The World Of College Football

I have a problem with the four teams selected for the CFP this year – – and it has nothing to do with the widespread debate over Alabama being put in the tournament while Ohio State is left out of the tournament.  I have heard all the arguments offered on the four-bazillion college football analysis programs on ESPN and ESPN2 and ESPN34 and the SEC Network and the Big 10 Network and – you get the idea.  I understand; the two teams are very close in terms of “deserving” a slot in the CFP and I also get the point that all the bloviating on a TV set or behind a radio microphone will change exactly nothing.  Alabama is in; Ohio State is not in; deal with it.

My problem is Auburn.  If you want to play the “review of the résumé game”, consider this:

  1. Alabama is in; Auburn is out; Auburn beat Alabama on the field a week ago.
  2. Georgia is in; Auburn is out; Auburn and Georgia played twice and split the two games.  Auburn toasted Georgia and won by 23 points 3 weeks ago; Georgia dominated Auburn and won by 21 points 3 days ago.  One is in and one is out…

It sure appears to me as if Auburn and Georgia are equal.  Yes, I know that Auburn now has 3 losses on its dance card and Georgia has only 1.  Nonetheless, these two teams have played one another twice in the last 3 weeks and at the end of 8 quarters of football, the point differential is 2 points.

There is another aspect of this situation that is illuminating.  Many folks have jumped to the conclusion that the way to resolve this problem is to expand the CFP to 8 teams.  Yes, that would get rid of the agita over who is ranked #4 and in the tournament vis á vis who is ranked #5 and is not in the tournament.  There are two problems with this suggested expansion:

  1. It merely transfers the angst over who is in and who is out from the “four-five debate” to the “eight-nine debate”.  You know this will be the result here simply because in the basketball tournament where there are 68 invitees, there is an annual wringing of hands over who should have been invited and who should not have been invited.
  2. It will render at least some – if not most – of the existing conference championship games moot.  Note please that Ohio State is ranked #5 and Wisconsin is ranked #6 in the final rankings.  That means both of them would be in an 8-team tournament field; that fact would have taken much if not all the “edge” off of last weekend’s game between the two teams.

Back in January 2017, I posted here my plan to “reinvent college football”.  I started out that rant by saying that my plan would never happen; nonetheless, it is as good an idea as what exists now.  Here is the link to that proposal if you want to refresh your memory.

I believe it was Scott Van Pelt on the “Midnite SportsCenter” show who said that there was some justification for Alabama’s inclusion in the CFP based on the Las Vegas odds posted for the ultimate playoff winner.  Alabama may be the #4 seed, but Las Vegas has them at the shortest odds to win it all at 2-1.  This is a bogus argument.

Bookmakers do not set odds based on their predictions of who will win and who will not.  Bookmakers set odds based on their predictions on how the public will bet on the games involved; the bookmakers want their book to be “balanced”.  What they want – and usually do not get – is for the money bet by the public to be distributed in such a way that the book will make a profit no matter the outcome.  That is why “the vig” exists; that is why the odds on all four teams in the CFP are set such that the payoff is lower than it would be in a pari-mutuel situation.  The Las Vegas oddsmakers are not predicting an Alabama victory here; they are predicting that more money will be wagered on Alabama than on the other three teams.

Switching to another aspect of college football news at this time of year, the college football coaching carousel is still going round and round.  Let me make a few comments about some of the movement:

  • Kevin Sumlin was fired at Texas A&M after 6 years and a record of 51-26.  He will be replaced by Jimbo Fisher from Florida State.  You may think that Sumlin got some sort of a raw deal after winning two-thirds of his games with the Aggies but do not shed crocodile tears for him.  Reports say that he will get $10.4M in buyout money and that the lump-sum has to be in his bank account within 60 days of his termination.  Moreover, there is no offset clause in the deal meaning that if Sumlin gets another job, he still gets to keep the entire $10.4M.  Kudos to Sumlin’s agent here…
  • Dan Mullen took the job at Florida leaving Mississippi State looking for a replacement.  This looks to me to be only a small step up the college football food chain, but Mullen may have two motivating factors at work here.  First, he used to be an assistant at Florida from 2005 through 2008.  Second, by moving from the SEC West to the SEC East, he will be in a situation where he does not have to play Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M every year.
  • Scott Frost led UCF to an unbeaten record in the AAC this year and then left to take the job at Nebraska where he played his college football back in the 90s.  That is a big step up on the college football coaching ladder; Frost will replace Mike Riley at Nebraska after Riley led the Cornhuskers to a 19-19 record over a three-year span.  Brad Dickson of the Omaha World Herald has this to say about Riley’s departure:

“Nebraska fired Mike Riley Saturday morning. My gosh, you’d think somebody at The World-Herald could have predicted this.

“Actually, the following correctly predicted Riley’s termination: World-Herald writers; local sportscasters; national media; Punxsutawney Phil; a psychic octopus; Miss Cleo …”

Let me make one final observation about college coaching before wrapping up today.  I am not trying to be a Debbie Downer here; but in order to maintain my Curmudgeon Credentials, I feel the need to point something out.  Jim Harbaugh has been the coach at Michigan for 3 seasons now; Michigan has plenty of history with several Big 10 schools but when you boil it al down, Michigan has 2 rivalries that are bigger than all the others.  Those rivalries are Michigan State and Ohio State.  In Jim Harbaugh’s 3 seasons in Ann Arbor, Michigan’s record against those 2 big rivals is 1-5.  USA Today says that Harbaugh is the highest paid college football coach at $9M per year.  Hmmm…

Finally, Norman Chad writes a syndicated column where he adopts the persona of The Couch Slouch.  This week, he presents The sports fan’s gift guide for people you don’t care about”.  There are more than a couple of chuckles in the column and I commend it to your reading.  Here is the link:

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………