankings, the BCS doesn’t exist. 

– Three teams – Florida, Oklahoma and Texas – were in the first tier of three, and then came the next round to pick six more teams to go along with the top three, Alabama, Penn State and USC. Sort of like a reality show, Florida, OU and Texas all had immunity at this point. 

– And this is where it becomes interesting, because we were effectively trying to come up with No. 4, and it had to be done so that a reasonable and rational explanation could be made to the No. 5 team as to why it was the first team out of the playoff. Here’s where the rhetoric kicked in: do you rank teams based on what you believe or what you can prove? The 2008 simulation didn’t mirror what’s going to happen for the real committee this year, because we were all six years removed. I made the point that arguing Oklahoma was pointless, because at the time, no one would’ve questioned it. If you remember, Sam Bradford and the Sooners were absolutely destroying everyone, hanging 60 on the board as the norm by the end of the year. To put it into perspective for this season, it might be like Alabama losing to Ole Miss, but – potentially – ripping through everything else in its path on the way to 11-1. 

– Again, believe vs. prove. I believed that 2008 USC was a far better team than 2008 Penn State by the end of the year, mainly because of the stifling Trojan defense, but USC lost to Oregon State, and Penn State destroyed Oregon State. Hard to argue against cold reality. 

– The biggest debate, though, came over the whole conference champion idea. While it’s suggested that being the conference champion should be one of the key parts of the puzzle, it’s not a mandate. So with Texas already in the top three, the focus turned to Alabama – who lost what amounted to a playoff game vs. Florida in the SEC championship – vs. the Pac-10 and Big Ten champs. Forgetting that Alabama eventually lost to Utah in the Sugar Bowl, again, in the believe vs. prove angle, while just about everyone believed that Alabama might be one of the top three teams in the country, if not No. 2, it was hard to justify leaving out a one-loss Power 5 champion for a one-loss Power 5 runner-up in terms of creating a proper four-team tournament. In the logic of this, we can prove that Florida is greater than Alabama, but we can’t prove that Florida is greater than USC or Penn State. 

– The next six came down to – again, in alphabetical order – Alabama, unbeaten Boise State, Penn State, Texas Tech, USC and unbeaten Utah. 

– Pat Haden representatives still recused, meaning they aren’t a part of the entire process so far. 

– The argument then centered around Utah – at least in theory. The Utes went 12-0, and unlike USC, beat Oregon State. Beating Michigan that year didn’t matter – the Wolverines went 3-9 – but it was still a brand-name road win to open the season. The classic last-second win over a phenomenal TCU team helped the cause, as did a win over a BYU team that was 10-1 going into the game. Utah fit the role of a conference champion, it had a far better schedule than 12-0 Boise State, and it looked the part. However, winning the Mountain West wasn’t like winning the Pac-10 and Big Ten – even if USC and Penn State, respectively, had a loss. 

– ESPN’s Holly Rowe sort of pushed Utah to be in the mix, but no one followed. No one went to the wall for Utah. 

– And, strangely enough, no one really went hard for Penn State, either. 

– And it kept getting brought up – USC lost to Oregon State. Penn State and Utah didn’t. 

– This is really, really when Haden representatives should be allowed to speak. It was as if USC was on trial and, depending on how you look at it, it wasn’t able to defend itself, and/or the expert witness wasn’t allowed to speak.