Posted: 8:59 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
By Brandon Larrabee
Your most comprehensive weekly look at the standings that drive the college football postseason, from the rankings themselves to bowl projections to how things would stack up if the playoffs were already here
The College Football Playoff is coming next year, and it might be a year too late. Between Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Ohio State, and Oregon, there is an undefeated frontrunner in each major conference that will likely be favored in all of its remaining games. All five of those won't run the table, but three might.
Anyway, the time to get ready for the CFP is now. The selection process isn't too difficult once you wrap your mind around it, but it is less straightforward than the BCS. So, I'm going to use the weekly BCS announcements as an opportunity to mock up what things would look like if we had the playoff here this year.
I'm following four guidelines here:
As of right now, there are plenty of spots for at large teams, which wasn't the case a year ago. The reason is because three of the four conference champs that are under contract to go to the Rose and Sugar Bowls are in the semifinals, so they won't steal at large spots away in the so-called host bowls.
The CFP leadership has told us that the semifinal spots go according to what is geographically advantageous to the top seeds. Given the two sites available, that would have to mean Bama is going to the Sugar Bowl. With Ohio State being No. 4, it goes to New Orleans to set up a sportswriter's heaven matchup of Nick Saban and Urban Meyer.
Here is where it gets tricky. These two teams are very close in the standings right now. If Oregon edges FSU for second in the committee's eyes, then this game is "geographically advantageous" for No. 2. If FSU edges out Oregon for second, then it's absolutely not.
There really isn't an option here to put these two in the Sugar Bowl given who No. 1 is, so I wouldn't be surprised if in a real-life scenario like this, the team in Oregon's shoes would get the nod for second every time possible. That way, the committee wouldn't have to explain why No. 3 has the geographic advantage over No. 2.
By contract, the Orange Bowl will always have an ACC team when it's not a semifinal. Because the champ is unavailable, it gets the next-highest ranked ACC team—Miami (FL). The other spot in the non-semifinal Orange goes to the highest-ranked team out of Notre Dame, the SEC, and the Big Ten. In this week's BCS standings, that's Missouri.
From here on out, the selections are more of an art than a science. There are two more teams guaranteed a spot: Big 12 champion Baylor, and the highest-rated champion of the "Group of Five" mid-major conferences. The latter comes out to be Fresno State in this methodology. From there, as far as any of us know, the committee will go down the rankings and pull out the next four highest-ranked teams to fill out the at-large pool. Those teams would be Stanford, Clemson, Texas Tech, and Auburn.
Here are my guesses as to how this grouping would shake out.
Host Bowl West
Group of Five
This one seems to be pretty straightforward. The two teams from out west would play in the western-most bowl.
Host Bowl Central
Big 12 Champ
This is where it becomes a judgment call. This pool of teams for the host bowls has two teams from Texas in Baylor and Texas Tech. I am assuming that the CFP will want to avoid regular season rematches, so I am not projecting the Bears and Red Raiders to end up in the Cotton Bowl together. I give Baylor priority as the projected champion, so it gets to play here. Its opponent will be the next-closest available team, Auburn.
Host Bowl East
Clemson is the easternmost team, so it goes to the easternmost bowl. Texas Tech, having been bumped from the Cotton, ends up here too.
Doing this kind of projection this early is mostly fruitless; I would expect four or five of these teams to end up outside the final mock playoff projection at the end of the year. I made this up to help folks understand the selection process, and hopefully after doing it both this year and next, at least the readership of this site will be ready when this happens for real next year.