ESPN CFB Analysts Fail Miserably

IceQxSif_400x400ESPN’s CFB analysts were given a golden opportunity to shape the future of college football.

They failed miserably.

The offenders include Paul Finebaum, Rece Davis, David Pollack, Brad Edwards, Danny Kanell, and Ivan Maisel. Using the 2008 season, these analysts held a mock CFB playoff selection committee meeting under the supervision of real-life committee chairman Jeff Long. Mr. Long did not participate in the discussion; he simply observed.

Let me repeat: Mr. Long observed. In doing so the ESPN analysts–who are [supposedly] the foremost CFB experts in the country–communicated to Mr. Long which criteria are important to them and demonstrated how they think the selection process should work. At the end of the day, what four teams did they select?

  • USC (Pac-10 in 2008)
  • Florida (SEC)
  • Texas (Big-12)
  • Oklahoma (Big-12)

Here we go again.

That’s right. This group of Einsteins picked two Big-12 teams and left legitimate conference champions out.

There were twelve conferences in 2008 and only four playoff spots to select. Yet somehow they managed for only three conferences to be represented.

How was the brain trust able to manage this? By over-analyzing statistics.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

The playoff system works well for the NFL, high school football, and many other sports. But these rocket scientists would have you believe that college football is a completely different animal. In their minds, their ability to analyze metrics, such as strength of schedule, key injuries, and non-conference records, are more important than actual on-the-field results.

In the 2008 mock season, for example, ESPN’s brain trust didn’t base its decision on which team was the Big-12’s champion. Nor did they base it on the results of Oklahoma vs Texas’s head-to-head. Instead, they decided their interpretation of metrics trumps both of these factors and elected to send them both to the playoff.

Make sense?

Hell no! It makes no damn sense at all!

Let’s apply the same logic they used for 2008’s Big 12 to 2014’s SEC, where the committee’s subjective interpretation of statistics trumps actual results. What would be some anticipated consequences?

First and foremost, the importance of the Egg Bowl and the SEC Championship will be drastically diminished. Assuming current rankings hold, why would the Egg Bowl results even matter? If the committee is going to send both Ole Miss and Mississippi State to playoffs regardless of head-to-head results or SEC championships, the Egg Bowl becomes a glorified practice game.

In fact, the losing team would be rewarded with a bye week. After running through the gauntlet of the SEC West, both teams will want to rest and recover from their blood bath schedules before going to the playoffs. Why would they want to go on the road and to play an extra SEC game? Using ESPN’s logic, the smart thing for Ole Miss or Mississippi State to do would be to lose, so they can earn a bye week and enter the playoffs at full strength.

Losing a game earns a bye week? I haven’t seen logic this twisted since….Why, since the BCS. Wasn’t the CFB playoff supposed to fix this type of nonsense?

Soothsayers

hqdefaultIf we, as college football fans, are to ignore on-the-field results in favor of subjective opinions of committee members, then I suggest that these folks prove they can read the cards as well as they claim they can.

That’s what they’re asking us to do, right? They want us to believe they can look at film and read metrics the same way Miss Cleo reads tarot cards. Using mythical soothsayer powers, they can magically find the four “best teams”. Supposedly, this is a better system than picking the four teams most deserving based on actual results.

Don’t fall for it, folks. As college football fans, we need to call BS on the scam. If they’re so good at telling which teams are the best, I challenge them to prove it. I challenge ESPN Stats to publish the experts’ weekly picks for the second half of the season. Now that is a metric I’d like to see. I think that we’d all learn that their ability to find the “best” teams is a smoke and mirrors hoax.

BCS 2.0

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12 angry men.  (And 1 woman to rule them all.)

Let’s hope CFB Playoff Committee members have more common sense than ESPN’s experts. But, as of now, I’m worried the playoff is going to be BCS 2.0, with controversial dysfunction picking up where it left off.

The key takeaway from most who participated in the mock selection process is how completely subjective it is. “It’s a beauty contest,” said David Pollack.

This is what I was afraid of: repeating the mistakes of the past. The thing that disturbs me the most is the multitude of experts who refer to conference championships as “tie breaker” criteria.

All ten conferences have eleven or twelve games to determine, on-the-field, the best team to represent their respective conferences. We should respect these on-the-field resumes, and not subjectively trump actual results with committee votes based on preconceptions, intuition, and twisted statistics.

Conference championships matter, dammit!

A Bird In the Hand

At ESPN, Dwight Schrute would fit right in.

Dwight Schrute would fit right in at ESPN.

Many of us SEC fans devalue conference championships because we’re greedy and like the idea of having two teams in the playoff. A word of warning to fellow fans: In the long run, this greed will bite us in the ass.

Don’t underestimate the amount of SEC resentment permeating through the rest of the country. There will be years where we’re on the outside looking in. A two or even three loss SEC champion could find itself vying for a playoff spot against undefeated teams in other conferences (i.e. those teams who are winning the beauty contest). It’s in our best interests to set the precedent now that conference championships matter. Otherwise, the SEC will one day find itself on the outside looking in.

Say So

Ideally, conference championships should be treated as the quarter final round, and the four team playoff as the semi-final round. But CFB isn’t that clean. There are five ‘power’ conferences, five lessor conferences, and independents. Additionally, not all conferences have championship games that can be treated as quarter finals.

Therefore, without question, there is a need for an informed committee to narrow the contenders down to four based on subjective criteria. However, among those criterion, conference championships should be given high priority. Anyone who says championships are only considered as “tie breakers”, is failing the sport.

Rece Davis said, “If you want to make conference championships a criteria, say so.”

This post is me saying so, Rece Davis. As one of the most respected CFB experts in the country, as the one who chaired the mock committee meeting, and as one who had Jeff Long’s ear, you should have said so too. Why are you not saying so now?

Is it the “best teams” or “best resume”? Should conference championships matter? There’s nobody better qualified to answer these questions than you and your fellow sports analysts.

Committee members should “say so” too.  I’d like to think at least one person out of thirteen shares my point of view.

I’m still waiting for him or her to speak up and say so.

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One comment

  1. […] I skewered ESPN‘s football analysts for their four-team playoff choice in a mock selection committee meeting. […]

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