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“College Football Playoff Expansion Calls for Modified Evaluation System to Determine Contenders”

College Football Playoff Expansion Calls for Modified Evaluation System to Determine Contenders

As the College Football Playoff (CFP) field expands to 12 teams in the 2024 season, there is a growing need for a modified evaluation system to determine the contenders. The current four-team format has proven relatively successful in selecting the top teams, but with the expansion, the responsibility of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee has exponentially increased.

The selection committee has a deliberate process in place, using data and rounds of voting to determine the rankings. However, one issue that arises is the reliance on a team’s record against opponents ranked in the previous week’s top 25. This approach is flawed for two reasons. Firstly, it provides a dated snapshot of strength in the sport. Secondly, the number 25 is arbitrary and does not accurately reflect the line of demarcation for strength in modern college football.

To address this issue, the committee needs to expand its purview and eliminate biases of recency and “quality loss” syndrome. When teams with losses are judged against each other, it becomes evident that the current system of relying on “top-25 wins” as a measure of differentiation is flawed. Objective analysis from power ratings and efficiency ratings across the entire FBS landscape suggests that there is minimal difference between teams ranked 20th and 40th in the country.

To rectify this, the committee could consider adopting a system similar to college basketball’s NET ratings. This system expands the definition of quality wins beyond the committee’s own top 25 and reduces subjective impacts on rankings. While college football has moved away from computer-based systems since the BCS era, reintroducing objective data that is opponent-adjusted and tempo-adjusted could provide valuable insights.

Models like ESPN’s SP+, which offers a tempo-adjusted and opponent-adjusted rating of efficiency for every college football team, can be utilized by the committee to enhance their evaluation process. This model, developed by Bill Connelly, has been shown to closely mirror the committee’s rankings and can be extended to cover all 134 FBS teams. Incorporating objective data as a sorting tool would provide more transparency and lessen distrust in the committee’s process.

It is important to note that the committee should not be replaced entirely by models. The human element and subjective analysis are still crucial in determining the best teams. However, incorporating objective analysis would provide a more comprehensive evaluation and eliminate the reliance on “top-25 wins” as the sole indicator of strength in the sport.

As the College Football Playoff expands, it is essential for the evaluation process to evolve as well. While it doesn’t need to mirror college basketball’s NET rating system exactly, introducing more objective analysis will ensure a fairer selection of contenders. By utilizing available tools and data, the committee can make informed decisions and provide a more accurate representation of the top teams in college football.


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