College Football Playoff executive director (and former BCS head) Bill Hancock met with gathered journalists Saturday morning at the annual Association for Women in Sports Media convention. Hancock appeared to provide a glimpse into the relative transparency of the new Playoff selection process.
We already had a pretty good idea of what the selection process will look like, but only from a high level. The Playoff committee members will meet on Mondays and Tuesdays to produce weekly rankings, beginning October 28, which will decide both the two Playoff games and the four other New Year's bowls.
2014 Team Previews
2014 Team Previews
The selection committee voting guidelines show the committee's general emphasis. How rigidly they're enforced and how much emphasis is placed on things like conference championships over record alone remains very open to debate. An entire controversy arose a month back when committee chair and Arkansas AD Jeff Long said it's not the "most deserving" teams... it's the "best."
Saturday, Hancock appeared to show a list of Playoff's selection committee's 2015 mock -- it doesn't appear to be based on any particular recent season:
Ignoring some of the bolder projections (put down the pitchforks, #FSUTwitter), which would appear to be geared towards experimenting with some of the recusal guidelines, here's an educated guess on why the schools in the right hand column are grouped the way they are.
- No. 1 seed Stanford, Pac-12 champions
- No. 2 seed Michigan, Big Ten champions
- No. 3 seed Duke, ACC champions
- No. 4 seed Wisconsin, Big Ten runners-up
- Florida, SEC champions
- Clemson, ACC runners-up
- Arizona State, Pac-12 runners-up
- Oklahoma, Big 12 champions
- Baylor, Big 12 No. 2
- Oklahoma State, Big 12 No. 3
- BYU, independent
- Michigan State, Big Ten No. 3
- San Diego State, best Group of Five
- Georgia, SEC No. 2
- Central Florida, Group of 5 No. 2
The biggest takeaway is that the committee won't shy from putting two teams from one conference in the pool of Playoff participants. After Long made his comments back in April, many speculated as such, even though that somewhat specifically went against the value of conference championships that had been emphasized otherwise.
While it's improbable the champion of the SEC finds itself on the outside looking in behind two other power conference members, the Big 12 (Oklahoma?), the Big Ten (Ohio State, Michigan State, or Wisconsin?) and other power champs without particularly strong bodies of works could.
It's also interesting to note that Michigan hails from the Big Ten East while Wisconsin's out of the West, indicating it may be possible to lose a conference championship game and still make the field of four (ostensibly due to being unbeaten prior to the loss). On the flip side, we probably shouldn't read too much into that, as our history with the BCS would suggest the second best team in a conference on the periphery of a title game berth tends to be the divisional runner-up to the champion of that league, not the one that loses the league title game.
San Diego State makes it in over the higher-ranked Michigan State, since teams from the five non-power conferences are guaranteed at least one spot in the six New Year's bowls. BYU doesn't count for that spot, since the Cougars (along with fellow independents Army and Navy) don't have any guaranteed path. Notre Dame has a partial tie with the Orange Bowl.
The selection process does seem to emphasize (as promised) geography, avoiding rematches, and quality of contest. The matchups pit the No. 8 team against the No. 11 in the Cotton (Oklahoma has a long history with the game), the No. 7 against the No. 10 in the Fiesta (a virtual home game for the Sun Devils, and the Big 12 has long been partners of this particular game), the No. 9 against the No. 13 in the Peach, and the ACC's runner-up (and overall No. 6) against the best team amongst available SEC, Big Ten, or Notre Dame offerings, in this case the SEC's hypothetical champion, Florida (the No. 5).
Meet the Bag Man
Meet the Bag Man
But the difficulty in adhering to a ton of arbitrary guidelines is exposed. Because were the SEC's champ not already in the Playoff in a year the Rose and/or Sugar Bowl are hosting semifinals, it's supposed to go anywhere *but* the Orange Bowl, as that's the rule when the Rose and Sugar are the Playoff bowls.
Other than seeing how farfetched some of the hypothetical teams are, this quick, potential veer into the future only reminds how arbitrary and open to scrutiny this entire endeavor will ultimately prove to be. Though in many years, the top three teams will likely be clear as can be -- leaving team No. 4 versus 5 as the only debate -- even in the cleanest scenarios, the relatively straightforward BCS' automatic bids could seem preferable.