Before we get to the final ballot of the regular season, I've got a short argument for a playoff system -- or, at least, against the hodgepodge muddle we currently have.
Each week, voters are asked to rank the top 25 teams in college football. They may use whatever criteria they deem important, but they should, at least, remain consistent in their ranking. For instance, they should feel that the team they rank #2 is better, or has accomplished more, or would win on a neutral field, or whatever, when compared to the team that they rank #3. And so on down the line.
However, for voters in the Coaches' and Harris Polls, there was a dilemma facing them this week. Namely, their votes mattered in determining real-world matchups, and nobody wants a rematch. Listen: it's pretty clear that Florida is better than Alabama, but probably not by much. And whether you think Oklahoma should be ranked ahead of or behind Texas, you'd have to agree that they should pretty much be ranked right next to each other. But how do we compare the SEC and Big 12 teams? I know Florida vs. Oklahoma is the matchup everyone wanted (except perhaps Texas fans), but who's to say those are the best two teams? If Florida is #1, why can't Alabama be #2? If, on the other hand, you have Oklahoma #1, couldn't Texas be #2? Or even vice-versa? What's wrong with this ranking:
Between 4 1-loss teams, we have two head-to-head results, and Texas' loss was a last-second loss on the road to another 1-loss team, whereas Florida lost at home to multiple-loss Mississippi. It's a reasonable ranking, but if all the voters who count went with it, we'd get a championship game rematch, and no one wants that. To avoid that, you'd have to put Florida at #2, even if you though Oklahoma was better than Florida.
It's entirely possible that the two best teams in the country reside in the same conference. It'd be a situation akin to that long stretch in the 80s and 90s when the NFC Championship game really decided the Super Bowl winner, and the Super Bowl itself was a contest to see how many points you could score on the Buffalo Bills. Pitting two teams against each other who are not necessarily the two best does not make for an invalid championship game, so long as the best emerges victorious; that's what playoffs are supposed to do. But inducing voters to submit possibly disingenuous ballots in order to jury-rig the current system into a sort of "mock" 4-team playoff? That's highly suspect, to say the least.
For the record, I saw nothing this past weekend to change my opinion of the top 4 teams, so I submitted basically the same ballot: 1. Florida, 2. Alabama, 3. Oklahoma, and 4. Texas.
After the jump, I'll reveal our final ballot of the regular season, and compare it to our preseason ballot back from the middle of August.
|Rank||Team||Delta||Preseason Delta||Preseason Team|
|5||Southern Cal||--||4||West Virginia|
|8||Texas Tech||2||5||Ohio State|
|10||Boise State||--||16||Virginia Tech|
|13||Georgia Tech||2||13||Texas Tech|
|17||Virginia Tech||--||7||South Florida|
|19||Brigham Young||1||1||Penn State|
|25||Ball State||3||1||Fresno State|
Dropped Out: California (#23).
So, here's our final ballot next to our preseason ballot. As one of the voters responsible for that preseason ballot, it's a little disappointing to see just how spectacularly wrong we were. West Virginia at #5 and Clemson at #9 seem particularly egregious, and of the bottom 11 teams on our preseason ballot, I would have expected more than just 2 (BYU and Penn State) to make our final poll as well (though Cal was close).
I don't feel so bad about some of the teams we missed in the preseason; although Alabama seems like a huge miss, I don't think anyone else had them ranked after a 7-6 first season under Nick Saban. Utah, Boise State, Oklahoma State? Few pundits had them ranked, and I don't recall anyone having them in the top 20.
Overall, we got 4 of the top 10, although picking Florida, Oklahoma, USC and Ohio State didn't take much skill, and at least ranked 3 others (Texas, Texas Tech, and Penn State). I also feel good about putting USC on top over the trendy choice of Georgia; you could make a reasonable argument that USC is still the best team in the country (though perhaps not deserving of playing for the title), whereas the same could not be said for a rather disappointing Georgia squad.
Finally, I feel pretty good about the final paragraph of my preseason ballot writeup:
Ah, the 21-25 portion of the ballot. Often, this is the hardest to fill out. Sure, all these teams could be top 25 material, but so could 6 or 8 others that got cut (Fever listed Wake Forest; I finished my ballot with Oregon State and Cincinnati). The key, especially early in the year, is to just pick some teams and not worry so much about it.
Yeah. What he said.