By Ryan Mayer, CBS Local Sports
The second edition of this year’s College Football Playoff rankings came out on Tuesday. Predictably, people are upset and confused. The process has now become a weekly ritual. Committee releases the rankings, Jeff Long tries to explain them as best he can, and we all spend the next day debating over why a team should be ranked higher or lower. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Here’s the thing. I understand the consternation and confusion, but it’s important to remember that we asked for this system.
The explanations from committee chair Jeff Long have been at times vague and at others downright contradictory to criteria that has previously been established. This week’s harped on answer is the one Long offered when asked about how the committee views Pac-12 teams. From 24/7 sports.
“Well Stanford in particular, they’ve won eight in a row and that has been impressive to us. You know, the first game was on the road at Northwestern. That’s a game the committee looked at and you know, it started at 9 a.m. PT, so we looked at that and we studied that, so I think the eight impressive wins by Stanford and the fashion that they’ve won them has really impressed the committee and caused them to move up this week. They did make a good move forward with that Colorado win on the road.”
People have understandably interpreted that as “well, the player’s body clocks were off, that’s why they played terribly.” If body clocks are being factored in, then is the weather? What about the fatigue level of players after beating a rival? Are we getting so subjective as to try and determine how much a physical game affects a team the next week? These types of responses from the committee chair make for an ever-shifting, amorphous, set of rules/factors that determine which teams are the top four and deserve the playoff spots. It’s similar in that respect to the BCS rankings in which we always wondered how the rankings were calculated and very rarely got exact answers.
What college football fans and analysts must keep in mind, however, is that this is what we wanted. Maybe not the exact form, some people preferred and still argue for an eight team playoff. But, at the very least, it is a playoff system that eliminates the obscure, opaque rankings generated by computers and instead places the decision making in the hands of people who watch the games. And, we do get the committee chairman standing in front of a national audience being asked questions about the rankings every week. That’s better than what we had.
That’s not to say that the system can’t be improved. Of course it can. Having the committee reveal how they voted each week may alleviate some of the debate. That would give fans and analysts an idea of what “these teams are all pretty close” actually means. Did it come down to one vote? Two? That might help to quell some of the disquiet. Having a defined set of criteria similar to the automatic bids for college basketball teams that win their conference could also help. Though, for that idea to work you’d have to expand the playoff from four to at least eight. Either way, the debate is part of the fun.
Overall, this is the main point to keep in mind. These weekly rankings really mean nothing. The committee showed us that last year with their final move of dropping TCU from 3-6. Argue and debate who should be where. Debate your friends. All the while, keep in mind this is what we asked for. In the end, we will see four teams play for the right to claim the throne as the champions of the college football world.
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.