Well! That was a nice surprise Tuesday evening, as ESPN presented a College Football Playoff Top 25 pre-release show. It starred the usual cast of Jesse Palmer, Kirk Herbstreit, David Pollack, Joey Galloway, and Rece Davis as the host. The official College Football Playoff Rankings (CFP) will be released on November 24th, but until then the discussion has turned to how will the CFP committee decide who is in the top four.
Usually, the criteria are, strength of schedule (SOS), common opponents, overall record, head-to-head matchups, and conference championships. However, overall record will not be as applicable due to the coronavirus cutting teams schedules down, SOS will be different as teams have weaker schedules due to the virus, common opponents for some will differ as well due to teams only playing conference matchups this season, and conference championships will be different as we will see what conference truly have a chance and what conferences do not. The AAC (American Athletic Conference) has one team that could finally break through: Cincinnati, and the ACC has a new member, for one year only, in Notre Dame.
So where does that leave us if the criteria will be shifted and only parts of the original analysis for the top 4 can be used? That is where, the “eye test” comes into play. What is the eye test? It is the ability to judge a team and what their prospects are based on how their style of play looks to the committee. One example can be applied to the AP rankings from this weekend. Ohio St. looked dominant on the field and on the scoreboard. Justin Fields was almost perfect passing the ball and they won 52-17. Notre Dame, on the other hand, while still passing the eye test this weekend, did not pass it the week prior when they had trouble defeating Louisville in a 12-7 win at home. This resulted in Ohio St. passing Notre Dame and moving from 5th to 3rd, and the Irish dropping from 3rd to 4th.
While I disagree with some of the cast putting Georgia ahead of Notre Dame, especially when Georgia almost lost to Arkansas, a worse team than Louisville, I would agree that the eye test will need to be used, but not to the extent many should want. Inside the conferences, there will be head-to-head matchups that will result in the top 4 proving who they are. Notre Dame plays Clemson in a couple of weeks, Alabama and Georgia have played already, and we still may see a rematch of these two games in the conference title games. I do believe the eye test matters, but even with coronavirus interrupting our lives, I do not believe it will ruin the criteria that the CFP committee uses to rank teams.
The final questions are: Does a conference like the AAC or a team like BYU deserve a seat at the table this year or in the future? How does this apply to sports betting?
The first question can be answered with a resounding yes! Tulane began this discussion back in the late 1990s, Boise St continued the conversation, UCF pushed it further in the CFP era, and now this virus has legitimately opened the door for a Group of 5 team to finally breakthrough. I believe we can all admit that Cincinnati has been a top 10 team over the last two years. The record shows this bluntly with the Bearcats winning 11 games each time. BYU has also looked dominant throughout this year and sits at 6-0. This season is extremely different, but I am one to believe that our National Champion should not sit at three or four losses. That is why we have not even seen a two loss team enter the Playoff. The margins are razar thin for being in the top 4, and I believe that if a few teams slip up BYU could and should find their way into the field and it will only take one or two for the Bearcats to find themselves in the top 4 because the final part of the puzzle is being the most deserving team to make it and an undefeated team deserves to be in the College Football Playoff in 2020.
The final question is the most interesting question to answer. This relates to sports betting in a variety of ways. Who will win the ACC? It is not set in stone that Clemson will run away with the title. Will a Group of 5 team make the CFP? A question that is not a resounding no anymore. Should an undefeated team from a conference with less games make the playoff? We did not discuss that, but if they are undefeated and have a decent SOS, it should not be ruled out. All of these questions and so many more can be bet on. Whether you bet between friends or at a casino, these are just a few of the new and exciting things to bet on this year. I can guarantee that these bets will bring a lot of discussion and interest to the game among individuals and the odds on these bets will be different now that the schedules are changed. It is crazy to think that this season is actually half way over already, but I am excited to see how this progresses and I may even place a bet or two on some of these scenarios as well!
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