Why do we have a selection committee to determine the College Football Playoff field? Given the way this week’s comparison to the BCS formula stacks up, we could go to an eight-team field and still have the same eight teams seeded in the exact same spots regardless of whether a dozen brainiacs are subjectively making the decision or we choose to look at the old methodology of selecting teams for the championship:
If the selection committee is essentially going to mirror the system that was at least transparent over the previous 14 seasons, what then is the rationale for throwing away the more transparent system? As much as the committee has managed to select the same teams that would have been in anyway under the old calculations, the convoluted explanations they’ve had to offer to reach that point have shrouded the College Football Playoff in a veil of justified skepticism.
Sure, Ohio State won the inaugural championship last year. But the logic used by the committee to move up the Buckeyes at the expense of Baylor and TCU set a disturbing precedent that some teams would be judged by the merit of their record, with strength of schedule and common opponents and every other metric thrown at the issue… but only for some teams. If you’re a powerhouse, the committee has continually said through its actions, you will get the benefit of the “eye test” rather than the scrutiny of the wringer.
There are still championship games, and there are bound to be upsets or at least marginal performances that lead the committee to commit further contortions to justify what they don’t want you to think of as a poll (but which is frankly the one poll with the smallest number of voters among those deemed significant in college football in 2015). Call it what you will, but a poll by any other name is still a subjective exercise in parsing teams partially based on popularity.
The beauty of the BCS was in the way it melded human polls with computer algorithms to create a far more transparent way to rank the teams that incorporated both subjective and objective elements in a wholly transparent fashion. The entire reason that we can calculate out the BCS-style rankings each week is because the formula was clearly articulated, and all the data was available to check the results against.
Now we are left with 12 pollsters that utilize publicly-inaccessible proprietary data to make their decisions. That they have come to similar answers as the more transparent method does not in itself validate the legitimacy of that methodology. While the BCS might be gone and largely forgotten by a populace that was merely hungry for a larger playoff field, the legacy of transparent team selection seems to have died with it. Why more college football fans aren’t up in arms about this is largely due to the way in which the BCS was vilified during its life.
That vilification was not due to the methodology, which largely went unquestioned after the 2004 shift to the current weighting, but rather due to the fact that it was only used to match the top two teams against one another. With that in mind, here are what the numbers and the pecking order would look like if the BCS still reigned supreme as the means of determining the most deserving playoff teams of the year.