Sunday morning, November 30, 2014, as I was listening to the College Sports Station on Sirius/XM on my way to the golf course, a fellow named Jeff Rickard was discussing TCU vs. Baylor in the upcoming College Football Playoff rankings. He favored Baylor because they beat TCU head to head. “I might be old school,” he said, “but I think you play the games for a reason.”
No, Mr. Rickard, you are not old school. You are lazy. Intellectually lazy. Too lazy to take consider all relevant information.
Not that you are alone. I have heard many other commentators make the same lazy, non-analysis analysis in the past few days. To name a few, they include people I thought would know batter: Jerry Palm (who should maybe stick to basketball), Rod Gilmore (who claims to have attended Stanford and Cal and has a law degree), Rece Davis, Mark Packer, Jack Arute, Greg McElroy (an ex-jock), and a guy named Taylor Zarzour.
Here is what you guys are refusing to consider:
1. There are three kinds of head-to-head wins. It is not one size fits all. These are:
a. The visiting team wins variety. A lot of weight should be placed on this one, because winning on the Road is hard. The strongest head to head win of the season is Arizona at Oregon, yet no one is claiming Oregon should be bypassed in favor of Arizona. No one is suggesting that the PAC-12 forego its “championship” game this week because Arizona has already defeated the Ducks. And isn’t it strange that LSU’s Road win at Alabama did not keep the Crimson Tide out of the BCS Pretend Championship game in 2011.
b. The neutral field variety. This type is, likewise, worthy of considerable weight, though less than a Road win. It is the truest test of two teams mano a mano. Had Baylor beaten TCU at a neutral site--say, Jerry World in Arlington--its claim to a ranking higher than TCU’s would be considerably stronger.
c. The Home team wins variety. Ho-freakin’-hum. The Home team should win a game between comparable teams. Rarely should it be given any weight at all. Unless the game is a rout, it should be disregarded. In Baylor’s case, its win on a last second field goal at Home could even be considered a negative. But certainly not a positive. Who in his right mind would think Baylor would have won this game in Fort Worth?
2. The Committee’s task is not to compare Baylor and TCU. It is not to decide the Big 12 champion. There is no slot in the Playoff reserved for the Big 12 Champion, just as there is no SEC, ACC, Big 10, or PAC-12 slot. The Committee’s job is to compare Baylor to every other team in the country. Its job is to compare TCU to every other team in the country.
The game between these two particular teams is simply one game to consider out of an entire season: just as Ole Miss beating Alabama was just one game; Arizona over Oregon was just one game; and just as Virginia Tech over Ohio St was only one game.
Why, then, is TCU’s loss to a Top 10 team on the Road--the best loss of any team in the mix for the Playoff--mindlessly cited by so many pundits as a reason to keep them out of the running? Wait, did I say mindlessly? That’s a clue.
3. Actually, Mr. Rickard is correct in saying, “You play the games for a reason.”
Precisely.There is a reason they play the games—plural. They don’t simply play one game and say, ”That is all we need to know.” Alabama has played games other than at Ole Miss; Oregon has played games other than vs. Arizona; Oho St has played games other than vs. Virginia Tech. Baylor and TCU have played games other than the one against each other.
Even if the decision were between Baylor and TCU (it’s not), there is one and only one game that differentiates the two teams, and it is not Baylor’s Home field, last second victory over the Frogs. It is the game they both played AT West Virginia. TCU won that game. Baylor didn’t. If there is a trump card anywhere in this equation, it is that TCU won a game that Baylor lost.
In conclusion: Here is hoping the Committee does its job properly and studies the entire body of work of every team that has earned the right to be considered.
Here is hoping that the Committee does not take the lazy way out and allow one game to negate every other piece of information at your disposal.
Not because doing so is to TCU’s advantage or Baylor’s advantage, or anyone else’s advantage. But because thinking is better than a knee-jerk reaction.