Is the College Football Playoff better than the dearly-departed Bowl Championship Series?
In a word, hell yes!
Do you hear all the jostling and politicking for a playoff spot by the coaches and athletic directors? No? Because it’s not happening, not yet anyway. That in itself is already a huge improvement over the BCS era.
Ten years ago this week, I launched BCSGuru.com because I was frustrated by the media’s and public’s ignorance of the BCS standings formula and how it worked. Over time, I became an expert at projecting the standings, with an overall accuracy of over 95 percent. I correctly predicted the two teams that would meet in the BCS title game every year until the demise of the BCS after the 2013 season.
In latter part of the BCS era, politicking and jockeying were a necessity because two-thirds of the standings were controlled by the voters, who in fact determined the final matchup every year. The computers served as mere distractions and window dressing, as they proved to have no influence over who got picked for the title game.
The smartest thing the CFP, now in its third year of existence, has done is to ditch the polls. While you may have objections to a dozen people sitting in the room deciding who should make the four-team playoff, this model is infinitely better than what essentially became mob rule in the BCS era.
The CFP committee members won’t meet for another three weeks, which also allows them to see the totality of the season’s picture better when they do get together. That’s also a huge upgrade from the BCS era when the voters started their year with preseason polls and stubbornly stuck to them even when facts on the ground no longer aligned with their preconceived notions.
So the best thing about the CFP is that it renders college football (mostly) politics-free. And in this contentious election season, that’s a not-so-small favor we can all be thankful for.
Game of the Week
Alabama (-13) at Tennessee, 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The Third Saturday in October is a rivalry that’s noted for its streaks. After ending a 12-game skid against Florida in The Third Saturday in September, Tennessee hopes to do the same to its nine-game losing streak to Alabama. But this is a much taller order considering that the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide have steamrolled every opposition this season while the Vols are coming off a heartbreaking OT loss to Texas A&M. Tennessee has gone 5-1 and reached its top-10 ranking by rallying from double-digit deficits four times, but don’t expect that to happen against Nick Saban, who’s never lost to the Vols since he arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007.
Also keep an eye on
Ohio State (-10.5) at Wisconsin, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
By now everyone is expecting the Michigan-Ohio State showdown in late November to decide the Big Ten’s playoff representative, but Wisconsin will have a lot to say about all of that. After hanging close with Michigan in a 14-7 loss, the Badgers represent the only realistic challenge for the Buckeyes before their date with the Wolverines. Wisconsin also most likely will win the Big Ten West, meaning win or lose Saturday, it might get another shot at the Michigan-Ohio State winner in the conference championship game.
Nebraska (-3.5) at Indiana, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN2
Even though Nebraska is 5-0 and may challenge Wisconsin for the Big Ten West title, it can ill afford to look past Indiana. Coming off a 38-17 loss at Ohio State, the Hoosiers are a gritty group that can grind it out with anyone. With games against Wisconsin and Ohio State in back-to-back weeks still coming up, the Cornhuskers must handle all their business against underdogs to have any shot at a trip to the Big Ten title game.
Player to watch
West Virginia (-1) at Texas Tech, noon ET, FS1
Pat Mahome II’s namesake father was a 12-year veteran in Major League Baseball as a pitcher, but even he must have been impressed at how much his kid quarterback is throwing for Texas Tech. In last week’s 44-38 loss to Kansas State, the younger Mahomes aired it out 62 times for 504 yards. He leads the nation in passing yards with 2,274, just ahead of his former teammate Davis Webb (now at Cal). To hand West Virginia its first loss of the season, Texas Tech will need Air Mahomes to chuck it around with all his might.