USA TODAY US Edition
CFP fates for Pac-12, ACC take focus
College football’s Week 11 results provided plenty of fodder for analysis – not to mention overanalysis, hyperanalysis, psychoanalysis and any other type of analysis you want to throw in there.
The immediate reactions can be somewhat over the top, so a day or so might be needed to reflect and reassess. That’s the sort of perspective we try to provide in this space.
Speaking of analysis, we’ll use one of our top five in this edition of college football overreactions to address a pet peeve that is becoming all too pervasive on broadcasts. We’ll follow with our usual weekly snapshot of the state of affairs in the sport. ⬤ The Pac-12 killed its own playoff hopes.
Speaking of Oregon, yes, that loss to Washington and UCLA’s even less forgivable loss to Arizona didn’t do the conference any favors. All the Pac-12’s playoff eggs are now in the basket of Southern Cal, ironically one of the schools with a foot out the door.
The Trojans, at least, have a path. They must get to 12-1 by winning this weekend’s head-to-head showdown with UCLA to secure a spot in the conference championship game, pick up another Top 25 win the following week against Notre Dame, then win the league title against most likely the Utah-Oregon winner.
It’s a tough closing stretch, and even that wouldn’t guarantee USC a place in the top four, as the Trojans will likely be in a scramble with several other oneloss teams. ⬤ The ACC champion can still make the playoff.
Clemson or North Carolina would at least be considered, assuming both still have just one loss when they meet for the conference crown.
The Tigers would figure to be considered more strongly by the committee, whose early sets of rankings this season belie the claim that results from past seasons have no bearing on the current year’s evaluations.
The Tar Heels at 12-1 would have a similar résumé, but whoever prevails in the ACC will probably still need help to crack the top four in the form of the field
of one-loss candidates being thinned.
⬤ Analytics are ruining football. It’s become far too predictable. Every time a key coaching decision of whether to go for a fourth-down conversion or attempt a two-point try presents itself, someone in the booth chimes in with some variation of “Well, that’s what the analytics tell you to do there.”
Should the decision go awry, or sometimes even before the outcome is determined, said booth announcer will add, “Yeah, I’m not a big fan of analytics.”
Second-guessing bad coaching decisions from the press box has been part
of the industry since time immemorial, but it’s become a lazy announcing trope to use the catch-all term of analytics to critique such decisions without delving into the specifics of a particular situation.
It is true that modern computers can comb through a lot more data and provide coaches with general probabilities of success for given conditions. These are useful tools, but they do not in and of themselves make the decisions.
Often, like TCU’s fourth-down completion that sealed the win against Texas, come down to knowing one’s personnel and exploiting favorable matchups.
The so-called analytics help with the weighing of risk and reward, but a sound decision doesn’t always mean the right play will be called or executed properly by the players.
Yeah, sorry, Oregon, which failed on a fourth down in its territory late in the fourth quarter that set up Washington’s game-winning score. There’s more material there for broadcast analysis that actually provides value to the viewer than simply blaming analytics. ⬤ The Big Ten should cancel its championship game.
We already know the Big Ten East will come down to Ohio State and Michigan.
Awaiting the winner of that megashowdown will be – who knows? At the moment, there’s a four-way tie for the lead in the West, and none of the four can win the division on its own.
Regardless, either the Buckeyes or Wolverines will enter the championship game as heavy favorites against the West representative. But the East champion won’t have much to play for in the game other than avoiding a catastrophic loss.
The game will be played, but perhaps the conference should have abandoned divisions this year. ⬤ Oklahoma and Texas should rethink that whole SEC thing.
You aren’t likely to see many tears shed around the campuses of the schools remaining in the Big 12 over the current plight of the Sooners and Longhorns.
Oklahoma sits in ninth place in the 10-team conference after Saturday’s loss at West Virginia, and Texas is squarely in the middle of the pack and on the outside of the championship hunt after coming up short against TCU.
Neither the SEC nor the two incoming programs can change their decisions at this point without a ridiculous number of lawyers getting involved. But none of the parties will elicit much sympathy from the Big 12 offices.