Friday, January 23, 2015

What if the ACC abolished divisions?

Now that we finally have a playoff system, one of the more heated debates in college football now is the determination of a conference champion.  While the Big 12 is trying to change the 12 team requirement for a championship game (even though they play 9 conference games and a full round robin schedule), the ACC has floated the idea of doing away with divisions and just picking the "best two teams" in the conference.

A problem that faces the ACC is that most teams in one division rarely ever play a team from the opposite division.  With only 8 conference games, and 7 teams in either division, there is only two non-division spots left on the schedule.  Since the ACC has yet to abolish the permanent crossover rival, there is only one rotating spot in the schedule that allows a Coastal team to face off against an Atlantic foe.  It is literally impossible for a student-athlete in the ACC to face every single team during their eligibility.  (Technically, it could be done with the conference championship game, but it's highly unlikely.)

Obviously, the biggest obstacle to just getting rid of divisions are the rivalry games.  While it's easy to say, just rotate among the other 13 teams, there are some games that need to be played every year.  Therefore, some pairings should be protected.

The simplest scenario would be for each team to have 3 protected rivalries, leaving 5 rotating spots.  This would ensure playing every team in the conference in a home and away series in any given four year span.

We tried working with 2 or 4 protected games, but the math for the rotating spots was starting to get messy.

Below is a chart of teams that we think would work out.  Some matchups were easy to determine (Virginia Tech/UVA, Miami/Florida State, the 3 main North Carolina schools).  A few teams got thrown together because none were left.  And there are a few matchups that are just hypothetical possibilities, often based on geography.  We decided that if all else were equal, a school would prefer to play the closest teams on a yearly basis to conserve their travel budget.

Teams in bold are the ones that we feel would be locks.  All other teams are our own conjecture.

Boston College -- Syracuse, Pitt, Wake Forest
Clemson -- Georgia Tech, Florida State, NC State
Duke -- UNC, Wake Forest, NC State
Florida State -- Miami, Clemson, Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech -- Clemson, UVA, Florida State
Louisville -- Pitt, Miami, Virginia Tech
Miami -- Florida State, Virginia Tech, Louisville
UNC -- Duke, UVA, NC State
NC State -- Duke, Clemson, UNC
Pitt -- Louisville, Boston College, Syracuse
Syracuse -- Boston College, Wake Forest, Pitt
UVA -- Virginia Tech, UNC, Georgia Tech
Virginia Tech -- UVA, Miami, Louisville
Wake Forest -- Syracuse, Duke, Boston College

Since Louisville is so new to the conference (and doesn't even have history with the teams that left the Big East in the first expansion), they were the hardest to pick.  Wake Forest was also difficult, because outside of Duke, they just don't seem to have any preferred rivals.

BC, Syracuse, and Pitt would most likely prefer staying up in the north against each other.

It might seem as a surprise to not protect the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech rivalry, but honestly, I think Bud Foster would prefer it this way.  As intense as that game gets, I don't think either side would mind dropping down to only half as often.  For VT fans, it would be a welcome trade to get a chance to play Clemson and Florida State on a more regular basis.

Personally, I like the idea of divisions.  There is less ambiguity in the standings.  You know that the two teams in the championship game have played all other 12 teams between the two of them.  Without divisions, it's possible that the top two teams might not have played two or three teams at all.

That being said, I still would like to see the divisions tweaked.  Not a straight geographic split, as that would just give us Old Big East vs. Old ACC, and no one wants that.  Shift a couple of teams around and get rid of the permanent crossover, to allow for 2 rotating spots a year.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Final thoughts on this year's Playoff

Quick thoughts on the teams in, and just out of the CFP.

1.) Alabama -- After it was all said and done, they clearly had the weakest justifications for being in the CFP.  I had a feeling that they would have to lose a game at some point, but I could never bring myself to pick the next game as being the loss.  Also, their main reason for being included was the lack of any good reason to not include them.

2.) Oregon -- Every other year, their sheer arrogance would bite them in the butt before the postseason.  Now, it might just be a case that it doesn't matter how many games it takes to win a national championship, it's always going to be one too many for the Ducks.

3.) Florida State -- You couldn't leave the only undefeated Power 5 team out of the playoffs.  That being said, I think if they were only 12-1 at the end of the season, they would not have made the cut.

4.) Ohio State -- Obviously the committee made the right choice here.  I don't care if it was their 12th or 13th game, but they beat Wisconsin 59-0 in their conference championship game with a third string quarterback.

5.) Baylor -- And that is why you don't lose to the couch burning cousins.  (Although I think if it's a toss up between Ohio State and Baylor, Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech while Baylor lost to West Virginia.  VT > WVU, so Ohio State wins.)

6.) TCU -- It would have been fun to see these guys in, but their biggest stumbling block was not Ohio State or the Big 12's inability to follow the rules and declare a champion.  It was the fact that they lost to Baylor, another team that ended at 11-1.  If they had lost any other game on their schedule, or if Baylor had lost an additional game, then maybe there could be an argument.  The biggest mistake that the committee made was ranking TCU #3 in the penultimate poll, because that made all of the perceptions worse the following week.