Posted on: June 27, 2012 6:00 pm
 

Playoff Criteria and an Objective Evaluation

About a month ago, I was contacted by a friend who works for an athletic department at an FBS institution.  He asked me if I would assist him decide on a set of criteria and a method to help determine the most deserving teams for a 4-team playoff.  Now that a playoff model is approved by the presidents, a 4-team seeded model determined by a committee is where we’re headed in 2014.  Certain criteria will have to be decided upon and used by the committee, and that criteria will have to be weighted and objective for any of this to be credible.  It has already been reported that criteria will include SOS and conference championship among others.  I decided to start my research beginning with the 2006 season, the season FBS teams began playing a 12-game schedule, since teams will be playing a 12-game schedule in 2014 . 

I used data as it pertained to all FBS teams with 9 wins or more after the conference champions were decided.  No bowl game data was used or considered.   In an effort to keep this objective and free of bias, only actual game information was used for all criteria.  No polls, computer data or BCS standings were used or referred to. 

First, let’s disclose the criteria.  We already know that conference championships, schedule and most likely average score margin will be highly considered criteria for determining playoff participants.  Therefore, those are an important part of mine.  A few of the conference commissioners have thrown the idea to also consider a team’s wins on the road, either at an opponent’s home field or at a neutral site.  This is also a part of my criteria, however I’ve isolated this criteria to only wins on the road versus FBS teams with at least 8 wins.  I’ve also included the following:  Wins and losses (obviously), quality games played and won (like in basketball, but a little different), non-quality games (versus opponents with .500 record or worse, and FCS opponents), losing a non-quality game, and average score margin only counts versus major FBS opponents with at least 9 wins.

Now, let me explain the criteria, and more specifically, how SOS should be determined a little more in detail.  We’re looking for the top four, most deserving teams to participate in a playoff.  Granted, they might not be the “best” four teams every season, but since the commissioners and presidents want to include conference champions (objectivity), and SOS (could be subjective depending on how this is determined), the fourth “best” team stands a chance of being left out in some seasons.  My criterion is 100% objective, based on actual game results.  As said before, no polls used, so number of wins versus ranked opponents is not a criterion.  Some of you may ask why I’ve limited criteria to results versus certain opponents with eight or nine wins.  A proven fact of the matter is, if a team schedules an opponent from a major conference (SEC, Big 12, PAC, Big 10, ACC, Big East) with an eight or nine-win season, that opponent slides toward quality.  If a team beats that opponent, they should get credit for it.  If they beat that opponent on the road, they should get credit as well.  On the flipside, that team shouldn’t receive credit for playing and/or beating a 3-9 Sunbelt Conference or FCS opponent.  They should actually receive some sort of deduction, as my method deducts.  Teams from the major conferences have beaten teams from the mid-major conferences around 80% of the time since 2006.  Teams from major conferences with at least nine wins have beaten teams from the mid-majors with nine or more wins over 70% of the time.  Conference champions of the mid-majors have lost to major conference teams 75% of the time since 2006.  It’s not difficult to ascertain where the quality in FBS football lies (Sorry Boise State).   If you are a conference champion or runner-up, and you beat another major conference champion during the regular season, you should get a percentage bonus, as my method gives.  If a team has played against major FBS teams that end up with a nine-win season or better, that team should get credit for each one they play.  If they win, they should get more credit for each one they beat.  A major conference team with nine or more wins before the bowls are played is a quality opponent, period.  This is how SOS should be determined, and not based on wins over top 25 teams (very subjective and biased).  If you have any questions about the criteria, just ask.

Now that the criterion has been disclosed, let’s talk about the measurable aspects of them.  I assigned values to each criteria based on importance to the future committee.  SOS (determined objectively in a manner similar to the above explanation) was given the most importance, followed by conference championships.  Teams that actually played a conference championship game received a slight boost in their final rating, and many factors were included in the final SOS result, to include away game wins, quality games played and won, non-quality games played and lost, etc.  All of those criterions were given value as well, based on importance.  Example:  If a team beat a major conference champion during the season, very important, therefore more percentage points.  Sorry, but I will not disclose my calculations or how I stacked everything up.  Consider that copyrighted for now.

In a nutshell, nearly every aspect of every game played by teams finishing a season with at least 9 wins was considered.  The only things not considered were subjective data, as in the polls.  The polls will have to go, at least as far as determining who these four teams are.  Even a “committee poll” at the halfway point of the season, as suggested, should not be used, and would just create biased and opinionated controversy leading to the final week of the season.  The committee should just watch games, evaluate teams and their opponents, analyze all of the results, and discuss and vote on their four playoff teams after the conference championship games are played.  Polls are just too subjective, and if used in this new format, will only flaw it as they did the BCS standings.

I would like to thank ESPN, CBS, and CFB Trivia dot com for helping me put all of this together.  If you have any ideas to improve on this, please let me know.  You never know, a committee member (potential) might just use it.

Based on regular season and CCG game results, and my non-biased and objective criteria and methods, these are the teams that could have been considered by a committee to participate in a “Division I FBS National Playoff” since 2006.

2006

1.  Florida 12-1 (SEC Champs)
2.  Ohio State 12-0 (Big 10 Champs)
3.  USC 10-2 (PAC 10 Champs)
4.  Boise State 12-0 (WAC Champs)

I found my results interesting here, in that Florida, who actually won the BCS championship came in as a #1 seed (It must be working!).  #4 seed Boise State edged out 11-1 Michigan by the smallest margin, and in the case of a committee, I could see them giving Michigan the nod for a 4-seed since Michigan did have a stronger SOS.

2007

1.  Oklahoma 11-2 (Big 12 Champs)
2.  LSU 11-2 (SEC Champs)
3.  Virginia Tech 11-2 (ACC Champs)
4.  Ohio State 11-1 (Big 10 Champs)

Although Hawaii was the only undefeated FBS team in 2007, they didn’t come close to the top 4.  Their schedule was horrible, facing 10 teams with a .500 or less record.  Virginia Tech faced the toughest schedule of FBS teams winning 9 or more games in 2007 with Oklahoma and LSU slightly behind.  Given these seedings, LSU and Virginia Tech would play for the second time, with the first matchup early in the season at LSU an ugly one for VT.

2008

1.  Oklahoma 12-1 (Big 12 Champs)
2.  Florida 12-1 (SEC Champs)
3.  Texas 11-1
4.  USC 11-1 (PAC 10 Champs)

The 11-1 Big 10 Co-Champs Penn State came in at #5, however USC played a slightly better schedule, had a much better average score margin than PSU, and didn’t play an FCS opponent as Penn State did.  Texas would become the first non-champ to gain access to the playoff, thanks to their schedule strength and overall performance throughout the season.  Texas Tech (11-1) also fared well coming in at #6, and undefeated WAC Champ Boise State came in at #7 extremely close to Texas Tech.  Alabama had a great regular season finishing 12-1, however their less than spectacular schedule was their demise.  They came in at #9.  Utah won the MWC championship with an undefeated record and came in at #11, however their schedule was much worse than Alabama’s.

2009

1.  Alabama 13-0 (SEC Champs)
2.  Texas 13-0 (Big 12 Champs)
3.  Cincinnati 12-0 (Big East Champs)
4.  Boise State 13-0 (WAC Champs)

TCU won the MWC championship and was the only other undefeated team in 2009, however their schedule didn’t support a top 4 seeding.  They came in at #10.  2009 would have marked the first season with four undefeated conference champions vying for the national championship game.  Florida (12-1) had an argument to participate, however they slipped to #6 behind Big 10 Champ Ohio State (10-2) after losing to Alabama in the SECCG.  A committee might have given Florida the nod, because their schedule strength was a bit stronger than Boise State’s and Ohio State’s.

2010

1.  Auburn 13-0 (SEC Champs)
2.  Oklahoma 11-2 (Big 12 Champs)
3.  Oregon 12-0 (PAC 10 Champs)
4.  Wisconsin 11-1 (Big 10 Champs)

This would have been a very good “Final 4” if it happened.  Many would have argued against Oklahoma being a #2 seed, but their schedule was strong, and they did champion a loaded Big 12.  I think they would have been battle-tested enough to beat Oregon, who played nine opponents who didn’t have a winning record.  TCU was the only other undefeated team in 2010, however like in 2009, their schedule was weak.

2011

1.  LSU 13-0 (SEC Champs)
2.  Oklahoma State 11-1 (Big 12 Champs)
3.  Wisconsin 11-2 (Big 10 Champs)
4.  Clemson 10-3 (ACC Champs)

This one will cause a stir, even I scratched my head.  But then I had to remember, no bias.  Don’t think about what happened in the bowl games or how these teams finished ranked.  Now, Alabama (11-1) came in at #5 so close to Clemson that a committee would no doubt agree Alabama belonged in this playoff.  What hurt Alabama is the fact they played 7 teams with .500 or worse record, while Clemson played just 4 and Clemson got a boost for winning the ACC.  Oregon (11-2) came in at #6, and there was some distance between them and Alabama due to the difference in scoring margin and Oregon’s additional loss.  Alabama had an extra road win against an 8+ win team as well.  If I voted on the committee, Alabama would have been my 4-seed in place of a 3-loss Clemson.

That’s it folks.  After doing this thing and really digging into past teams, schedules and opponents, I realized just how much people rely on media reports, subjective polls and those lousy BCS standings to finalize their thinking of how teams should stack up.  Bias runs rampant in the FBS.  Granted, there is always a difference between two 8-4 or 9-3 teams, and injuries to key personnel can’t be taken into consideration using my method alone.  That’s why I agree a small committee (5) of football people (former players or coaches) is needed and would benefit the new system, which will have some sort of measuring method to assist.  They would be required to watch games and make expert evaluations based on their observations in addition to using certain criteria and a means to measure that criteria equally to determine the participants of the “Division I FBS National Playoff” after the CCGs are played.   I can’t wait for it to happen.  Now raise a glass in support of no more pre-season polls!  Those things are ridiculous!

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: February 22, 2012 6:17 pm
 

A Glimpse into the Future of the FBS Postseason

This is rather lengthy, so bear with me and take a break or two if needed.  With the BCS bigwigs in conference and shooting ideas of a new BCS postseason around the table, a system involving a plus-one format is looking more and more likely to happen for the 2014 season, and most likely for many years beyond.  I understand the BCS has a stronghold on the four major bowl venues, and that the NCAA takes care of the lower tier bowls.  However, I think it would be prudent they team together to discuss the FBS postseason as a whole, and not just the BCS makeup of the postseason.  With 120 FBS teams and growing by the year (it seems), this division of college football is becoming more and more watered down.  The landscape is not healthy with all of the realignment taking place, and the (great) idea of regional conferences is quickly exiting stage left.  The Big East is losing key members by 2014, and the replacements aren't exactly what one would consider "storied" programs with a vast fan following.  They have been forced to poach programs from the "Little 5", which has also caused a domino effect among them.  It will only be a matter of time before the "revenue providers" realize the Big East is no longer a valuable commodity to the televised sports entertainment business.  Unfortunately, this eventually means the Big East will no longer be viewed as a "Big 6" among the likes of the Big 12, SEC, Big 10, etc.  The MWC and CUSA are serious about a merger, creating perhaps a 24-team league, and the WAC is in danger of dissolving all together.  With all of the happenings taking place around the FBS world, fan interest is rapidly decreasing (especially for the postseason).  This is obviously not good for the sport, therefore the NCAA and BCS need to team together to streamline the postseason as best as possible.  Fans are already crying about all of the bowl games being played, just part of the watered down problem FBS has right now.  Several more FCS programs have their eyes set on jumping up to the FBS level in the next several years, so this problem isn't going away anytime soon.  It doesn't matter how many programs are part of the FBS, the rich will get much richer, and the poor much poorer in the very near future. 

What can be done to fix this?  I don’t believe anything can be done to fix the problem of fiscal difference between the “haves” and “haves not” of college football.  Many fans want to watch big time football, and big time football isn’t played everywhere at the FBS level.  There is a long-term solution which has been discussed (lightly), which involves a split in the FBS.  Basically, programs from the SEC, PAC 12, Big 10, Big 12 and ACC would split from the other conferences, creating two divisions (FBS-I and FBS-II) with FBS-I having their own set of NCAA guidelines.  Notice the Big East wasn't mentioned.  Well, they didn't mention the Big East either, so the writing is already on the wall that they are headed for FBS-II.  The short term solution is actually already in the works, with the BCS meetings taking place and the serious talk about modifying how the BCS standings are determined, and a plus-one postseason format.  I think they need to take it further, and examine the rest of the postseason structure.  There really are too many bowl games, and they need to get back to the early mentality that a bowl game experience should be a reward for performance.  6-6 teams don't deserve a reward in my opinion; therefore the bowl eligibility requirement should be modified to include a minimum of 7 wins.  Furthermore, 6 of those 7 wins must have been achieved against FBS opponents to be eligible for a bowl game.  61 teams would have met these criteria in 2011 to become bowl eligible. 

I like Delany's idea about using campus locations to play the "semi-final" games.  Campus venues have more to offer than bowl venues, based on my experiences.  The home team fans would surely love it, and the visiting fans would get an opportunity to experience the traditions and atmosphere of a program and its game day campus that might not ordinarily get to.  All they'd need is a broadcast deal, a few sponsors and a name for the games, and the revenue would come rolling in.   I also believe conference champions deserve the chance to play for the BCS National Championship.  This is something that will be highly debated, especially after how the 2011 season went down.  The bottom line with this is overall fan interest.  Sure, fans from Ohio State and Nebraska or Alabama and Arkansas would love to see their teams play each other in a BCS 4-team playoff scenario, but the rest of the nation wouldn't care too much.  Other than being outright deserving, this is another reason why I think the top-rated conference champions in the BCS final standings should be the participants in such a system.  For the 2011 season, we would have had #10 Wisconsin playing at #1 LSU and #5 Oregon playing at #3 Oklahoma State.  Don't tell me fans wouldn't have been interested in watching those matchups.  Wisconsin’s offense taking on that LSU defense would have been fun to watch, and the scoring of 160 combined points in the Oregon-Oklahoma State game would have kept people on the edge of their seats.  Okay, 160 might be over doing it…a little bit.

Now before I continue, I personally think Notre Dame should be in a conference, but for the sake of this blog here's the process for dealing with Notre Dame's desired independence:  If ND finishes in the top 5 of the BCS standings, they will receive a spot in the semi-final to compete for a BCS national championship.  If they finish 6-15 and have at least 10 wins, they will receive a spot in one of the BCS bowl games.  If they finish outside the top 15 and/or have less than 10 wins, they may fill a lower tier bowl game the Big East or independents are tied to.  Okay, got that out of the way.

If the "semi-finals" were to be played on campus, it would open up opportunities for other top 15 teams to play in the four major BCS bowl games.  I know the Big 10 and PAC 12 want their Rose Bowl, and the Rose Bowl wants them.  So let them have each other.  If there are teams from those conferences rated in the final top 15 of the BCS standings not playing in the semi-final, let the Rose Bowl take first dibs on them.  If not, let the Rose Bowl join in on the rotation of picks with the other major venues as currently established by the BCS.  Teams must be ranked 1-15 in the final BCS standings to qualify for a BCS Bowl game.  Other than the Rose, there would be no conference ties to the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange, and no limits to how many teams from a single conference could play in a BCS Bowl.  Just don't match up two teams from the same conference.  Here's what the matchups could have looked like if this aspect of the system was in place for 2011, based on order of pick established by the BCS:  

Rose:  #4 Stanford vs. #13 Michigan, Fiesta: #2 Alabama vs. #8 Kansas State, Sugar: #6 Arkansas vs. #11 Virginia Tech, Orange: #7 Boise State vs. #9 South Carolina 

Rather intriguing so far wouldn't you say?

Here is an even hotter debate, I would think.  The lower tier bowl games.  Way too many of them in my opinion, and this is the tough part.  Which bowls do they discontinue?  Well, for the purpose of this blog, I used the top dollar-making bowls to demonstrate how a future streamlined bowl system might look.  Keeping in mind it takes seven (7) wins to become bowl eligible and 6 of those 7 have to be over FBS teams, cut the number of lower tier bowls down to 16.  Therefore, we'll have 20 total bowl games when you add in the major BCS bowl games.  The lower tier bowl games will have conference ties, and I tried to keep some of the traditional tie-ins to the bowls I listed below.  Keeping in mind bowl games are a reward for performance, bowls should select teams as they've finished within their conference.  The SEC, Big 10, Big 12, ACC and PAC 12 would each get 4 bowl tie-ins; the Big East and CUSA (assuming CUSA and MWC merge) would get 3 each.  Independents, MAC and Sunbelt would get 2 each.  Let’s assume the WAC gets dissolved, which is very likely to actually happen.  So between the "Big 5" conferences, 20 bowl slots and the rest get 12 slots.  32 slots for 16 bowl games.  Sound fair enough?  Some conferences won't be able to fill all of their bowl tie-ins, creating "at-large" opportunities for other conferences to participate in other bowl games.  Example:  The SEC would have put five of their teams in a BCS bowl and the semi-finals and didn't have enough remaining eligible teams to fill their lower tier bowl tie-ins.  So based on all of that, here's how the lower tier bowl matchups could have looked (rankings are final BCS standings):

Capital One: #16 Georgia vs. #17 Michigan State  (Tie-in: SEC and Big 10)
Cotton: #25 Auburn vs. #12 Baylor  (SEC and Big 12)
Outback: NC State vs. #22 Penn State  (SEC and Big 10) 
Insight: #20 Nebraska vs. #14 Oklahoma  (Big 10 and Big 12)
Alamo: Missouri vs. Utah (Big 12 and PAC 12)
Chick-Fil-A: #23 West Virginia vs. #15 Clemson  (SEC and ACC)
Gator: Iowa vs. Notre Dame  (Big 10 and Big East)
Champs Sports: Florida State vs. Cincinnati  (ACC and Big East)
Holiday: #24 Texas vs. Washington (Big 12 and PAC 12)
Sun: Georgia Tech vs. Cal  (ACC and PAC 12)
Music City: Virginia vs. Rutgers  (ACC and Big East)
Pinstripe: Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois  (Sunbelt and MAC)
Liberty: #18 TCU vs. La-Lafayette (CUSA and PAC 12)
Belk: #19 Houston vs. BYU  (CUSA and Independent or Sunbelt)
Meineke Car Care: Western Kentucky vs. Ohio  (Sunbelt vs. Independent or MAC)
Independence: Toledo vs. #21 Southern Miss  (MAC and CUSA)

Now, they could decide to get rid of conference tie-ins all together, and I wouldn’t have an immediate problem with that.  It would allow for some great top 25 matchups, but I fear the “mid-major” FBS conferences would end up suffering quite a bit more than they already are.  They would take turns and select from teams who were eligible and present the best possible situation, fan follow and matchup for their bowl.  It would surely spark more fan interest.  It could look something like this:

Capital One: #12 Baylor vs. #16 Georgia
Cotton: #18 TCU vs. #19 Houston 
Outback: #17 Michigan State vs. #14 Oklahoma 
Insight: #20 Nebraska vs. #15 Clemson
Alamo: #24 Texas vs. #22 Penn State  
Chick-Fil-A: #23 West Virginia vs. #25 Auburn
Gator: Iowa vs. Notre Dame 
Champs Sports: Florida State vs. Missouri 
Holiday: NC State vs. Washington
Sun: Georgia Tech vs. Cal 
Music City: Virginia vs. Utah 
Pinstripe: Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois 
Liberty: #21 Southern Miss vs. Cincinnati
Belk: La-Lafayette vs. BYU 
Meineke Car Care: Western Kentucky vs. Ohio 
Independence: Toledo vs. Rutgers  

They are also discussing when these games will be played, and not too many of the bigwigs want BCS bowl games played many days beyond January 1st.  Back in the day (I mean way back) when just a handful of bowl games were played, all were played on January 1st.  Whatever day in January, the bowls played in January should be reserved for the most prestigious ones, like the BCS bowls, Cotton and maybe the Capital One.  It's time we get back to the norm, where playing in a January bowl game means something.   They are discussing playing the semi-finals in December and the national championship game in early January.  I imagine the semi-finals will be played the Saturday after final exams, and the championship game played between the 3rd and 6th of January.

It should be interesting to see how everything pans out, from conference realignment to the FBS postseason restructure.  Hopefully these bigwigs make the right decisions, or even better, the best decisions for the sake of the college game, and try to keep the fans interested as well.  There are a lot of important things (for programs, conferences and fans) hanging in the balance.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: BCS
 
Posted on: September 6, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: September 6, 2011 7:55 pm
 

Texas A&M to the SEC: Potential Domino Effect

With serious talks of Texas A&M moving to the SEC, one can only wonder what landscape of college football as a result of the fallout would look like. Certainly, the SEC wouldn't stick with unbalanced divisions, and certainly the PAC 12 and Big 10 wouldn't sit back and watch it all happen. Well, maybe they would, and act immediately after the initial moves. I could see either Florida State or Miami asking for SEC membership. It appears the ball is in Texas A&M's court right now, and Oklahoma is already making a few phone calls. I can't see the Big 12 surviving without Texas and Oklahoma in it together. If Oklahoma goes, so goes Oklahoma State...that's a given. That would take the Big 12 down to seven programs, with no BCS caliber program out there to add, with the exception of Boise State. Boise just began play in the MWC, so a move this soon probably wouldn't be in their best interest. Even if the Big 12, without the Oklahoma teams, adds BYU, Texas alone wouldn't guarantee BCS AQ status for very long. Since Texas A&M is all but gone, this is what I think will happen when the dominoes start to fall.

Oklahoma and Oklahoma State request PAC 12 membership and is accepted. Texas follows close behind. Texas Tech follows Texas. The Big 12 falls apart.

The SEC conducts football business with unbalanced divisions through the 2012 season, before Florida State requests membership, and is accepted. Texas A&M joins the West and Florida State the East to expand to 14 in 2013. In an effort to match the new PAC 16, the SEC waits to see how a 16-team league reaps the financial rewards. Although there is much, much more revenue in the Big 6 BCS leagues, a 16-team WAC once failed miserably. It's worth watching for a couple of years to see how the revenue sharing works out. It might not be all what it's cracked up to be.

The Big 10 makes one last plea to Notre Dame, either join or be closed out forever. What is happening in college football is a 100 year deal. Missouri asks the Big Ten for membership, and is accepted. Missouri to the Leaders in 2012. Notre Dame takes its time, and decides to join during the winter of 2012. They are admitted to the Legends division in 2013. The Big 10 reaches 14, and sticks with 14...for now. (Eye on ACC)

Kansas State and Kansas won't be separated, and will ask the Big East for a home. They're accepted, to further strengthen an already monsterous basketball league. TCU will be joining the Big East beginning in 2012, and Temple has been overheard discussing a possible move back where they belong. Temple gets accepted, and all of a sudden the Big East is a 12-team football conference. They stay at 12, with later expansion possibilities for football down the road. I know ECU and UCF have the Big East on their minds, but I'm not sure now since the ACC is a team short on the Atlantic side. Wow, a 20-team basketball conference? Is it even possible for every team to play each other, even if they're split into 10-team divisions? I guess that's for another thread topic.

Which program on the east coast is most attractive to replace a powerhouse like Florida State? I know of only one, but this program is not quite a Florida State. However, this program is up and coming, and it is Central Florida. UCF would fit perfectly in the Atlantic division of the ACC, and they've been wanting a move up. Texas A&M provides them a rare opportunity to join a great athletic conference in the ACC. One can only imagine what this would do for their recruiting in football and basketball. I could see this program getting to a BCS bowl game within five seasons playing in the ACC. Remember I wrote that. This puts the ACC back at 12, and they obviously need to keep up with the Jones's in their neighborhood. With UCF leaving CUSA, ECU and Southern Mississippi request ACC membership. It makes sense, as would Memphis in place of Southern Miss. UCF and ECU to the Coastal, and either Memphis or Southern Miss to the Atlantic. That's 14 for the ACC. If something like this doesn't happen after FSU leaves, expect a program, like Maryland, to consider leaving for greener pastures...or more money. The Big 10 could offer that, and would welcome Maryland with open arms. Even if they stayed unbalanced with 15. You know, come to think of it, I remember some talk about Georgia Tech and the Big 10 not long ago. If Maryland makes a move, would GT ask the Big 10 for membership? I don't ever see them going back to the SEC, and the Big 10 has this network that would, well, absolutely love to have that Atlanta market.

There you have it. Complete and utter disruption to the college football landscape, all because one university, Texas A&M, is having a sissy fit over the Longhorn Network. A network which is currently having a very difficult time finding carriers to boot. The backing of ESPN is nice, but unless your cable and satellite providers buy in, it's going nowhere. So much for all of that tradition on the rivalry front. Texas-Texas A&M will probably be one for past memories. That would be a tough loss for the fans, and for players now and into the future.

Money is destroying this great sport, right before our eyes. My parents told me a very long time ago, that money is evil and can destroy lives. In a different context here, they were exactly right. Let's hope, once all the dominoes fall, the damage is minimal and the rest of our rivalries remain intact.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: August 2, 2011 7:03 pm
 

Bullet's 2011 All Conference Picks and More

It's August, and when August rolls around I start getting antsy for college football.  I tried to see in to the future last year, and pick who I thought would win each conference.  I have to honestly admit, I missed a few.  However this year, I'm aiming for perfection.  So here we go.

ACC:  Florida State.  This FSU team seems energized to me, with their new head coach.  He obviously has these guys highly motivated, and I have a feeling FSU is well on their way to dominating the ACC once again.  It begins this year.  Toughest conference opponent: Miami.

Big 12:  Oklahoma.  Oklahoma will face every Big 12 member this season, and their only obstacle will be Texas.  Texas will be hungry after a mediocre 5-7 season in 2010, so the Sooners will need to prepare well for their annual clash with the Longhorns.  I think Oklahoma will be just a bit too much for the Longhorns, and will end up 9-0 in conference play.  Toughest conference opponent:  Texas.

Big East:  Pittsburgh.  West Virginia fans might think I'm smoking something with this pick, especially when Pitt must travel to Morgantown to face WVU.  There's no doubt both of these teams will be the leading contenders, but I believe the Panthers will pull off the upset to win the conference crown.  Toughest conference opponent: West Virginia

Big 10:  Ohio State.  Go ahead and call me a "homer".  If I was a Michigan fan, I'd still put my money on Ohio State in 2011.  With all of the off-season turmoil endured by the team and fans, that very turmoil will be used as motivation for another great season.  Luke Fickel has taken complete charge, and is implementing his way of doing business.  I happen to like it...a lot.  Ohio State has all of it's toughest division games at home, and they've been underestimated by the media during the spring and summer, especially the defense.  A team with this much talent, and a "Us against the world" mentality could be very dangerous.  Unless the NCAA sanctions their postseason, the Buckeyes will be playing in the inaugural Big 10 Championship.  Toughest conference opponent: Wisconsin.

PAC 12:  Stanford.  Many expect Oregon to win the conference in 2011, but I believe Andrew Luck and Co. will be on a mission this season.  Revenge is sweet, and they get it done at home versus Oregon.  Toughest conference opponent:  Oregon.

SEC:  Alabama.  The Tide's defense will be key this season.  This group (most of them) have a year of experience under their belts and it pays off in a huge way this year.  Regardless of the personnel losses from the 2010 campaign, this Alabama squad is extremely talented.  The offense will need to work on chemistry early, but I don't see any issues as they press forward into the meat of their conference schedule.  The defense will lead the way to an undefeated conference season.  Toughest conference opponent: LSU

Real quick with the non-AQ conferences:

Sunbelt: Troy
WAC:  Fresno State
CUSA:  Southern Mississippi
MAC:  Toledo

MWC: TCU.  I'm going to discuss this one, since Boise State is in the mix here.  TCU lost some key players on both sides of the ball, however I still think there's enough talent to win a very tough game at Boise State.  Boise State will be breaking in a couple of new receivers, and that's not always an easy task for even a veteran QB.  I loved watching the TCU-Boise State bowl games, and there's no doubt this game at Boise will be another treat.  TCU will have better talent overall, and should edge Boise State for the MWC crown.  Could go either way though.

Now, based on my predictions above, here are my anticipated BCS bowl matchups:

Rose: Ohio State versus Stanford
Sugar: LSU versus TCU
Fiesta: Wisconsin versus Texas
Orange: Florida State versus Pittsburgh
BCS National Championship: Oklahoma versus Alabama
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: July 23, 2011 7:55 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2011 7:56 pm
 

Bullet's Top 10 Programs of the Last Half-Century

With the start of the 2011 CFB season just a tad bit over a month away, it's time for another program power ranking.  This time, over the last 50 seasons.  I included a power index for overall winning percentage, winning percentage versus season-ranked top 15 teams, winning percentage versus teams finishing with winning records, total undefeated seasons, and number of conference and national championships.  I also included a power index reduction for number of teams played finishing a season with a losing record.

Please note the AP conducted only a top 10 poll from 1962-1967, therefore only winning percentage versus teams finishing in the top 10 were included for those seasons.

1.  Alabama
2.  Nebraska
3.  USC
4.  Miami (FL)
5.  Oklahoma
6.  Ohio State
7.  Texas
8.  Notre Dame
9.  Penn State
10.  Florida

As I always do, here's the next five as an honorable mention, in order 11-15:

Florida State, Michigan, Auburn, LSU, Tennessee

Chat away.

Category: NCAAF
Posted on: April 4, 2011 8:26 pm
 

The State and Future of FBS College Football

As someone who has followed college football for most of my life, I can say with certainty that controversy is surrounding major college football today more than it ever has.  When you see article after article discussing the problems facing college football, you have to wonder when it will implode.  I've read my fair share of these articles, some good, some biased, and some downright bad.  I read one today that got me thinking about a previous blog I wrote about the future of college football.  My thoughts were somewhat on track, but today I've changed my position just a little.  When I wrote the previous blog entry, we didn't have the controversy as much as we have right now.  Remember the ESPN special on SMU and the death penalty?  I wouldn't allow myself to believe the corruption of those days could still be happening.  Of course, the level at which it happened isn't quite the same as it is today, but nonetheless, it is happening.  It's a sad state of affairs in college football, and I believe the BCS is one of the reasons why. 

The BCS has brought millions upon millions of dollars to the game, and since its inception, revenue has nearly tripled.  Using the Sugar Bowl as an example, in 1995 team payouts were $8.3 million.  In 2006, each team earned $17 million and in 2011, $22 million.  Granted, this money is funneled to the conferences and split, but the point is made.  College football has become a money-making powerhouse for major conferences.  Some of this revenue supports other athletic programs, which is a good thing.  But when particular football programs lack production, some folks get desparate.  This is a bad thing, and a "win at all cost" mentality is the result.  To gain a competitive advantage, coaching staffs break recruiting rules, hire independent recruiting services, boosters and agents (and perhaps coaching staffs) offer money or special gifts to high profile recruits, etc., etc., etc.  The list goes on and on.  Everybody wants to play in the money-making bowl games, the BCS bowl games.  When you do, your athletic department receives the larger sum of that conference split.  When you don't, things tend to get a bit unethical.  There's too much on the line, and that needs to change very soon.

There is no doubt the NCAA needs to review and streamline its 400+ page list of rules and by-laws.  Many are ambiguous and need to be written in a manner that allows no interpretation.  They need to be written in black and white, so when a coach or player violates a rule, the punishment cannot be argued.  I read an article where the writer suggested a set penalty for each rule violation, however that would be impossible given the varied circumstances of each violation.  I would suggest a minimum, and a maximum penalty for each rule/by-law violation.  The NCAA needs overhauled, and it won't be an easy task.  Many can say how they would change this and that about the NCAA, but the bottomline is this would be a huge undertaking and would probably take years to complete.  It still needs to be done, no matter what, and they need to start very soon.

Many recruits come into a program thinking the program owes them something, due mainly to the media attention they receive during the recruiting process.  They are followed for two or maybe three years of their high school careers, interviewed by local and national media on a near regular basis, their pictures, highlights and stats placed on websites, given star ratings, and placed in the national spotlight on national TV to announce their college choice.  They even "script" their announcement, to add to the drama.  This might be good for the fans, but it isn't very good for the game, and it certainly isn't good for the recruit, many of which never see the NFL which is the ultimate goal.

These are just a few things that I believe are wrong with FBS football.  Something has to change, and quick.  Otherwise, it may very well implode, and the aftermath will be quite disappointing.

What needs changed?  Big question, and not an easy one to answer for sure.  I read an article written today by Tony Barnhart, a refreshing addition to the CBS sportswriting staff.  He offered some suggestions for improvement, and I would like to comment on some of them.

1. Find a way for the top 60 to 70 schools that play major college football to work independently from the NCAA. The sport has become too big to be managed within in the limitations of the NCAA framework. If a way cannot be found to accommodate these schools then they should leave the NCAA and form their own organization and make their own rules
I've said before that I feel there are too many teams in FBS, along with too many bowl games.  The BCS doesn't fairly distribute revenue between all of these schools, and that's another problem with this system that needs to be corrected.  I'm not sure I would agree with 60-70 schools breaking away from the NCAA, especially leaving the NCAA entirely.  If this happened, all other sports at those schools would lose their NCAA status, which would do more harm than good in my opinion.  College athletics need the NCAA, the NCAA just needs to streamline some things.  As such, FBS needs to streamline as well.  Tony is partially correct when he wrote "The sport has become too big to be managed within the limitations of the NCAA framework."  I think a streamlined NCAA and FBS could be managed very well within a new NCAA framework.  FBS needs to be realigned into two separate entities.  The six major conferences would "break away" from the existing alignment, and expand to 14-team leagues, two 7-team divisions each.  This would make for an 84-team FBS.  The remaining teams would fall back into the FCS.  The new FBS would be governed by the NCAA, with added procedures for schedule and post-season play.  The regular season would be reduced back to an 11-game season, and all teams would be required to play a 9-game conference schedule.  Of the nine games, six would be against division opponents and three cross division, to be rotated and to preserve rivalry games.  For the OOC portion of the schedule, FBS teams could only play other FBS teams, therefore eliminating games against FCS opponents.  All teams must play their first two games against FBS teams from another conference.  Schedules could only be made up to five years in advance, to help prevent scheduling problems long term.  a team would need to achieve at least a 6-5 record to be eligible for a bowl game, and the FBS would have a total of 21 bowl games.  The BCS would incorporate a plus-one system for the national championship game, and distribute revenue equally between all six conferences.  This would just be the beginning of change, as recruiting policies, media, booster and agent activities would also need to be revamped. 

2. Create a commissioner of college football. My CBS colleague Tim Brando has been saying this for years, and he's right. Somebody needs to be in charge for the good of the entire sport. On cases like Cam Newton and the Ohio State Five, the commissioner has the last word. He or she will have zero tolerance for cheating (and there is a difference between cheating and breaking the rules). Only a strong commissioner, backed up by the presidents, can bring the risk-reward for cheating back into balance.
I agree, a FBS commish would work to better the sport.  This person would work closely with conference commissioners to provide management and oversight of all FBS conferences, and be the spokesperson to the NCAA for all FBS matters.  University presidents should focus most of their attention on the academic arena of their universities, and leave the athletics to the ADs and the conference commissioners.  Where I disagree is giving the FBS commish sanction authority.  This should still fall within the NCAA purview.  In the event of a violation, the commish would advise the NCAA after consulting with all conference commissioners, but the NCAA should have the final decision on sanctions.  Yes, outright cheating should be dealt with in the most extreme manner, and there is a difference between cheating and breaking rules.  However, if breaking certain rules leads to an advantage on the football field, then it should be dealt with in the same manner as cheating. 

3. Freshmen will be declared ineligible. There is a whole host of pathologies that are created by a recruiting process that tells 18-year-old children they are stars and should be treated (and paid) like one. Until 1972, freshmen were not eligible to play. There was a reason for that. Most are not mature enough, emotionally or academically, to commit to big-time college football. It's simple. If you make your grades as a freshman and prove that you can handle college life, then you get to play as a sophomore. Would this be tough to do with only 85 scholarships? Yep. But it's for the greater good. This will never happen, but it would address a lot of ills.
I agree wholeheartedly.  Although this practice wouldn't prevent the media from hyping a recruit, it would surely create a different environment on campus and in the locker room.  Joe Paterno continued this practice when the NCAA allowed freshman to start playing back in 1972.  It wasn't until maybe five or six years ago he started playing freshman.  He had to, to stay competitive.  I could see this happening, and working very well for the sport as long as all teams were held to follow it.

4. Football scholarships become five-year commitments by the school. In exchange for giving up freshman eligibility, the student athlete will get a five-year guaranteed scholarship if he stays in good academic standing and doesn't get in trouble with the law. The one-year scholarship is a bad deal for the students. Red-shirting is eliminated. And one other thing: No oversigning. No gray-shirting. You sign a kid and he gets a scholarship. Period.
I agree again, especially with the elimination of oversigning, red and gray-shirting.  He mentioned "trouble with the law".  This is another issue that the NCAA doesn't have jurisdiction, and shouldn't have.  A FBS commish would make final decisions about player eligibility based on circumstances of the crime committed.  When a player commits a crime (misdemeanor or felony), he should expect at least a one-game suspension.   Felonies could result in a season suspension, or even team dismissal.  I see too many players getting into trouble, with little to no consequences.  Missing games would have a direct impact, on the player and the team.

5. Change the scholarship to include the full cost of attendance. The top academic scholarships include a stipend for incidental living expenses based on the location of the campus. Athletic scholarships should do the same. This stipend of several thousand dollars (plus a Pell Grant that can be as much as $5,500) takes the argument off the table that athletes from poor backgrounds do not have spending money. The NCAA has a Student Opportunity fund of more than $50 million available to help students in need (clothes, trips home in an emergency, etc.)
I disagree.  Football players get enough, when you factor in the free education, medical, meals, coaching, facilities, etc.  Most of the stipends he mentioned are for incidental expenses like books and supplies, not for living expenses such as room and board or gas for the car.  These academic scholarships aren't given to just anyone, and most of those who get one don't get a full ride.  Football players, they get a full ride and more. 
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: March 14, 2011 8:47 pm
 

2010 CFB Final Top 25, NCAA RPI Style

During the college basketball season, we hear and read alot about the RPI (Ratings Performance Index), and fans eagerly wait for the updates to come out during the week to see where their favorite team stacks up.  I've expressed my opinion of the college football rankings many times, human and computer created.  There's not a more subjective system out there, but is the NCAA RPI for basketball any better?  Unlike the BCS computer rankings, the RPI has no human interface, other than those who plug in the numbers.  It's based strictly on a team's winning percentage, their opponents winning percentage, and the opponents' opponents winning percentage.  The NCAA RPI also determines a strength of schedule based on the latter two elements, and SOS is included in the formula for rating all of the teams.  

Last night, while watching the bracket special on CBS, the thought crossed my mind what a final college football ranking would look like using the NCAA formula for rating basketball teams.  So I gathered all of the numbers for the top 45 teams with the best win/loss records, and put together a final top 25 based on the NCAA RPI.  I was very surprised to see the results, as I'm sure you will be too as you peruse through the ratings below.   

1.  Auburn 14-0

SOS: 4
RPI: .6586

2.  LSU 11-2

SOS: 2
RPI:  .6419

3.  Texas A&M  9-4

SOS: 1
RPI:  .6353

4.  Oklahoma 12-2

SOS:  6
RPI:  .6328

5.  Alabama 10-3

SOS:  3
RPI:  .6274

6.  Arkansas 10-3

SOS:  5
RPI:  .6255

7.  Missouri 10-3

SOS:  9
RPI:  .6153

8.  South Carolina 9-5

SOS:  7
RPI:  .6069

9.  Stanford 12-1

SOS:  14
RPI:  .6060

10.  Notre Dame 8-5

SOS:  8
RPI:  .6028

11.  Florida State 10-4

SOS:  11
RPI:  .5999

12.  Oklahoma State 11-2

SOS:  16
RPI:  .5985

13.  Ohio State 12-1

SOS:  24
RPI:  .5982

14.  Florida 8-5

SOS:  10
RPI:  .5936

15.  TCU 13-0

SOS:  35
RPI:  .5912

16.  Boise State 12-1

SOS:  28
RPI:  .5908

17.  Virginia Tech 11-3

SOS:  15
RPI:  .5901

18.  Michigan State 11-2

SOS:  22
RPI:  .5897

19.  Oregon 12-1

SOS:  26
RPI:  .5884

20.  Mississippi State 9-4

SOS:  12
RPI:  .5859

21.  Nebraska 10-4

SOS:  19
RPI:  .5774

22.  Wisconsin 11-2

SOS:  29
RPI:  .5768

23.  Nevada 13-1

SOS:  36
RPI:  .5755

24.  NC State 9-4

SOS:  20
RPI:  .5743

25.  West Virginia 9-4

SOS:  23
RPI:  .5708

Now, lets say the NCAA sponsored a 16-team playoff after the bowl games, based on the final RPI results.  The top 16 teams in the RPI get a bid, and are seeded as rated.  The brackets would've featured the following matchups for the 2010 season playoffs:

EAST BRACKET
1. Auburn versus 16. Boise State
8. South Carolina versus 9. Stanford

4. Oklahoma versus 13. Ohio State
5. Alabama versus 12. Oklahoma State

WEST BRACKET
2. LSU versus 15. TCU
7. Missouri versus 10. Notre Dame

3. Texas A&M versus 14. Florida
6. Arkansas versus 11. Florida State

Let me know how this affects your opinion now on the BCS formula for ranking teams.  The above top 25 is objective as it can get, without human interaction and opinion the BCS rankings are inundated with.

I'm curious how the RPI would work throughout the college football season, so I may try this for the 2011 season.  I suppose the best time to start it would be after the fourth week of play.  If I'm able to take the time to accomplish this, I'll post weekly updates.

Thanks to the folks at www.cfbtrivia.com for helping me to put this together.
Category: NCAAF
Posted on: December 31, 2010 4:06 pm
 

Bullet's Top 10 Toughest College Stadiums

Home field advantage is often debated, but there really is no argument against it.  Most teams have a winning record on their home field.  As a matter of fact, only 10 FBS teams have a losing record on the field they call home.  That's proof enough, the home field is a true advantage. 

There is obviously more of a home field advantage for some over others.  For instance, Western Michigan has won nearly 62% of their home games since 1936 while Georgia has won 75%, with undoubtedly a much tougher schedule.  This basic comparison is the point of this thread.  It would be difficult to argue Western Michigan having one of the toughest home fields for opposing teams to win, given the level of competition throughout history.  For the purpose of my ranking, playing top level competition matters.

I decided to take a quick and rather simple look at program performance in home stadiums since the AP began ranking teams in 1936.  Although overall home records were considered, more emphasis was placed on performance versus season-ranked opponents.  A season-ranked opponent is one who finished ranked after all bowl games were played in either the AP or Coaches polls since 1936.  The Coaches poll did not begin until 1950, and the polls didn't always rank 25 teams.  I used a point system based on number of wins in five categories (versus teams ranked 1-5, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20 and 20-25), winning percentage in each of those categories, and overall number of home wins during the same time period.  Disclaimer:  I personally believe the polls are very subjective in nature, human and computer.  I used both the AP and Coaches poll for this research in order to help reduce the level of subjectivity.

A program had to play a minimum of 75 season-ranked opponents at home since 1936, had to win at least 225 games at home overall and had to win a minimum 40 games versus season-ranked opponents at home during the same period in order to be considered.  Based on my research, the following are my top 10 toughest stadiums for a visiting team to win throughout the history of the major poll system, based mainly on level of competition played and performance against that competition.

1.  Notre Dame (156 points)
2.  Michigan (153 points)
3.  Ohio State (140 points)
4.  Southern California (139 points)
5.  Oklahoma (123 points)
6.  Alabama (119 points)
7.  Tennessee (117 points)
8.  Penn State (105 points)
9.  Florida (98 points)
t10. UCLA (96 points)
t10. Miami (FL) (96 points)

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com