FOOTBALL PLAYOFF RANKINGS
FIELD (as of Nov. 24)
SUGAR: 1. Alabama vs. 7.
Oregon vs. 3.
4. Mississippi State, 5. TCU, 6.
Ohio State, 8. UCLA, 9. Georgia, 10. Michigan State
SEC BIAS CONSUMES COMMITTEE RANKINGS
So preseason rankings do matter after all?
While winning the conference championship is not necessarily a prerequisite of qualifying for the playoff, the committee did list that as a major factor in its selection process. Of all the remaining contenders, maybe just one - Mississippi State - has a shot at making the playoff without winning its conference.
There probably will not be significant changes in the committee's rankings this week other than that No. 8 Ole Miss will be tumbling down after a 30-0 wipeout loss to Arkansas. So we'll take a good look at those final 16 teams and dissect their prospects:
While the selection committee's top seven teams stayed exactly the same Tuesday, chairman Jeff Long's explanations for the latest College Football Playoff rankings are beginning to defy both logic and the committee's own procedural guidelines.
Last week he introduced the concept of "game control" to justify Alabama's No. 1 ranking, and this week he came up with "quality loss" and one other whopper during the ESPN broadcast: It matters if a team is ranked when it is beaten.
Therefore, Alabama still gets credit for wins over LSU and Texas A&M though neither is now ranked, as does Mississippi State. This goes directly against the committee's protocol to look at the entire body of work and not rely on preseason perception.
Long later scrambled on a conference call with reporters to say that only the committee's own rankings matter, not the preseason and early-season variety as produced by the AP or Coaches Polls. The problem is that doesn't wash either.
By this criteria Mississippi State has beaten exactly zero teams as ranked by the committee at the time of the game, yet it's still at No. 4, ahead of other one-loss teams—TCU, Baylor and Ohio State—that have beaten committee-ranked opponents.
Maybe the problem is having these weekly announcements and the need to come up with tortured logic to explain rankings that are by no means a consensus. But since we're here to pick them apart, let's look at five more issues:
CONFERENCE CALL FOR PLAYOFF FIELD
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the field of contenders for the four playoff spots is shrinking fast. After Saturday, there are only 16 teams still mathematically alive for their respective conference championships. And of those 16, maybe half of them have a legitimate shot of being part of the inaugural College Football Playoff.
COMMITTEE'S RANKINGS A MAJOR FAIL
Are you happy now?
For those who clamored for the death of the BCS and birth of a playoff system, Tuesday night's rankings could not have brought smiles to their faces. In short, the committee's rankings actually made the polls look good by comparison.
It's as if the 12 members of the selection committee are waging war
on logic. Strength of schedule is important, only when it's not.
Head-to-head matters, except when it doesn't.
And if you're not a member of the power-five conferences, you should just tune in on Dec. 7 when the committee reveals who will get that guaranteed access slot to a New Year's Six bowl. Your resume and body of work clearly does not measure up to the big boys no matter what you do.
So what can we take away from this week's rankings? You mean other than that the committee should be immediately disbanded in favor of an improved BCS formula? OK, let's try these five:
TCU OR BAYLOR? THAT'S THE QUESTION
TCU or Baylor?
With the playoff picture clearing up after last Saturday's quasi-elimination games, this question looms large for the selection committee. After next week's Alabama-Mississippi State game, we should have an undisputed Top 3 teams with the final spot up for grabs between the two Big 12 contenders.
By any reasonable measurement, TCU is ahead of Baylor. The Horned Frogs even outplayed the Bears for better than 80 percent of their head-to-head matchup. But the problem is, Baylor did have those amazing last 12 minutes in which they scored 24 points to win 61-58.
For now, it's fine for the committee to put TCU ahead of Baylor - and it's expected to do so this week. But what if both teams finish 11-1, with Baylor beating Kansas State on the last day of the season. Will the committee finally flip the teams, then? Or does it keep TCU ahead because head-to-head is merely one of the many considerations, as chairman Jeff Long stated last week?
Both teams will be favored to win their respective remaining three games. And if they both come through, this likely will be the committee's most difficult decision come Selection Sunday.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL HAS IT OWN
Playoffs? You want playoffs,
and finally, you've got playoffs.
Nearly a century-and-a-half
after the first college football game was played in 1869, a playoff
will decide the national champion in college football's highest
division. In this, the inaugural season of the College Football
Playoff, a four-team tournament will be held at the end of the
season to determine the 2014 champion.
Bill Hancock, the executive
director of the CFP, is understandably stoked.
"The playoff will be extremely
popular, the fans will love it," Hancock predicted when he spoke to
Bleacher Report. "It's a joy to be involved in something that will
be an iconic event."
Hancock mentioned the "bracket"
aspect of the CFP, which is no doubt foreign to top-division college
football but familiar to all NCAA championships, particularly the
men's basketball tournament, which he ran for more than a decade.
The CFP won't be March Madness, as it's only a four-team, three-game
tournament, but it's a significant departure from what decided the
mythical national championship in the past.
SEC CAN THANK UCLA FOR BCS RUN
The SEC dominated the second half of the BCS era, winning seven championships and firmly establishing itself as the premier conference in college football. That has led to an expansion of its footprint, added riches from television contracts, and a nascent network to be launched this August.
But none of it happens without the biggest upset in BCS history, a game that took place on the West Coast on the final day of the 2006 regular season. The end of one dynasty beget another.
USC entered its annual rivalry game in 2006 ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. The Trojans were poised to appear in an unprecedented third consecutive BCS title game and all they had to do was handling their downtrodden, 5-6 crosstown rival. And why not? USC had won seven straight in the series and mauled the Bruins the year before, 66-19.
A simple USC victory would've set up a BCS title game against Ohio State, leaving Florida (and the SEC) on the sideline. It would've been an eighth consecutive season without an undisputed national title for the conference. After Tennessee won the first championship of the BCS era in 1998, the SEC only appeared in one title game in the subsequent seven seasons, and that resulted in LSU's split title with USC in 2003.
There was little doubt that USC would go on to trounce the Buckeyes in the BCS title game as Florida eventually did. The Trojans would've won their third national title in four years and left little doubt as to who truly rules the BCS. They likely would've gone to another one or two BCS title games in the following two seasons.
But that dynasty inexplicably got derailed on that December afternoon at the Rose Bowl by the underdog Bruins. USC's high-powered offense was totally stifled and shut out in the second half. It was the only time in Pete Carroll's final eight seasons at USC that his team would be held under double digits.
OTHER CONFERENCES SHOULD BOYCOTT SEC
The SEC wants to have its cake and eat it, too. The other conferences shouldn't lend it a fork.
The SEC's long-awaited resolution to its scheduling question is to not do a dadgum thing. It will continue to play eight conference games with just this one caveat
- each school is mandated to play another Big 5 conference team each season beginning in 2016.
But why should the other four of the Big 5 conferences accommodate this? What's in it for them?
By the 2016 season, the SEC will be the only one of the Big 5 conferences to play only eight conference games. The ACC also plays eight, but five conference members must play Notre Dame each year, so technically that makes it 8.35. The Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten will all be playing nine conference games by 2016.
Our previous extensive study of the 2014 out-of-conference (OOC) schedule already revealed that, across the board, the SEC plays the weakest non-conference games. Each of its 14 members plays one FCS team in its four OOC games and six of them don't play any OOC games on the road. Four SEC members have OOC schedules ranked in the bottom 10 among 124 non-independent FBS teams.
By keeping the the eight-game conference schedule, the SEC essentially tips the competitive scale in its favor for both the top and bottom teams. For teams vying to get into the four-team College Football Playoff field, they improve their chances by needing to win fewer games against top competition. For the cellar dwellers, they may qualify for a bowl berth with a mere 2-6 conference record.
THE SUPER BOWL OF POKER
Football's Namesake in the Card
When talking about America's sports industry, "Super Bowl" would
most likely mean the NFL's finals. Every time we mention Super Bowl in
front of football fans, stories of how Pittsburgh Steelers battled for
six Super Bowl victories would surface. Or perhaps, we would hear
about how the reigning champs Baltimore Ravens made a triumphant run
this season. For non-football fans, Superbowl XLVII may be most
Beyonce's iconic performance during the halftime show. But for
poker enthusiasts especially those who witnessed
Ungar's greatness in the 80s, "Super Bowl" meant the Superbowl of
the World Series of Poker enjoyed its iconic status today, one of its
competitors was the SBOP. You see, the SBOP was a brainchild of former
1972 WSOP Main Event Champion,
Amarillo Slim. Before the competition made its debut in a
competitive industry, poker fans only tuned to the WSOP events. For
the former champ, he saw this setting as an opportunity. "The World
Series of Poker was so successful that everybody wanted more than one
tournament," Slim said in a report by Poker News. See, he wanted to
take poker all over the world, be it in Germany, Hong Kong, or with
neighboring states. And so, a different Super Bowl was born. SBOP may
not be as large as today's
PartyPoker-sponsored World Poker Tour, but it was one poker
tournament that card gaming experts and amateurs alike turned to,
especially in a booming entertainment industry.
Much like football's Super Bowl, the event housed competent players
and some are even included in today's Poker Hall of Fame. The 1986
Deuce-to-Seven Lowball event in particular, was among the most talked
events in SBOP history. See, the final three competitors of the event
are now Hall of Famers. There was Doyle Brunson, Billy Baxter, and
Johnny Chan. In a way, they paralleled the likes of football greats
Jerry Rice, Jim Brown, or Joe Montana. Unfortunately, while the Super
Bowl in football flourished, the event's namesake in poker was the
The lack of stability and a fixed venue prompted SBOP's operators
to discontinue the once glorious event. Luckily, after the fall of
SBOP, multiple poker tournaments arose. There's the West's staple
European Poker Tour which made rounds in poker hubs like Germany and
France. One can say that even with SBOP's fall, it was a blessing in
itself since it paved way to a new generation of poker players.