By now, most sports fans know that the “Final Four” of college football was selected last week, and the teams that will play for the mythical national championship presented by the corrupt College Football Playoff committee are Clemson (the defending champs), Louisiana State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma.
The good news is that the CFP got the four teams right: Each team is a power-conference champion, while three of the teams have undefeated records in doing so. The Sooners’ one-loss record was the best left over to take from the power schools, although some may argue that other one-loss champions in the Football Bowl Subdivision also deserve a chance, as Oklahoma has been selected three times prior for the CFP without ever making it to the final.
So what about the one-loss conference champs Appalachian State, Boise State, and Memphis? Could they fare any better as the No. 4 seed against the top seed in the CFP? Probably not, based on advanced sabermetrics used to gauge team quality. Fair enough …
Except that the CFP certainly didn’t use those same metrics to seed Clemson, Louisiana State, Ohio State, and Oklahoma, did they? Of course not. The CFP did what it usually does: fiddle with things to get the best possible financial outcome, which always involves making sure the SEC profit wheel is greased well (never mind the annual Heisman Trophy nonsense, which we will explore another day here).
To wit, three key metric systems highly respected by everyone came up with this seeding order for the four final teams, with the overall rankings in each respective system shown in parenthesis, allowing for teams that did not win their conference to be included still:
- ESPN: Ohio State (1), Clemson (2), LSU (3), Oklahoma (9)
- Football Outsiders: Ohio State (1), Clemson (2), LSU (4), Oklahoma (7)
- Sagarin: Ohio State (1), Clemson (2), LSU (3), Oklahoma (5)
What stands out here is that these three systems—the first that has had a hand in shaping 21st-century college football for better or worse; the second representing the most advanced analysis possible today; and the third a long-time mainstay dating back to the Bowl Championship Series heyday in college football—all ranked the four teams in the same order.
Yet the CFP committee put LSU at No. 1 against the No. 4 Sooners, in order to (hopefully?) ensure another title game appearance for the SEC and its cash-spilling fan bases.
Meanwhile, the two best teams in the country—according to ESPN, “In the past decade, only the 2013 Florida State team that won the national championship had a higher average margin of victory than this year’s Ohio State team entering the postseason. This year’s Clemson comes in a close third on that list”—have to play each other in the other semifinal.
Where is the logic here? Oh, yes, there is none, except the almighty dollar. Even ESPN in its shameless pimping and shilling for the SEC couldn’t fudge its own sabermetric system to lie that much—not that anyone took notice.
Let’s revisit: Oklahoma is clearly the weakest of the teams in the final four. The Sooners are 0-3 in CFP semifinals. Logic and metrics suggest that Oklahoma will lose its semifinal again to whichever team it plays.
So the CFP set it up—against overwhelmingly clear statistical data trends—so that LSU would get to play the Sooners, while the two teams that top the sabermetric rankings have to play in the other semifinal.
Clearly, the CFP strategy here is that LSU wins, and whichever team emerges from the other semifinal is tired, and then the SEC can win another mythical title and keep claiming nonsense about how great it is—so the gullible fans in the South keep spending money on the sport.
This is not hard to follow, except that clearly it is for too many fans around the country that don’t understand how this all works. The corruption in college football still exists, and it is very real, as borne out by data.
[There are some obvious correlations to made here politically, but this is not a political column. Draw your own conclusions about the rejection of data in favor of the financial sheering of the sheep.]
Does everything always go as planned? No, but the CFP—after years of the same illogical machination by the BCS—certainly wants to get the odds in its favor, and it’s sad how too many fans and media outlets are complicit in this annual fraud known as college football.
Will it ever end? In the end, it’s up to the people spending the money on the sport. They and they alone decide its fate, and in America, when people spend money, they expect the results they want—not the results that are honest and transparent.