By Vince Ferrara / @VinceSports
John Wilkerson and I caught-up with terrific ESPN college football insider Brad Edwards to discuss the committee’s final selection of teams and rankings for the College Football Playoff.
Brad is an insider on the college football playoff for ESPN, ESPN Radio and ESPN.com, as he was for many years when the BCS was used in college football.
You should listen to the entire interview below because he made so many interesting, enlightening points.
Did the committee pick the right four teams? “I think they got the right four,” Edwards said. “Based on what they were created to do.”
He made the clearest distinction I’ve heard from any analyst, committee chair or reporter on the meaning of the word “best” when the committee references “the four best teams.”
“The problem is, they confuse people by always saying they want the ‘four best teams.’ They have shown most of the five years that that’s not what they’re trying to do. They’re not trying to get the ‘four best,’ or at least, ‘best’ as most people would define it. I think most people would look at ‘best’ as, ‘Who’s more likely to win if these teams played each other on a neutral field? Who’s the better team of the two?’ Or, in the case of four, “Which four are going to win most of the time against all the others?’ I think if that’s the way you’re looking at it, then Georgia clearly is one of those teams. But, do they deserve to be in? I think that’s what the committee is giving us. They’re giving is four most deserving.”
How often have we heard the “best” versus the “most deserving” argument on what the committee is doing? Well, the committee wants to satisfy both, by telling you it’s the “best four teams” but using the parameters and guidelines that direct them to “most deserving.” Their definition of “best” isn’t how most of us would define it. The committee is fine with this misleading approach that tries to play both sides of the fence and centers around the word “best.”
So why hasn’t the committee clarified this to everyone before, like Edwards clearly did?
“I think that they want to try and convince people that they are getting the ‘four best teams.’ Their attempts to fool the public here is to try and define ‘best’ in a different way. Whether it’s Rob Mullens, Kirby Hocutt or Jeff Long as the committee chair before, they always, when asked this question, they start to explain that ‘best’ is some combination of how good you look along with the strength of schedule and did you win your conference championship and head-to-head. I just have to tell you, from my perspective, if you say you want the ‘best four teams,’ that’s the end of the story. If you start to add criteria to what it means to be better than someone then you’re no longer interested in better. It becomes something else. It becomes some sort of hybrid of ‘best’ and whatever. That’s the problem. They want to say ‘best’ but they also want to reinforce this idea that conference championships are important. Just because you’re the ‘best’ team in your league doesn’t mean anything as far as how you stack-up against someone in another league. That’s the biggest flaw in all this to me.”
I think many media members, especially on the national level, that have been invited into their mock selection process, see the process through the committee’s lens and with their message of “four best teams.” However, the truth is, it’s “four most deserving” that the committee calls “best” to try and please those that feel it should be “best” by most people’s definition. Those philosophies however, are very different, as Brad Edwards outlined. That’s no slight on those in the media that attended those mock meetings. I would certainly go as well. I just think it would be helpful to me or anyone else moving forward to go in to that mock selection process with the understanding and clarity of what the committee is attempting to ultimately do and how they defend it.
He made another very interesting point that I hadn’t heard anyone express before about the process.
“The whole schedule strength thing bothers me as well, which is that the way they look at schedule strength…not only are we not allowed to see the numbers that they’re using, but whatever schedule strength they are using is being calculated from the perspective of an average team. How difficult is it for an average team to manage that schedule? What they need to be looking at is how difficult is it for a Top 5 team or a typical Top 25 team to manage that schedule, not how difficult it is for a team, say like Vanderbilt. That’s not what you should be looking at here if you’re trying to decide who the ‘four best teams’ are.”
Clearly they aren’t trying to pick what most us define as the “four best teams.” If they were, then there would be more ramifications for the Power 5 schools for not scheduling tougher non-conference games. The system is in place for the most deserving “big schools” to be called the “best” and selected for the playoff.
A little more transparency to the fans would be appreciated.
Brad Edwards had much more to say. Listen to that entire terrific interview on SportsTalk on 99.1 The Sports Animal in Knoxville below.