CFP Breakdown: COVID creates conundrum for selection committee


On September 16, the Big Ten conference voted to reinstate the fall football season with an expected schedule of eight conference games. Not long after the Big Ten announcement, the Pac-12 conference released expected schedules featuring six regular-season games, along with the possibility of one additional game for the conference championship. 

Talks around the college football community have brought up concerns regarding the Big Ten and Pac-12 not playing enough games during the regular season to become eligible for the 2020 college football playoff. The Big Ten is set to debut their season on Friday, while the Pac-12 is starting at a much later date of November 6th. 

These concerns are founded in the Big Ten playing nine games as conference champions, the Pac-12 playing six games as conference champions, compared to the Big 12 and SEC playing eleven games as conference champions, and the ACC playing twelve games as conference champions. 

If two power five conferences were to become ineligible for the post-season playoffs, non-power five teams such as Brigham Young University (BYU), Southern Methodist University (SMU), and Cincinnati would statistically have higher chances of making the CFP compared to previous years. Assuming the playoff committee will place the ACC champion, the SEC champion, and potentially the Big 12 champion – depending on the team that comes out on top – in the four-team playoff, this scenario leaves room for either two teams from one conference to receive a playoff invite or a non-power five conference team to receive their first invitation to fill the final spot.

Notable Non-power five contender Rankings:

  1. Cincinnati BearCats 3-0 – Week 7 Game Postponed 
  2. SMU Mustangs 5-0 – Week 7 Won 37-34 against Tulane 
  3. BYU Cougars 5-0 – Week 7 Won 43-26 against Houston 

*Cincinnati will travel to SMU on Friday for a primetime matchup  

 The playoff committee typically ranks teams based on strength of schedule, results among common opponents, and head to head wins against top-10 teams. What can fans expect from the committee members when taking into consideration the number of games each team has played based on the conference? How does a Big- en champion who will play a maximum of nine games as conference champions stack up resume wise against a conference that will play eleven or twelve games? And how does the Pac-12 stack up against all other conferences with a maximum of seven games scheduled? 

Who would the committee take for the 3rd and 4th? 

 Scenario One:

  • Ohio State (Big-Ten) 9-0                                             
  • Oregon (Pac-12) 6-1
  • Oklahoma State (Big-12) 10-1
  • Cincinnati (AAC- Non-power five) 11-0 
  • Georgia (SEC) 9-2

 Scenario Two:

  • Ohio State (Big-Ten) 8-1
  • USC (Pac-12) 7-0
  • Oklahoma  (Big-12) 9-2
  • Cincinnati (AAC- Non-power five) 10-1 
  • Alabama (SEC) 9-2

Take into consideration the Big Ten and Pac-12 will play fewer games, so is an undefeated 9-0 or 8-1 Big-Ten champion better than a two-loss Big 12 champion? Or is a 7-0 or 6-1 Pac-12 champion better than the Big 12? Going by recent treatments of the Big 12, the committee would virtually turn away from the idea of placing a two-loss Big 12 champion into the playoffs because of the lack of competitiveness throughout the entire conference. 

This would be good news for the non-power five programs like BYU, SMU, and Cincinnati. But the worst-case scenario for the non-power five programs would be an Oklahoma State team staying undefeated and virtually locking up an automatic spot out of the Big 12 conference.  

If a team’s overall resume is part of the criteria for the playoff committee, a seven-game season for the Pac-12 champion would be rather repulsive compared to a one or two loss team from any other power-five or undefeated non-power-five program; who has played ten or more games. Week seven of the college football season has passed and the top two playoff spots are virtual locks by Clemson at the one seed and Alabama at two. What we don’t know is who will take the remaining two spots, because there are many contributing factors for determining who will round out the final two positions. 

As the season progresses,  legitimate title contenders will be examined by the manner in which they beat each individual opponent. This will result in the committee having to rely on a team’s dominance week-in and week-out in order to justify placing them into post-season playoffs, Especially if the team is coming out of a conference that is playing fewer games or a non-power five program. 

Christian Phillips Playoff Predictions: 

  1. Clemson 12-0
  2. Alabama 11-0
  3. Cincinnati 11-0
  4. Ohio State 9-0   

  1. Oregon 7-0 
  2. Oklahoma 9-2 

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