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Saturday, November 15, 2014

November to Remember

You never forget your first time.

This November (ok, technically the first poll dropped in late October) major college football is engaging, for the first time, in a run up to a playoff.  Some critics claimed that adding a playoff, even a barely-a-playoff playoff like the current four team configuration, would cheapen the regular season, but at least so far, the opposite seems to be true: Teams that would have been counted out in previous season have legitimate reason to believe that if things break the right way, they may find themselves in the final four.

Part of this is through the use of the committee, which no one's certainly figured out yet, and we may never since human subjectivity injects randomness. While no poll matters until the final one in early December, each rendition provides more insight into what the committee values. And moreso than with two final teams, folks pay particular attention to the "if the season ended today" top four.

There was some consternation when the first poll came out with three SEC West teams among the top four, but that would, of course, work itself out, as it may completely when Mississippi State plays Alabama. This past week, a bone of contention was that an undefeated FSU dropped to third behind a one loss Oregon team, which rose to #2. The order of these two, if the season ended today (ITSET needs to become a common shorthand) would change absolutely nothing but jersey color - and we've seen FSU go color-on-color in last year's ACC title game - as the two would still meet in a "neutral" site game on the west coast in the Rose Bowl. In fact one could argue FSU may fare better at #4 - while the Sugar Bowl would also be closer to home for Mississippi State, it's also a far more manageable trip from Tallahassee.

Another sticking point is TCU vs. Baylor. If the two win out, both will be Big 12 co-champions. Baylor owns the head-to-head over TCU following an overtime victory over the Frogs, and yet at least at present, TCU has the edge in the polls. It seems the committee sets out to reward strength of schedule, and TCU's is stronger, though the variance really hinges upon one game. Both play nine conference games in the Big 12, and both met SMU - which, schedule strength aside, ought to continue, as it's a logical in state (in metro for TCU) and former Southwest Conference game for each. Once you discount each school's FCS opponent, the difference lies in TCU playing Minnesota as Baylor played Buffalo. This puts two criteria at odds with one another: All things being equal, which carries more weight, schedule strength or head-to-head?

We'll keep learning more as the season marches on. Speaking of marching on, any word yet on if the playoff games and the national championship will feature a proper halftime?
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