Thursday, November 13, 2014

COLUMN: CFP Committee Plays Press Your Luck While Avoiding the Dreaded Whammy

After seeing this week’s latest College Football Playoff rankings, one could be left with a sense of how certain teams got in while others are on the outside looking in.

I think I have the answer.

Remember the game show Press Your Luck with host Peter Tomarken? The game where players take big risks for big bucks.

Welcome to the modern day game show where college football rankings are the prize, the committee of 12 as the players, committee chair Jeff Long as the host and any loss to a Group of 5 school will take any form of credibility from the Power 5 program.

The object of the game is to stop the flashing box on teams within the P5 conferences while avoiding the G5 teams known as the Whammy which could crumble the foundation of the football powerhouse country club.

Paints an interesting picture doesn’t it.

After seeing the latest Top 25 rankings that were released Tuesday evening, this was the picture that came to mind. Especially for teams ranked from 21-25.

For the second week in a row, teams from the G5 were left out of the latest ranking. So again, the question is which team is in the lead for that coveted “Golden Ticket” which provides the highest ranked G5 team a spot in a New Year’s Eve College Access Bowl against an At-Large Power 5 team.
This is the agony for teams such as Marshall (9-0), Colorado State (9-1) and Boise State (7-2) as they are left in the dark wondering what waits in the future for their programs while every week must play at near perfection for any hope of cracking into the rankings.

Unfortunately, the committee slammed the stopper safely to avoid that dreaded “Whammy” from stealing away all the goods.

I cannot get past the image of hearing the members of the committee saying “Power 5, Power 5 and No G5, I mean Whammies…STOP!”, followed by Jeff Long saying stop on SEC Texas A&M and it will be our No. 24 team in the ranking. This process is once again followed with the flashing box stopping on Minnesota at No. 25.

Comical huh? So are the latest rankings.

Fresh off a 41-38 upset over No. 3 Auburn, the committee felt compelled to include the Aggies even though had 3 losses in the SEC and a narrow 21-16 win over University Louisiana-Monroe. Let’s not forget about Minnesota that darkened the doorstep at No. 25 after a 51-14 win over Iowa.

Certainly seems that something was forgotten by the committee, the Gophers two losses to TCU and a 4-5 Illinois two weeks ago. What happened to the entire body of work?

At this point I don’t think the committee cares about the body of work as long. Just as long as no one stops on a Whammy, everyone at the country club will be uber happy while enjoying the view from inside.

Unfortunately for the G5 schools, the committee knows the pattern of the flashing box. Although the Whammy was entertaining on the television show as it danced across the screen while taking all the players money, there will be no dancing Whammies anytime soon by the G5, only Jeff Long saying stop on another P5 school that joins this week’s ranking.

Friday, November 7, 2014

COLUMN: Winning is Easy as 1,2...

Ask any coach in the nation if he/she would rather have a win or a take a loss over a quality opponent. I would imagine the results would be a landslide of a response; take the win. Now ask the same question to the College Football Playoff committee and the response may shock you. Suddenly, a quality loss seems to hold more stature in the eyes of the 12 member committee rather than a win.

Welcome to the confusion that is the College Football Playoffs where strength of schedule is important and winning is not everything. Just ask 8-0 Marshall football—who happens to be one of three undefeated teams in the nation—as the Thundering Herd finds itself ranked No. 23 in the latest AP Top 25 Poll, No. 22 in the Amway Coaches Poll but remains unranked in the College Football Playoff Rankings.

Even the College Football Playoff Committee Chair Jeff Long appeared to have lost count on the number of undefeated teams in the nation when he addressed the media after the latest rankings were revealed.

“Certainly we talked about undefeated teams and as you know there are two,” Long said when asked of the value of being undefeated. However, Long found himself having to make an adjustment as he continued his remarks.

“Again we started back at the beginning, well there are three undefeated teams,” quickly corrected Long before continuing his statement.

So which team did he forget about? No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 2 Florida State or unranked Marshall, all of which are 8-0 this season.

“At this point we stop ranking at 25 because that’s our charge,” Long said of ranking teams outside of the Top 25 until a ranking is established for the top G5 school. “So we don’t rank beyond 25.”

Numbers do not lie but I will leave the decision to you the reader to decide which of the three Long forgot.

Welcome to the Power 5 country club where the invited are welcomed and the rest may look but not touch. This is the setting teams such as Marshall, Colorado State and Boise State currently find themselves a part of with no real explanation of where they stand against the nation, or one another, in sight anytime soon.

Still not convinced of the parity between the P5 and G5 schools? A simple break down of the new No. 24 team in the rankings Georgia Tech will surely clear this up. As a member of the powerful ACC, GT has played Wofford (Southern), Tulane (AAC) and Georgia Southern (Sun Belt) during its non-conference schedule. As a whole, the three teams are a combined 14-11 and none are a member 
of a P5 school. However, GT plays four non-conference games this season.

Who is the fourth? No. 20 Georgia (SEC).

“As I said last week, our meeting this week would begin with a clean sheet of paper and it did,” Long said of the latest rankings meeting.

Perhaps not completely clean as a 7-2 Georgia Tech appears to be receiving some credibility for the Georgia game that has yet to play. After all, Tech lost in back-to-back weeks to No. 22 Duke (7-1) and North Carolina (4-5). Georgia Tech’s overall conference schedule is 29-24 with four of its five opponents having losing records.

Did I mention that Georgia Tech received only 15 points in the AP Poll (29th) and 32 in the Coaches Poll (28th)? Marshall received 238 in the AP and 253 in the Coaches Poll while Colorado State earned 67 and 81 respectively.

But no worries, Georgia Tech is looked at as a member of the “country club” so of course a 7-2 ACC team looks much better than an 8-0 Marshall from CUSA or 8-1 Colorado State from Mountain West.
However, compare Georgia Tech’s non-conference strength of schedule thus far to that of Marshall and Colorado State and the numbers say different.

Tech’s non-conference average according to the Sagarin Ratings is a staggering 128.7 through three games. Marshall, who supposedly had a laugher of non-conference schedule, is 120 through its four non-conference games while Colorado State is a 73 although three of its four non-conference opponents have collectively won 4 games.

A message the G5 schools can take from this, stay off the lawn and do not get finger prints on the glass while looking in at “Big Boy” football.

So for future reference, do not schedule games that are inviting to your fan base or teams that perhaps were relevant when those schedules were created four or more years ago. Instead, schedule every non-conference game with teams that will provide a quality loss therefore beefing up the strength of schedule.

After all, winning is so easy in today’s game that college football has more undefeated teams than one can account for.

Just ask Jeff Long. It’s as easy as 1, 2...oh I forgot what comes next.