This is the time of year I start seriously Jones-ing for football. Here’s a highlight package I put together of Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz. (Stiff-arms included at no extra charge.)
Let us be clear: the NFL is very “ugh” right now.
But I still find it hard to hate the thing completely. For one reason, I hear rumors that the New Orleans Saints are still very much a part of the league (even despite the absurd punishments handed down during “Bountygate”). For another, the good flavor of the Falcons blowing a 25-point lead in the Super Bowl is still fresh.* And finally, the draft itself is always going to have some merit even for people who hate the NFL because it’s one last chance to see their favorite college players paraded in front of the camera before they’re officially professionals. So, yay.
* This is one of the more improbable things I’ve seen in my sports-watching lifetime. Like, the Falcons literally had to have everything go completely wrong for them to pull it off … and they did it! And my enjoyment of it was fueled by a persistent Falcons hater laughing at them and dancing around my living room throughout the proceedings. It was truly a memorable and enjoyable experience, even for someone disillusioned by the league and basically anything that it tries to do.
As the Big 12 meanders its way toward an expansion that may or may not be inevitable (per “sources”), fans of the affected institutions continue to wait for some measure of resolution. The good news for the eager applicants is a move to 14 is apparently still on the table.
I still think 12 makes more sense. And if you read this, you’ll find out why. But 14 has its advantages, including the more money thing, but more importantly (to me anyway), the opportunity to rebrand away from the toxic Big 12 name. Yes!
If 14 is still a realistic scenario, let’s look at how it can actually work.
Once again, I don’t have any particular insider knowledge on any of this, which is pretty much useless right now anyway. The amount of misinformation out there at present is significant. For that reason, trying to predict how expansion unfolds is equally pointless. What’s perhaps more useful is attempting to apply logic to the situation to offer a recommendation or two.
Trying to read the tea leaves and interpret/predict Big 12 expansion is mostly pointless in principle, because one is most assuredly going to be wrong. And not just wrong, but often times spectacularly wrong.
Since I have no fear of being spectacularly wrong, you’re in luck! You’ve come to the right place to read a few words on the subject.
First off, a primer. That link should give you some decent insight. And this one. And maybe this one too. If you don’t want to read all that, the short version recap is this: The Big 12 is a conference that suffers a fragile ego, due in large part to its having been raided by other leagues earlier this decade. Stuck at 10 teams and stuck with a TV contract that is by no means terrible but which still lags behind that of its competition (in particular, fellow “major” conferences Big 10 and SEC), several schools in the conference are seemingly unhappy and pushing for expansion. Or maybe they’re just sort of mildly concerned. Or maybe this is all an act and we don’t know.
This is the part of the process that I think confuses people the most: They can’t predict what the institutions will do, and they can’t do that because each institution is subject to the whims of multiple individual people. Presidents. Boards of directors. Powerful boosters. Athletic directors and coaches (not really, but it’s best to be polite and include them anyway). The point being, what if one of these people has a louder voice than the others? What if said person is having a bad day? Or is just a generally irrational person? And what if the media and common layman can’t predict who might wield the most influence, what they might think on a given day, or even what they might think today?
You’d be served up a nice helping of “fuck if I know” ice cream, which is what all the reporting on this topic reveals. The best one can do is try to approach this from a logical vantage point and guess at the things that seem to make sense. That doesn’t mean the key figures in this play will act rationally at the end of the day, but it does give the observer a better understanding of perhaps what *should* happen.
And thusly, I’ve written well over 300 words without getting around to talking about expansion, which is what this article is supposed to be about.
This isn’t officially official per se, since the updated F/+ should impact things slightly, but I wanted to go ahead and release the updated Achievement Index in advance of the CFB Playoff pairings being revealed Sunday.
To cut to the chase, the Top 4 here looks like this: Alabama (1) vs. Stanford (4) and Clemson (2) vs. Michigan State (3).
Yeah, about Oklahoma…
Well, it has the benefit of being different.
After 12 weeks, I had become acutely aware that the Achievement Index was doing some things well and some things … less well. So adjustments have once again been made, and the results are kind of weird.
(This is not all that bad since the original results were kind of weird as well.)
Ohio State’s dramatic home loss to Michigan State Saturday night opened the door for any top team not named the Buckeyes so far as a possible playoff berth is concerned (and really, OSU isn’t out of it either). The Buckeyes had established a stranglehold on a Top 4 spot in the actual CFB Playoff rankings and a similarly firm grip on a first tier ranking in the Achievement Index. A putrid offensive performance, fully taken advantage of by Sparty, resulted in a loss that makes these last couple of weeks so much more interesting.
In this space, Sparty’s upset combined with Oklahoma State’s home loss to Baylor actually opened up two slots in the Top 4. The primary beneficiaries, at least for this week, were Iowa and Alabama.
The Hawkeyes are now the de facto Big 10 representative by virtue of their undefeated record, but they will of course have to win two more games to make that stick. Michigan State, Ohio State and Michigan are all lurking about, ready to pounce if Iowa slips, and certainly that is a plausible scenario with the playoff committee, should they decide that the Big 10 winner is a worthy participant in the playoff. Here it’s not so clear as that, as each team needs help from the teams they’ve already faced. Can Nebraska boost its own F/+ rating enough to give Sparty a boost as well? Will Michigan’s Utah loss continue to look acceptable? These are the sorts of questions that won’t be answered until the regular season is complete.
The situation in the SEC, by comparison, is crystal clear. Alabama is the best team there, but Florida, with one loss, can force its way into the playoff by defeating the Crimson Tide. That’s a problem, however, as the Gators currently look barely capable of defeating FAU, let alone ‘Bama. Still, it’s cut and dried: Alabama has by now done enough to overcome its home loss, and Florida’s resume is nearly as impressive and its own path is obvious.
The Big 12 is as insane as one might expect. Oklahoma State has emerged as the best of the bunch, because the Cowboys have the “best” loss of the group, to Baylor (who is well liked by the efficiency rankings). Common wisdom tells us the Sooners have the best team and the best resume, and well, common wisdom is often pretty useless. So naturally the playoff committee will take it and run with it.
(This is where I roll my eyes.)
Still, the Sooners are under-ranked here … what they need is Texas to transform itself into a middling team, rather than an atrocious one. Otherwise, I am perfectly fine with them being penalized for that loss.
But anyway, right now I’ve got it Notre Dame (1) vs. Alabama (4), and Clemson (2) vs. Iowa (3). The Big 12 is left out, the Pac 12 is left out, and Notre Dame is left laughing all the way to the bank,
It’s a happy ending for everyone!
The College Football Playoff Committee has a Top 4, in order, of Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame.
The Achievement Index’s Top 4 is Clemson, Ohio State, Notre Dame and Oklahoma State.
That isn’t far off, and we both have rewarded the Tigers for their performance to date. Where we differ is Alabama vs. Oklahoma State, and well, look at the names on the jerseys to explain that one.
Oh sure, you could argue that Alabama has played a tougher schedule (true) and you could also argue against the Cowboys based on margin of victory/general prettiness (also true). But I’ve made my own feelings on this clear: The Tide is getting a pass for a home loss to a three-loss team (Ole Miss). No need to belabor it. And truth be told, the Tide is surging up my rankings in a major way. In a couple of weeks, Alabama might actually deserve that Top 4 spot … it’s still hard to project.
Anyway, I can tell you right now who would have the biggest gripe in my system, and it isn’t Alabama…
The number of undefeated teams in the country has been whittled down to six. And yet the top-ranked team in the Achievement Index is one-loss Notre Dame.
A significant portion of the country is less than pleased whenever the Irish get any kind of advantage over their opponents, and this team getting ranked ahead of several undefeated squads would, on the surface, qualify.
To that I reply: Look at the schedule.
I’ve run the numbers, and they tell me the playoff committee is batting .250, at least in terms of rewarding the teams that are currently the most deserving.
That’s an important distinction, as some look at this system as trying to pick the best teams, which just COMPLETELY misses the point and COMPLETELY devalues the regular season. Why play the games if you aren’t going to use them in evaluating teams?
When the committee put Alabama into its initial set of rankings, it created a firestorm of controversy, due primarily to the fact that Alabama had a loss and plenty of other teams didn’t. The Tide was getting a pass.
Well, yes and no. It’s true the Tide is getting a pass right now, and it’s indeed okay to call the committee out for this, but it’s not just about the record … it’s about who the Tide has beaten and lost to.