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The 8 things we learned about the College Football Playoff selection process

The College Football Playoff is a year away from announcing its first field of four teams, but speculation about future speculation is already beginning. After a week in New York City, we are slightly more informed about how to speculate.

Expect more neutral-site blockbusters to open the season, like LSU's trip to Cowboys Stadium to beat TCU this year.
Expect more neutral-site blockbusters to open the season, like LSU's trip to Cowboys Stadium to beat TCU this year.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK - Rejoice! The brand new postseason system will keep intact the truest essence of the sport: outrage.

Three representatives of the 13-member College Football Playoff selection committee -- Clemson athletic director Dan Radakovich, former Nebraska coach and member of Congress Tom Osborne, and Big East advisor Tom Jernstedt -- spoke on a panel at the IMG Intercollegiate Athletics Forum, offering clues and opinions about the criteria for selecting the field of four teams, beginning in 2014.

1. There is no 1-to-4 seeding for the 2013 season. Don't ask.

Radakovich said the committee decided in its very first meeting that 2013 would be left to the BCS. No member of the committee would give even a hypothetical 2013 ranking, out of respect to the current system. It's possible that a 2013 Playoff could've featured an Iron Bowl rematch in the No. 2 vs. 3 game, but no one would bite.

"We don't want to be vilified in advance," Osborne deadpanned.

2. No one's sure what a conference championship is exactly worth.

Call it the Alabama example. The 2013 Tide are 11-1 and by most accounts one of the four best teams in the nation. But they didn't participate in their conference's title game, let alone win it. Compounded by the fact that one of the power-five conferences (the Big 12) doesn't have a championship game, there's no real consensus on a conference-winner's worth vs. a wild-card team.

"I suppose it's possible. It would be hard if that team didn't even play in their conference title, but if their strength of schedule was strong enough, it could happen. But it would seem to me that most of the time, the top four teams are going to come out their own conference's playoff," Osborne said.

"If you lose enough of them, say two, it's going to be hard to make the Playoff."

3. The early message is to schedule up.

In favor of the increasing number of neutral-site, non-conference games that have come to dominate Labor Day? Worry not dear fan (or TV executive or corporate sponsor). Of all the requirements the committee mentioned, strength of schedule was the most frequent, specifically non-conference.

"The one thing that will come in to play is the strength of schedule. Depending on how the conferences are scheduling in their individual leagues, playing those big out-of-conference games early is probably going to become part of what teams need to do," Osborne said.

"The main flexibility these teams are going to have is in their non-conference schedule, and those games are almost always early, so you're probably going to see more major matchups earlier in the year. And you're rolling the dice, because if you lose enough of them, say two, it's going to be hard to make the Playoff."

There's some irony that Radakovich fielded questions on weak scheduling. As Clemson A.D., he manages a full ACC slate that's set to include Notre Dame, plus an annual game with South Carolina and a current series with Georgia. With a schedule like that, Clemson can afford to keep another tradition -- playing an in-state FCS opponent like The Citadel or Coastal Carolina -- with little fear of punishment.

"[The Playoff] could be a sea change [for scheduling], but I'm not sure if going to be a sea change for 120 teams' scheduling philosophies," Radakovich said.

Another reason those neutral-site, opening-week games aren't going anywhere? They're created by the networks and not just the two participating schools, making it easier for national-title hopefuls or aspiring Top 25 programs to find quality opponents. When asked about a situation such as Ohio State's this season -- the Buckeyes were criticized for their weak Big Ten slate, but had SEC member Vanderbilt back out of a non-conference game -- he said such extraneous circumstances probably wouldn't be considered by the committee.

"You can only work with what's tangibly in front of you," Radakovich said. "But I've been on the other end of that as an A.D., when a school comes and hands you a check and tells you, 'We're not coming back, we don't want to play you next year.'"

4. Lose early. Win late!

Remember that old chestnut? Among some of the more curious things Osborne said Wednesday, one was that the ever-ambiguous metric of "momentum" would be considered by the committee.

"We want an emphasis of where those teams are at that moment," Osborne said.

If that's the case, it's a callback to the BCS era. if you're going to lose, lose early in the year. How two similar losses are different just because of their dates seems asinine, but if this becomes gospel for the selection committee, the upside is that it will encourage more teams to schedule blockbuster games early in the year with little fear (see No. 3).

On a stranger note, Osborne was keen to point out that momentum could be interpreted as whether or not a team had suffered major injuries down the stretch, and even said that a team with key injuries hypothetically slotted at No. 3 could be -- hypothetically, of course -- jumped by a healthier No. 5 that had (you guessed it) "more momentum."

Injuries are as sticky a point as you can find with head coaches, some of whom are keen to hide or misrepresent crucial information about the health of their key players. That fact makes Osborne's comment seem like it's his alone and not a tenet the entire committee will go by. And that's a great example of what we can all come to expect from this committee: very different styles of evaluation.

"It's a collection of opinions, and It’s not just one opinion making that decision," Radakovich said. Which brings us to...

5. There won't be a right or wrong way for each member to vote.

Osborne mentioned specifically that he'll use the input of other former coaches not on the committee to inform his system, but that was his particular method of gathering intelligence. Radakovich, who mentioned members being assigned regions as one way to absorb as many teams as possible, said after the panel that a variety of rationales among individual voters was a good thing, "as long as each person is ready to provide evidence as to why they feel a particular way."

In other words, as of right now there's no mandatory set of requirements for voters to base their individual votes on. Hypothetically, one voter could be bullish on strength of schedule and one on win-loss totals. Expect the committee's signature style to be a long time developing, as Radakovich noted that the members will exit and enter on a staggered set of appointments.

6. Revealing the poll too early.

The football selection committee has an affinity for the structure and methodology of the March Madness selection committee. Radakovich spoke of incorporating elements of what the basketball committee does to football, but the notable difference is that in hoops, there are no early rankings. The field of 68 is only announced once.

The three members indicated the first set of rankings could come as early as the first of November, but that no firm date had been set. If that's the case, the committee will be providing a telegraph of their preferences between November and the official Playoff announcement date of December 7, 2014.

"It is a concern, but I don't know how many rankings we'll have yet," Radakovich said. "At this point in time I know there will be rankings. I just don't know how many there will be and in what iteration. But we're going to have to make sure that final selection of four teams is defensible and puts the best four teams forward, even if it may not have been consistent with what was announced in the previous weeks."

"Oh yeah, it was blown apart," Osborne said.

7. Don't expect total voter transparency, or Nebraska might blow up your house.

The committee reps on hand said that they'd prefer the selections be a statement of the group. When asked about potential extreme behavior in reaction to an individual's vote, Radkovich demurred.

"To be honest with you, I just don’t think in those directions. I have great faith in humanity and mankind."

To be fair, Dan's never been bombed. Osborne, the stately former politician, launched into an anecdote about how Nebraska fans blew up his mailbox after his Huskers lost to Oklahoma one season.

Like, physically blown apart? As in, explosions?

"Oh yeah, it was blown apart," Osborne said after the panel. "Probably was in the late '70s."

A reporter asked if it was Barry Switzer.

"I don't think it was Barry. I was nice to Barry," he said.

Eight ... is still a dirty number, to most.

Other than comments from laugh-a-minute TCU athletic director Chris Del Conte on a separate panel Wednesday, the committee members refused to acknowledge that the Playoff field would expand to eight teams before 2025.

That carried over during the conference week, as a roundtable of executives and advisors from conference-specific TV networks on Thursday morning roundly dismissed the idea of expansion, for fear of devaluing the regular season's profit in TV ratings.

"That Alabama-Auburn game had what, a 9.0 rating? In an eight-team Playoff, that game wouldn't have mattered," SEC Network consultant Chuck Gerber said.

Del Conte, however, may have made the bigger point during a panel focused on the retrospective (we think) of conference realignment, an idea whose core spawned the explosive redistricting of college football's powers over the last decade.

"You have the Playoff this year, and it would be two SEC teams, the Big Ten and the ACC. The Big 12 and Pac-12 would be locked out. If you've got a situation that stays like that for a few years, it will blow up. If the Big Ten doesn't get a team in that Playoff four for a few years, Delany won't have that. He's a salty dog, that guy," Del Conte said.

He was joking, but postseason formats have been blown up for less.